Did you think there were no student exchanges before Erasmus? Well, think again. AIESEC is 64 years old. So, why haven’t you heard about it before? Let’s ask Haris Kušmić, AIESEC Sarajevo Vice President for Communications.
Haris Kušmić: Being the biggest and one of the oldest student-run organisations in the world, it is hard to understand why so many students and other people have never heard about AIESEC before. It is somehow regarded as a public secret. In my opinion, I think it is because the organisation, on both a global and local level, has not put so much effort into a positive outreach. For example, the department for communications in AIESEC Sarajevo was created two years ago, even though AIESEC Sarajevo is a lot older than that. So, we are shifting our focus now onto letting others know about AIESEC and increasing our numbers.
Generation Y: The fact that the network is so old is quite amazing. When we think of student exchanges we usually think of Erasmus, which is much more recent. But AIESEC is not just European, what other differences are there?
Haris Kušmić: I would also say that the content itself is different. For example, in AIESEC we have two types of exchanges – one is called the Global Community Development Programme (GCDP) and the other is the Global Internship Programme (GIP). Taking a GCDP means a lot of things, but it is mostly about having a impact on a community you are visiting. You can be a part of an NGO, having presentations about important topics for a variety of audiences. You’ll also have free accommodation and food. On the other hand, GIP is an internship which focuses more on your professional skills. You get an opportunity to work in a company in one of the 114 countries and territories where AIESEC is present. So, not only do you receive a salary, but you enhance your skills and abilities which will be much needed when you are on the look out for a stable job in the future. And of course, you get valuable experience.
Generation Y: Sounds attractive… How can we apply? And what are the requirements?
*Haris Kušmić:*Applying for these exchanges is not hard. First thing you need to do is contact a person responsible for outgoing exchanges in your home country, that is your AIESEC Local Committee. After that, detailed pieces of information about you are put in the AIESEC system, and the information usually includes your professional skills, study department, fluency in other languages, etc. When you are done with this, you can officially start looking for an exchange with the assistance of someone from AIESEC. In the end, after your request has been approved, you can start packing for the amazing experience yet to come!
As for the requirements, they are different depending which exchange you choose. For most GCDP exchanges the only requirement is knowing the language of the country you’re going to. In many cases even that is not obligatory, simply speaking English would do. Now, the criteria for GIP exchanges are more strict. GIP is usually aimed at university graduates who are ready to apply their knowledge in a practical manner. So, you are expected to possess certain educational and professional skills needed for the job/exchange you’re applying to. For instance, if you want to work in the marketing department of a certain company, you should have finished marketing as a major during your university studies.
Generation Y: How are these exchanges financed? Is there a limited number of them each year?
Haris Kušmić: Same as before, different rules apply to different exchanges. GCDP exchanges get you free food and accommodation, however, you have to cover the travel costs. Usually, the local committee you’re visiting is responsible for finding you a place to stay and what you are going to eat. For the GIP exchanges the students themselves cover travel, accommodation and food costs, but they get a salary from the company they’re working for. We try to limit ourselves with numbers. Our aim is to offer more and more exchanges to a lot of students.
Generation Y: So, who pays? The company hosting the student?
Haris Kušmić: If you’re talking about GIP exchanges, then yes, the company in which the student is working.
Generation Y: And for GCDP?
Haris Kušmić: Sometimes accommodation costs are just are just very low, for example one of the AIESEC members in that committee has an extra flat, so there’s no need to pay for a place to stay. And we usually get food for our exchange students at the city restaurants. So, I would say a mix of AIESEC resources, as well as company resources.
Generation Y: Do you have partners?
Haris Kušmić: Yes, we have partners as well. Some of them are only partners for specific events we organise, while others have always been there with us. For example, our constant partners in AIESEC Bosnia and Herzegovina have been the School of Economics and Business (where we have our main office) and Coca-Cola Hellenic.
Generation Y: We read on the website, ‘it forms a platform for students interested in world issues and leadership’. What do you mean by ‘leadership’ in this context?
Haris Kušmić: Leadership in AIESEC is very important because we think it is what will make a positive impact on society. You can run an exchange project on relevant social issues, organise a learning activity for your members, manage a budget, develop local or national goals.
All in all, by developing yourself and enriching your personal and professional skills, you are in better position to help the society you’re a part of.
Generation Y: Let’s talk about AIESEC in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I understand you are expanding…
Haris Kušmić: Yes, definitely! We have two official local committees, one in Sarajevo and the other one in Mostar. Apart from this, we also have two official extensions in Zenica and Banja Luka.
Generation Y: How did AIESEC Sarajevo survive the war?
Haris Kušmić: In spite of the war, keeping its strong presence in the country and the capital, AIESEC Sarajevo continued with its activities. Meetings were organised, organisation members went to some international conferences and we even sent students on exchanges. We were determined that nothing would stop the students from living their lives as they wanted to, not even constant bombing, shells and sniper shots.
Unfortunately, a lot of valuable written data was lost in that period, data which was collected over almost 40 years. Regardless, AIESEC Sarajevo prevailed.
Generation Y: So, what is in the future for AIESEC Sarajevo?
Haris Kušmić: Well, on October 13th in Sarajevo we are recruiting new members. Each year AIESEC Sarajevo (as well as AIESEC committees around the world) recruits new members. The central event in Sarajevo is the Big Picture, a meeting where all potential members gather and provide information about AIESEC. Following that, two more meetings which deal more with the functional aspect of the organisation (division in departments, projects, etc.) will be organised. After which, a Future Leaders Motivation Seminar is held to give our potential members a feeling of an AIESEC perspective. In the end, we have an interview during which new members are chosen.
Generation Y: Now, if you were to give some advice to a student, what would you say?
Haris Kušmić: Engage yourself! Academic success is of utmost importance for every student, but that success can be worth much more if it has practical experience. Diversify your knowledge and understanding of the world, whether that means joining AIESEC, becoming a part of a drama club or getting involved in charity work. You make a life by what you do and by what you give. And now is the time to start.