AIESEC helps students go global

Student organization offers programs for volunteering across the world


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

On Wednesday, AIESEC hosted a “Global Village,” where interested students were given an opportunity to learn about volunteer programs in Romania, Thailand and Peru.

During her last days teaching English in Peru, Christi Berenz, a senior elementary and Spanish education student at UW-Eau Claire, received candy and a handmade card from her students. Berenz said she immediately started bawling. These students, who had so little, had given her a gift she said was invaluable.

On Wednesday, AIESEC hosted a “Global Village” in the Ojibwe Ballroom of the Davies Center to promote their global volunteer programs — one of which helped Berenz embark on her “life-changing” journey to Peru.

AIESEC promotes “youth leadership through cultural exchange” by offering international volunteer and internship opportunities, according to the organization’s website.

“AIESEC is a platform that enables people to go and make an impact,” said Ryan Keller, a junior marketing student and the vice president of UW-Eau Claire’s AIESEC chapter.

The Global Village featured three colorful displays about volunteer opportunities in Romania, Thailand and Peru. Green tea, brownies and informational handouts were free to take.

Student organizations “Le Salon Français” (the French Club) and Malaysian Abroad Diversified also offered information about their club’s respective countries, cultures and food.  

Rather than being exclusive to Eau Claire, AIESEC is an international non-profit organization in a consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

AIESEC offices can be found across the globe, from Israel to New Zealand. Its programs focus on a multitude of “global goals,” like achieving gender equality and improving environmental sustainability.

Keller said his program took him to the Czech Republic, where he taught English. Even though Keller is not an education student, he said his time teaching children was important to him.

“You get to have the self-satisfaction of helping abroad,” Keller said.

Wes Lebakken, a junior elementary education student, said he taught English at a school in a Thailand village. He remembered riding his bike to school early every day to spend extra time with his students. The children in Thailand taught Lebakken about the simplicity of friendship, he said.   

“Even though you don’t speak the same language,” Lebakken said, “you find a way to communicate.”

During their trip, volunteers stay with a host family for at least six weeks. According to Lebakken, a volunteers’ weekdays are filled with working while the weekends are left for sightseeing.

The cost of the six-week program is $500, not including the flight, according to the event’s handout. The program is open to anyone ages 18 to 30, not just AIESEC members or university students.

Volunteers come from AIESEC chapters across the globe. Berenz said she met people from Portugal, Slovenia and Brazil who have become her lifelong friends.

Lindsey Tess, a kinesiology human performance pre-professional student, said she is excited for her future adventure in Costa Rica where she will advocate for sustainability.

“We’re going to teach anyone — from kids to adults — about the climate,” Tess said.

More information about AIESEC and its volunteer programs can be accessed on its website or during the organization’s office hours, which are from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the Mohican Room in Davies Student Center.