Opinion: U of G student reflects on his experience at OQA 2012 conference

Thursday, March 29, 2012

  • Photo Credit: Jamie James, OQA Facilitation Team

    Photo Credit: Jamie James, OQA Facilitation Team

  • Photo Credit: Jamie James, OQA Facilitation Team

    Photo Credit: Jamie James, OQA Facilitation Team

  • Photo Credit: Jamie James, OQA Facilitation Team

    Photo Credit: Jamie James, OQA Facilitation Team

My first AIESEC conference experience was unlike anything I that have ever done before.  The OQA 2012 (Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic) sub-regional conference was hosted by our local chapter, AIESEC Guelph, here at the University of Guelph.

AIESEC is the largest student-run organization in the world as it operates in 110 countries across the globe. AIESEC is a platform to build and to strengthen the leadership abilities of students and to enable globally minded change agents.  AIESEC achieves these goals through exchange opportunities by sending students on international internships to develop personally and professionally. While this conference comprised mainly of students from Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, we also had the chance to meet some of the interns from across the world that AIESEC has brought to Canada.

The conference allowed members from different AIESEC chapters to meet each other and build connections throughout the organization and across the world in a fun and supportive environment. Over the span of three days, we attended various sessions and learned everything from how AIESEC runs to how to improve interview skills.

OQA 2012 was not just about work, there was also a lot of fun to be had. On many occasions loud music would begin to play and everyone would jump out of their seats and perform one of the many AIESEC dance routines. When this was all over, the room would erupt in enthusiastic chants from each local chapter. Naturally, the Guelph chant involved cows.

The conference also focused on how each individual is capable of making an impact.  This can be on the people we connect with daily, the delegates at the conference, and on people around the world.  OQA and AIESEC have definitely had an impact on me. 

What were the most valuable skills and tools you took away from this conference?

The most valuable skills and tools I took away from the conference came during the sessions run by successful AIESEC alumni. In the first session that I attended, I learned about preparing for job interviews and was given examples of common questions that might be asked during a job interview. The second session that I attended was focused on how to become a better marketer and sales person. This was also extremely valuable to me as it applies directly to my field of study. The underlying theme for these sessions, and of the entire conference, was focused around one of AIESEC’s main goals: developing leaders.  As well, there was emphasis placed on the importance of taking risks and trying new things, which is vital to expand learning.

How did you use these skills immediately in your daily life?

AIESEC places much emphasis on breaking barriers and the importance of stepping outside of what is comfortable.  The skills that I learned at the conference have made me realize that in order to achieve my goals it is crucial for me to go to events held by the university to build up my network and learn about opportunities for after my undergraduate degree. The following Tuesday after the conference, I attended an information session about an interesting masters program that the university offers. I went outside of my comfort zone and spoke with other undergraduate students, current masters students and faculty about the program. I learned about a possible program to take in the future and it was a very personally rewarding experience to have a chance to meet professors outside of a classroom setting.

How do you see yourself applying these skills in the future?

In the future, I think going on an AIESEC internship to another country will be much less intimidating now that I understand the process better and have met people who have shared their experiences. Taking the opportunity to go abroad has changed their life and I am excited for my own opportunity to have a similar experience. These people demonstrated a lot of courage and the information at the conference has given me more confidence that pursuing an internship abroad is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience while travelling.

The conference was a great experience to learn more about AIESEC. I now better understand what I can do to help AIESEC accomplish the goal of sending students on internships and also better understand how AIESEC will help me achieve my own personal and professional goals. The skills I learned at the conference will be a great foundation to support me through the rest of my AIESEC career and in the future as well.

Jonathan Williamson is a third year Bachelor of Commerce student majoring in Marketing Management.

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