It is hard to remember the first time I met foreigners in my life, because I was a child. I was vacationing abroad with my family. I recall that I was really unused to seeing foreigners as I had spent my life in the Sverdlovskay area, which was far from being a multicultural place. I remember that when I was in Turkey with my family, I started to speak with a waiter and my parents’ puzzled faces said, "You know English? Really? You can really speak it?" I still cherish that moment.
It was easy to communicate with people who have different backgrounds and at the same time I faced difficulties with understanding their inner soul. The main problem here is that of understanding differences in behavioral patterns, habits, vocabulary, and lifestyles.Communication with people from different countries helps one look at the world from different points of view and enables one to look at other countries’ problems from the point of view of their citizens. This makes one a world citizen who is responsible not only for one’s own life and one’s own nation, but who also thinks globally and tries to gain the readiness to change the world.
Moreover, international connections help one become open-minded and learn something new about different cultures and traditions everyday and to understand the world more deeply. Another benefit of communicating regularly with foreigners is daily practice of English or other languages and getting information about your professional field from different points of view or even about something new. Besides personal skills it gives you useful professional skills as well.
From my perspective I see, that some students cannot overcome their shyness and talk to foreigners. However, communicating with foreigners is like swimming – the crucial step is to initiate. Once the conversation starts, it’s easy to keep it going. There is nothing difficult in starting a conversation by saying, "Hello, how are you?" After this you just need to decide what to talk about. Usually, it is really interesting to tell foreigners about different aspects of your own culture and also to learn more about your companion’s culture. There are a lot of speaking clubs nowadays where you can come and try this with different people.
If it’s still hard to initiate a conversation with a person from another country, a good idea is to help a foreigner by giving directions, for instance, in a museum or to the nearest metro station and explaining how to use the metro. In such situations, it is better not to shy away because doing so will not give the person the help that he/she needs, and also lead to missing an opportunity to speak to a foreigner in a language other than Russian. There are different programs for volunteering or “buddying” with international students to help them adapt to a new city, to show them Russia, and to help the person have a pleasant stay.
At a Russian AIESEC chapter we help Russian students with making new contacts with international guests. There’re two ways to contact international guests. The first is interning abroad. There are two types of internships – social and professional. A social internship usually lasts for 6 weeks, and involves volunteering abroad and helping people in a foreign country by teaching English to children, through eco-projects, through fighting with poorness and contributing in many other ways. A professional internship is much longer (from three months to a year) and requires a diploma, and often a former work experience. Although these internships are not related to volunteering, they are still based on the values of AIESEC. The second way to contact international guests is by offering Russian students the opportunity to organize their own internships or projects. Participating students can not only go abroad and join internships, but also take part in and organize their own.
At the very same time at AISEC we help foreigners to set contacts with Russians. During all year AIESECers create projects (social and professional). Their number depends on size of Local Committee and its ambition. Through these projects AIESEC set contacts and international relations. Every project must have a unique mission, goal, values and contributions. There are national projects, developed by every Local Committee in a country, and local projects, which are not necessarily the Local Committees’ responsibility, but they may convey their own values and make their own contribution to the project.
Local Committee in Moscow undertakes different projects:
> International kindergarten – a local project in which interns work with children in kindergartens: by playing games with children, teaching them
> Sunshine – a national project in which interns work with children and teenagers in camps: they play games with children, give performances, speak to them, et cetera.
> Explore Russia – a national project in which teams of interns and Russian students try to show benefits of living in Russia to the Russian people.
In our project Explore Russia, there are many different kinds of activities, including several atypical and unique events that we are preparing for our interns and Moscow citizens. Here are five such events that we are organizing, which will hopefully make the internship a wonderful experience.
People ask if there are any inside jokes or funny stories happened in AISEC. We jokingly call ourselves a "sect" because we spend so much time together, use many strange words, and participate in many activities. Very few people know who we are and what we do. The reason is mainly that we find ourselves strangely different from others. Going global means managing time wisely especially when we live in different time zones. Every weekend, I plan the upcoming week. I set priorities according to which I arrange my daily schedule. I use a special organizer and a special application to record information about all activities that I will be involved in that week. This helps to concentrate on what I am doing and what I have to do, without frittering my energy. In the future, I intend to stay in Russia, to develop myself, and to hopefully contribution positively to my country.