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Boland Scholar Essay: Cynthia Wong
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Cynthia Wong (Illinois) on the far right

 

IC is SUCH an experience! This was all I heard about International Congress prior to going. As it turns out, there truly are no other words to describe the magnitude of such a 10 day conference.

I was in India on my second developmental traineeship when I applied to be part of the US delegation at IC. There, I worked closely with the founder and president of a globally broadcasted NGO called ArriveSafe, the only NGO in India dedicated to Road Safety. As he was paralyzed from a car accident and I had experienced personal losses due to car accidents, the two of us were part of a team determined to challenge a country’s attitude about the severity of an issue barely turns heads, yet annually leaves over 100,000 Indians dead, impacting so many millions. I gained a crucial sense that summer of the potential one individual has to make monumental impact.

It was during this time I became a recipient of a scholarship founded to honor JoAnn, the former MC VP HR in 1992, who herself was a victim of a fatal road accident. I was touched that the JoAnn Boland Scholarship provided me with the financial capabilities to attend International Congress 2008 in Brazil and enable me to play my role in growing AIESEC and ensuring more socially impactful experiences like mine.

Fast forward a couple months and I found myself caught in the crazy world that is the IC Global Village. Over 100 booths brimming with scrumptious delicacies and embellishments brought from faraway lands. Eager AIESECers at each booth clad in traditional wear, ready to bless you with an orange Hindu dot on your forehead or paint your name in Arabic or Chinese calligraphy on your arm. You find yourself lost in the sea of AIESECers getting lost in the aroma of each country as you traveled around the world, table by table. Cue Bebot by Black Eyed Peas, and the building erupts in cheers as hundreds flock to the central dance area to follow the AIESECers onstage from all corners of the world leading the dance made an instant international sensation when the AIESEC US delegation introduced it at the previous IC. Indeed, International Congress enabled me not only to grasp the scope of such a global organization, but to fully engage in it. Never in my farthest reaching dreams did I imagine that I would have friends from such exotic countries like Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, and many more to complete the alphabet. Yet, here I am today with a truly global network, having transversed 26 countries for AIESEC internships, conferences, and reunions.

AIESEC was founded in 1948 after WWII on the key principle that direct student interactions will foster cultural understanding and international cooperation for a peaceful and sustainable future. Nowhere else did this become ever more apparent than 60 years later at IC 2008. National pride in one’s own country as the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China captivated the world audience. A cultural dosage during Brazilian night. Countries such as Morocco and Mexico
woven together side-by-side at Global Village. Swapping AIESEC t-shirts. Constructing kites in workshops to build group social-venture enterprises. Collectively sharing and brainstorming with LCPs across the world about how to dream big for our LCs. Country meetings to build partnerships between countries to increase exchanges. Global unity in classic AIESEC dances such as Le-Le and Tunak Tunak. World issue discussions about AIDS/HIV, climate change, the Israel Palestine conflict and how AIESEC plays a role. Applauding the growth of AIESEC in countries like Iran, Algeria, and Oman. Talk about how we could further expand AIESEC into North Korea and Saudi Arabia. And at the Closing Ceremony, AIESEC Togo singing “We are all AP... We are all MENA...", and AIESEC China adapting the Olympic theme song to “One Dream, One World, One AIESEC“....

So much of the IC experience illustrates the relevance of AIESEC in our world. AIESEC has not merely existed for 60 years, we have thrived. As the conference theme would most accurately articulate, Responsible Youth. Sustainable Future.

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