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Boland Scholar Essay: Attila Yaman
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Finding Home: Reflecting on AIESEC

International Congress 2015


 

I used to say that at the end of the day, AIESEC is a human resources company and that I will leave it when I graduate. I used to say that AIESEC has a global impact but is not as relevant in the U.S. as it is abroad. I used to say that AIESEC could offer things to Yale but not to New Haven, our city, through exchange. I can’t take back those words, but I can assert that the impact of exchange is so much more than simply getting a job placement somewhere else in the world.

It brought tears to my eyes during the opening ceremony of International Congress 2015 when India welcomed AIESEC “home.” It’s a concept that I’ve struggled with for my whole life, but these last ten days that I spent with 800 leaders from 117 countries and territories made me realize where I feel most at home.

I had the privilege to meet the presidents of the committees in Istanbul, Turkey and Aachen, Germany, the committees that sent my parents on their AIESEC internships more than two decades ago when they met. Their predecessors enabled my mother to complete her research for her masters thesis and for my father to get the internship at the company that helped him realize his dream of coming to America. I owe my life to their predecessors and the teams they lead.

AIESEC at Yale sent John Kerry, today the U.S. Secretary of State, on exchange who went on to negotiate a historic diplomatic agreement with Iran that is about to ease decades old tension between the two countries. AIESEC at Yale rejected George Bush, the former president of the United States, when he applied and he lead the country into one of the biggest conflicts of the last 15 years. These anecdotes don’t prove anything, but the associations are too powerful to ignore.

AIESEC is bringing the Global Community Development Program to the U.S. because we realize that people in the U.S. and the world don’t understand that all countries are developing countries. We have social and economic issues that we’ve ignored for too long and are now taking a stand.

At this conference I talked with AIESECers from “lesser-developed” countries about how we will bring Cultural Envoys for Exchange Development from their countries to New Haven to help us learn how to develop our communities. AIESEC will make an impact on American society unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

At this conference I had the chance to listen to the U.N. Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth challenge us to drive the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the successors of the Millennium Development Goals, in our communities and in the world. Global development agendas are usually associated with poor starving children many thousands of miles from American shores. AIESEC at Yale is leading the transformational change needed to implement the SDGs in New Haven.

In the coming hours I will board a plane to fly to New Haven, a city know for its poverty and crime, a city Americans don’t want to be associated with, a city I now call home. Because home to me is not as much a fixed location as it is anywhere where you feel love and belonging, and you return those feelings.

Thank you to the organizers of this congress and Incredible India for welcoming me home, and teaching me its meaning.

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