Tuesday, January 6

Exchange comes with challenges

I chose to have my exchange experience in Sunway University, Malaysia. It was a nice university filled with multi-cultural student body which colored up my experience even more. I enjoyed my time in Malaysia a lot, that I still believe it was one of the best decisions I have ever taken in my life so far. The name exchange comes with challenges. This is what we call stepping out of comfort zone. I did not grew up with a lot of comfort. I had many challenges, obstacles since my childhood. But I knew exchange experience was none of that I had before. And indeed it wasn’t. It was my first flying experience. I was less exposed to the procedure of travelling to another country. It was really challenging that I had to learn everything by experiencing. 
I believe my exchange experience taught me what life is, who I really want to be, what people expect  you to be and at last but not least AIESEC exchange experience taught me how to make the right 
decision at right time. AIESEC was the platform which made this experience a reality and made it truly inspiring as well. In the journey of creating leaders for the world, AIESEC has given me the wonderful opportunity of involving in a global community development project which I was able to make an impact to the society. I was attached to the project called #MOVE, which was about creating awareness of sexually transmitted infections among university and high school students around Sunway. The main project related to this was Choose to protect which was a workshop series on such infections and gender perspectives on relationships. I was holding the responsibility to do the workshop about gender perspectives on relationship as it directly affects to the transmission of such infections. I facilitated a lot of workshops convincing young teenagers to be careful about their relationships and taught them about gender perspectives. How boys think? How girls think? How do they react in certain situations? Etc. actually this was quite a nice experience even for me to learn such stuff. I really believe I could make an impact among those groups of people on the subject. 
Even if the nationalities and religions are a bit different from Sri Lanka, the surrounding and behavior of people seemed very close to me. Even the university students were not very different from people we do see here. For some reason some people were afraid to talk to us, but some became our best friends forever. Food was a bit different which the coolest experience was for me I had the opportunity to taste many different kinds of food that I won’t be able to find here in Sri Lanka. With the people I associated they did not really have a lot of cultural values like in us in fact I observed they have westernized more than Sri Lankans. Yet something made me more interested, that they still have a king in addition to their president for the country. That is something beautiful for such a developed country which Kuala Lumpur looked like New York but still they have a king.As an AIESECer I think I learned a lot through this exchange program. First, I have had an amazing real life experience of the procedure an EP should go through. As an OGXer I believe that is one important lesson I need to learn. Starting from the info session, until I came to the realization I had to keep track and find solutions to each and every problem that I faced. When I started my project, I had a broader image of how a GCDP project actualizes and what are the issues that need to be taken care of before realization. I took part in a project designing session for AIESEC in Sunway so I had that GCDP experience as well. I met different kinds of people to work with so that I equipped myself with working experience with different mindsets to achieve the same goal. That experience is valuable for me to contribution towards my LC in the future. Simply I had real life OGX simulation, a GCDP simulation and diverse working experience which geared me up for being an important AIESECer in the future. 

Last but not least, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Local Leadership Development Seminar of AIESEC in Sunway. That was the loveliest of memories in my exchange experience. I learned a lot about leadership, public speaking, personal branding, presentations, conversations etc. Plus we did a lot of outbound activities which builds trust among each other, leading groups to achieve one target etc. I learned a lot of AIESEC square dances (jives) as well. So I believe in the AIESEC perspective, I had the most wonderful experience in my exchange.

Since my childhood I had this hunger to see a different country. As a less exposed, naive child from a village, I always wanted to explore the world, see how would it look like? I wanted to meet people there, talk to them and work with them. AIESEC has been a platform for me to achieve all my dreams and as well as to support building up my potential to be a leader. I discovered the leader, the speaker within me. I cannot thank you enough for the person you made out of me today.

Thank you everyone, who made this possible..!

Sandaru Karunasiri
Electrical Engineering,
University of Moratuwa

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