Experience other cultures and travel the world. You never know. You could discover things about yourself that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Like that you might be bossy.
This was the experience of the president of an international organisation that recently started operating at Wits. AISEC, a French acronym for the International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences, is an organisation that aims to teach students how to improve their lives.
Breaking cultural barriers
Onthatile Nataboge, 4th year BEd and president of AISEC Wits, travelled to Ghana last year. “It was a different kind of experience. It was the first time I got onto a flight and the first time I got a stamp on my passport.” She described the trip as a “culture shock”.
Nataboge worked as a manager on an HIV awareness project along with interns from Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, Portugal and Botswana. “I would do it again. [You] get out of your comfort zone when you get out of South Africa.”
Nataboge describes her exchange experience positively. “You learn about yourself through other people’s eyes … apparently I was bossy.”
In AISEC, students are given opportunities to lead teams and make a difference in the world through global community service, according to Anuschka Wischnewski. Wischnewski is a 3rd year LLB student who manages outgoing exchanges from Wits.[pullquote]“Going abroad is a good way to be able to take yourself outside the way the country describes you”[/pullquote]
AISEC provides a platform for students to gain leadership experience where students are recruited to work on various projects according to Thebe Ramanna, 4th year BSc Honours and vice president of target management.
According to Ramanna, there are also global internship opportunities available where students work for a company and earn a salary that covers their costs.
“Going abroad is a good way to be able to take yourself outside the way the country describes you,” said Ramanna. “In South Africa, I am a black woman, with certain disadvantages because of my background, and there is a certain path I have to travel.”
The many leadership positions available emphasise the organisation’s goal to “create global leaders” said Rosina Mabapa, 3rd year BA student and vice president of media and communications.
Mabapa, who has not travelled abroad yet, plans to go to India with AISEC later this year. Commenting on her leadership position, Mabapa said, “[I] have more confidence, more cultural understanding of other countries and [I have learnt] how to become a global leader.”
Students also break cultural stereotypes by engaging with people from different countries, organisers said.
Funding for travel is a challenge that most students have to overcome. Wischnewski said exchange and internship programmes are advertised early in the year for students to save enough money to participate in projects at the end of the year.