Choosing an AIESEC Internship for your Year Abroad

When deciding whether to work or study, especially if they have their sights set on somewhere beyond Europe, many people go for the studying option as the idea of finding yourself a work placement, sorting out a visa and flying halfway across the world without the support of a university can be pretty daunting.

This is where AIESEC comes in. AIESEC is the world’s largest student led organisation and they do both short term social placements over the summer and long term paid internships, which last between 3 months and 1 year. They have a huge selection of opportunities all over the world in management, IT, business and hospitality as well as millions of English teaching jobs and various other things, you never know what you might find! In return for a fee they provide you with support throughout the process, from applications to visas to meeting you at the airport to post-internship follow-ups, so you can rest easy! You can do an AIESEC internship whilst studying or for one year after you’ve finished, so this also applies to graduates or soon-to-be-graduates thinking about their next adventure.

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How does it work?

If you decide you’d like to find out more about AIESEC, get in touch with your local committee. They’ll arrange a meeting to talk you through the logistics and you’ll get to play around with the database to get an idea of what’s on offer.

The best time to do this is in the spring, as that’s when placements come up that start in the summer or later. It might be hard to hold out whilst everyone is getting their year planned but trust me, it’ll be worth it. I started in March and got my placement confirmed in April, during the Easter holidays.

Once you’ve paid the fee (just over £300 in 2014), you’ll have full access to the database. In my case, I had to go to a Portuguese speaking country and so I was limited to Brazil, but if you’re looking at Spanish speaking countries, for example, you’ll have tons of options to sort through.

Make sure you dedicate a significant chunk of time to searching through all of the options and don’t be put off by names of towns you haven’t heard of! The best placements are often hiding in the lesser-known parts of a country. Keep checking back as new internships are always going live.

You can then contact as many placements as you want. If they’re interested in you they’ll usually ask for an application video (usually in English). Once you’ve found the right placement and they’ve chosen you, you get ‘matched’ which means you can’t search for any more placements unless the match falls through. AIESEC then begin the visa process! This is where AIESEC are invaluable. They already have the visa mechanisms in place to make what could be a very difficult process as painless as possible.

Before you know it you’ll be on a plane! Going with AIESEC means that you’ll have someone waiting for you at the airport, making it all much less scary. AIESEC have the responsibility to help you find accommodation and take you to your new place of work to settle you in. They are also obliged to check up on you occasionally and act as a mediator between you and the company in the event of any issues arising. Having someone in your corner is great when you first start trying to negotiate the new work environment. They are generally really outgoing, friendly people and so you also have the foundations of a social life!

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My Experience

There aren’t many tourism internships in Brazil but I got one of them. It was in Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, an ecotourism hotspot near the Bolivian border. I was working as the social media manager and a ‘tubing’ monitor, so I divided my time between reception and the river. I found my placement in April and left 6 weeks later, spending 9 months there in total. The local AIESEC committee were extremely supportive and my placement was incredible, despite disagreements over the working hours. I learnt how to stand up for myself and how to negotiate! I spoke Portuguese constantly and made some wonderful local friends who are friends for life.

There wasn’t much wi-fi or anything to do at night other than go to the local bar which meant I did nothing but chat, dance and make new friends! My internship included food and board and enough pocket money to cover the costs of cocktails. I lived with Spanish-speakers and so had plenty of chances to practice my other language. I was able to travel for 3 months in Brazil and the rest of South America, an experience that I’ll never forget.

None of this would have happened without AIESEC, so take the leap and see where they could take you!

If anyone has any questions about either Brazil or AIESEC, please check out the ‘Brazilian Year Abroad section of my blog or get in touch, I’m happy to help!

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