#MyLeadershipStory: Lavigne’s way out of the cocoon

I was always the type of person that stayed in my little cocoon. I was shy, quiet, and reserved. One Tuesday I pushed myself from my comfort zone decided to join a friend and go to a meeting with her.  I had no idea what the meeting was about but the curiosity bug and free time (add a pinch of boredom to it) made me jump to the idea of being busy for 2 hours that evening. That meeting was for an organization I did not know much about, only its name.

It was the first step I took to be the person I am today.

That was the first time I came into proper contact with AIESEC, I joined the organization 2 weeks later and have stayed for 5 years now. 5 years of stories, memories, moments and emotions are hard to quantify in this short blog, but the key things I’ve learnt are the following;

Embrace Curiosity

In my first roles in the AIESEC I was part of a team organizing projects for foreign students to come and volunteer in my home country Kenya for 6 weeks. This experience exposed me to different cultures and people. I began to find myself and my voice on things that interested me. This experience prompted me to have strong desire to go on such an experience myself. An experience that would let me fully embrace my curiosity. One where I could engage and work in a different culture, as well as learn how people in different realities live and view life. I built strong friendships with the exchange participants who came to our project. Among my first exchange participants was an Italian who was very proud and passionate about his country and made me develop a second curiosity for Italy.

I committed to myself that I would go on a volunteer experience in Italy and learn more about the country, its people and get to do something that is bigger than myself.  I went for my exchange in Winter 2016 in Ancona, Italy and worked in a high school teaching Mathematics and African history and how it co-relates with Italy. I got to learn a lot in both topics and especially how to understand the student’s mood and behaviors during a lesson. This was a challenging experience but it was rewarding as I developed further my inter-personal skills from the experiences with my students, my fellow volunteers and AIESEC member from Ancona. The entire experience taught me to realize that when I felt curious, I felt alive. And that it was something I would always have to embrace.

Goal Setting

Learning to embrace my own curiosity and using it as a driving force allowed me to achieve goals I could never even have dreamed of before. Before my experience, I was not one to set goals and targets for myself but rather just lived through each day as it came. During the exchange, I learnt it was important to set goals for myself for the experience and what I would like to leave behind for the students I would interact with. With this, I really made the most of the 6 weeks I had at my school. With the students, each week I was striving for something different and this made my experience richer than I expected. I was continuously evolving and changing my techniques to ensure the end goals for students and myself were achieved. I continue to set goals for myself and now I set a goal per day that has to be achieved no matter what.

I’ve realized that by setting goals, ultimately, I must be independent, that I am responsible for my own success.

Independence

Every one of us looks forward to gaining independence from our parents but getting to understand for myself what true independence really means. Looking for that right flight ticket that fits with the budget, making sure that I had all the documents needed for my visa application, learning to be by myself in different country that doesn’t speak English as a primary language, getting lost in the city and finding your way by receiving directions in Italian ( A 3-year-old would be better with google maps skills than me).

Although AIESEC is there to support you on your exchange experience, you are still forced to be independent. From how you work in your project, to traveling, to just being in a different place without the support systems of home, the experience puts you in a place where you learn to be independent.

Learning my way out of the cocoon

Standing in front of students to teach them about African history sounds easy because that is what we grow up learning. But at the school where I worked, I learnt far much more about the topic than I ever could know. Every day I would sit and do research I would stumble upon interesting facts about Africa and Kenya as well and also engaging with the students in discussions made me also develop my own opinion of the issues and not just take it as it written in books. I was able to compare with the reality and see the differences.

More important than the facts and figures that I learnt, were the skills I learnt to help me to grow as a person. This story in a way represents everything that I have come to learn and experience from AIESEC. My curiosity has an ability to power me to be a better person who is more inquisitive and caring. Setting myself goals has enabled me to challenge myself and always strive to be a better version of myself with every task I complete. And believing in myself as an independent person who can achieve, who can aspire, and who can share an experience with others has allowed me to flourish into the person that I am proud to be today.

Maybe you are someone who is stuck in your own little shelter or cocoon too. Or maybe you are just someone looking for a spark. I would say one simple thing: you can stop looking once you have found an experience in AIESEC. Welcome to your next great journey.

Lavigne Iminza, a member of the national team of AIESEC in Czech Republic, coming from Kenya and telling her story about volunteering internship Global Volunteer in Italy.
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