A recent and relevant testimony from a past EP who went to Albania:
As a recent graduate, I have got into the phase of life consisting mainly of internships. Probably many of you agree, entry level jobs for graduates - especially in the field of humanitarian aid and development - have almost entirely disappeared, "thanks" to the over-supply of distinction level graduates from disciplines such as politics, sociology, anthropology with law, Chinese Studies, Central and South-East African with History of the Philosophy and Aesthetics of Ethnomusicology...
There are numerous organizations providing students and recent graduates with internship opportunities abroad. One of them is called AIESEC (sorry, nobody today can remember what the acronym stands for...) AIESEC is an unique exchange organization in the sense that it has no professional, paid staff but is completely run by students and recent graduates. My recent internship in Albania was organized by the relatively newly established AIESEC branch (local committee aka LC) of the European University of Tirana (UET). Because of the old age (established in the 1940s) and high number of members (30,000 or so) I had no doubt that AIESEC is a good and reputable body for organizing internship exchanges.
Yet, back in September 2013 when doing my research AIESEC as an organization and experiences of the past internship participants, I wondered why there was so little information available on this. I managed to find some feedback but they were mostly posted in various blogs that were usually directly associated with various AIESEC LCs. I did not manage to find any feedback page on AIESEC.org nor on the websites of the numerous local AIESEC committees. However, enthusiastic about the opportunity provided by the AIESEC UET and their partner CNELL (Center for Non-Formal Education and Lifelong Learning), I decided not to worry about the feedback issue too much. I went to Albania with positive attitude, looking forward to a great Life Changing Experience (as the AIESEC motto goes). My internship was going to last three months with the possibility to extend it further should this project "New Skills 4 New Jobs" at CNELL be a success.
My initial arrival to Albania went very smoothly. I was picked up by to members of the ICX (incoming exchange team) who introduced me to the work and to the city of Tirana. Thanks to my positiveness and my previous experience of traveling around the Balkans, I did not experience much cultural shock. First I lived together with the other intern in a student dormitory but two weeks later, the ICX boys found us a nice apartment. The AIESEC leaders and organized introduced me and the intern to Tirana, and we would quickly become familiar with the city and its best offerings.
Back to my actual internship: I came to Albania in order to start my working career, in order to gain professional experience in the field of social research. However, the project "New Skills 4 New Jobs" turned out to be a complete disaster. While AIESEC UET had managed to gain interns to teach accounting and social research (me), they were still lacking trainers of graphic design and programming. Problematically, the latter two would have been the most profitable courses but in absence of the trainers, these courses were postponed. However, what was even worse, as soon as I started my internship at CNELL, I found out that 1) I would not have much work: only four hours of teaching in a week and 2) I had very few students and hence, I would be unable to carry out my proposed mini-research project. Later, I also started to run classes in academic English but there was never too much interest for this course either; after the Christmas break, I taught a couple of English classes a week and this was basically all the work I had. Not so much an opportunity to gain professional experience that I had so much wanted.
Moreover, even though AIESEC UET and CNELL finally managed to get an intern to teach graphic design, they never found anyone for programming. The revenue we collected from the ongoing courses was not enough for paying the salaries for me and the two other interns. I have already finished my internship but I am still waiting for my salary...
Because of the mess with my internship, I have became very sceptical towards the work of AIESEC. Many questions have come to my mind. For example, if AIESEC is really the largest student-run organization in the world, how come majority of my fellow students have never heard about it? As I already mentioned above, why is it so difficult to find any impartial feedback regarding the AIESEC experiences? What is the AIESEC policy on dealing with complaints and dissatisfied customers? I have paid AIESEC a comsiderable sum of money in order to participate in an internship: I have thus all rights to call myself their customer.
I appreciate the work of AIESEC UET: I am impressed to see young people working hard to fulfill the dreams and potential of themselves and the others. Hence, I don't want to be too harsh with my criticism of AIESEC. In order to improve your services and get most out of your work, I suggest AIESEC to consider certain improvements.

Firstly, my recommendations especially for AIESEC Albania:
  • I know that AIESEC is very idealistic: you are working hard to increase peace, tolerance and friendliness between the nations. However, when it goes to people wanting to gain professional experience abroad, I recommend you to remove your rose colored glasses. There are not many graduates of computing science who would come to teach programming in Albania for 200 euros when at the same time, they could earn more than 5000 euros at home. In short: be realistic when considering what kind of interns you will need for your projects. 
  • At this early stage of your existence, concentrate on the social internship. With these, you will not have to worry about the salaries. Also, as far as I'm concerned, social internships are more about having fun than gaining serious working experience. Hence, you would not have to worry about the participants complaining that their internship was useless for their CVs.
  • Whenever you decide to have a project, make sure the project will 1) really exist and 2) the interns will have something meaningful to do. Make sure that the tasks will match the initial work description. Nothing is more frustrating than invest a lot for an internship abroad, only to find out that you end up having nothing to do. 
  • Should you again proceed to do such an ambitious project as "New Skills 4 New Jobs", you should consider "training the trainers". Neither I nor my fellow interns had much teaching experience; hence, if there is something particular you would like the interns to cover in the classes, you should be prepared to provide at least some orientation to the work. For example, some AIESEC teams in China provide the interns with an opportunity to gain TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) qualifications before starting the actual teaching. 

My recommendations for AIESEC as an organization:
  • Many exchange providers, for example Projects Abroad, provide online feedback forms on which each exchange participants can share their experiences. I would ask AIESEC to kindly add such a feedback page on AIESEC.org and preferably also on the sites of local committees. Any exchange partner or an AIESEC member should be able to leave a feedback. Very importantly, all feedback should be available to the public. Please do not censor or moderate the feedback unless completely inappropriate or irrelevant.
  • Typically, exchange providers working across the countries will have some kind of brand standards to ensure the quality of the service. With AIESEC, this does not seem to be the case at all. For example, we can see somehorror stories regarding the accommodation conditions in India. What AIESEC should do is to ensure that some minimal standards are being met especially when it goes to the character of the work. When you are providing professional internship for leadership development, you should carefully consider, whether these two aspects are fulfilled in each project.  
  • Also, other exchange providers, for example European Voluntary Service (EVS) provide a detailed breakdown of all the costs a participant is paying for the organization. I paid AIESEC £350 in order to access the internship database but I have not seen any elaboration how this money is being used. No, I don't believe that AIESEC really, really has to charge such a high amount from each of the tens of thousands participants in order to maintain their website.
  • I understand that AIESEC is working hard to keep the tradition of being completely run by students. Maybe this was possible at the early years of AIESEC when the number of members and exchange participants was much lower was now. However, considering that nowadays AIESEC arranges tens of thousands of internships, would be really advantageous if you could have some permanent, professional, paid staff in each location to ensure things will go as planned.
  • Moreover, it is a bit exaggeration and definitely old-fashioned to call the AIESEC leaders presidents. According to AIESEC, if you are in charge of about seven people, you are a vice president. If you are in charge of twenty people, you are a president. I even came across with an AIESEC leader calling himself a CoE!

Finally, after attending a couple of AIESEC events, including the national conference in Albania, I found out that internship appear not to be the main concern of AIESEC,. Rather, the main concern is recruiting the members and practicing the "AIESEC culture." (Sorry for linking to Uncyclopedia but in this case, I think the article is a perfect description of this phenomenon...) Yes, I understand that in certain countries, AIESEC has established its place as a reputable employment agent, providing interns for large corporations such as DHL, UPS and PwC. Yet, these new and still fragile branches of AIESEC, including those in Tirana, should not try to ride on the reputation of some other old, successful and prestigious branches. That's why, what I urgently require from AIESEC as a whole, is setting up brand standards that are also vigorously enforced. This way you can best establish your place as a reputable, reliable and respectable exchange organizatoin.

For more information, visit: Radical Changes in My Life
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Posted by John Smith

Does AIESEC really care about you?

"AIESEC is a non-profit, student-run organization that offers students opportunities to see the world in ways they have never seen before"
 If you are reading this blog, I am sure you have heard that before.

AIESEC brands itself as a humane organization with integrity that genuinely cares about your future and whether you will have a chance to explore foreign countries.

AIESEC information sessions seem to focus a lot on you, the potential exchange participant: the student who is going to risk time, money, and safety for life-changing internships.

The reality, however, is discomforting. And much of it can be traced back to AIESEC's operation model.

At the end of the day, AIESEC is all about numbers, performance, and nice looking charts. Every year, the headquarter of AIESEC issues a set of performance indicators (ex. number of EP matched) that it expects each chapter to reach. In order to meet those expectations, AIESECers tend to focus a lot less on sending people to enjoyable internships than on adding extra numbers to their year-end report.

Source: http://issuu.com/aiesecinternational/docs/annualreport1112

The fee that you paid initially for matching is divided among your home chapter and the chapter that you will be exchanged to. To improve their performance, some AIESEC chapters will knowingly accept more exchange participants than their capacity, on both the incoming and outgoing side. As a result, after the acceptance of your fee, AIESEC delivers poor customer service and empty promises. During their time oversea, some EPs may even find themselves without a job (even though they have been matched) because the chapter abroad simply does not have the resources to host that many interns.

If the AIESEC's internship service is really all about the exchange participants, AIESEC should not have emphasized on quantity over quality.

AIESEC does not rely solely on exchange participants to generate income. On the other side of the spectrum, AIESEC serves as a global provider of affordable human resources(you) to mainly small, medium-sized businesses. Therefore, the bigger the pool of available exchange participants, the better AIESEC can prove that it is big enough to handle the business.

Once a company is convinced by a local chapter, it will pay the chapter a fee (around 3 -5 times of the EP matching fee) to list their job offerings on the database. In some places that are desperate for funding (which frankly is the case for many chapters), the AIESECers there are less inclined to conduct quality & background check on the internship providers before they sign. After all, the only thing that matters at the end is the amount of internships (TNs) they contributed to the database that year. That can also explain why the volunteering program contains many problems.

Effectively, you have paid for a service with no consistency in quality. With AIESEC, you can never be too sure about what you are going to get at the end.

Friday, February 28, 2014
Posted by John Smith
Tag :

The 6 AIESEC Values - What They Actually Mean

AIESEC claims to have six main values, activating leadership, living diversity, striving for excellence, demonstrating integrity, enjoying participation and acting sustainably. Here's what they really mean.

1. Activating Failure  Leadership 

There are leadership experiences all around you -whether it be taking the lead on a group project, or starting your own business. There is no intrinsic aspect of AIESEC that makes joining the organization a leadership experience. After all, by joining AIESEC, you are not becoming a leader but merely becoming another worker in the hierarchy. Go become the next Steve Jobs or Angela Merkel or Warren Buffet. That's leadership. 

2. Living Incompetently Living Diversity 

To give AIESEC some credit, giving students a multicultural experience is one of their main selling points. If only they could do so without giving people terrible experiences.

3. Striving for Inferiority Excellence

See #5) enjoying your money. AIESEC is quantity over quality.

4. Demonstrating False Advertising Integrity

"We are consistent and transparent in our decisions and actions." 

There's nothing transparent about how we deal with EPs. AIESEC has tons of information  brainwashing sessions, where we aggrandize the quality of the internships and tell you how "you can be a part of the solution" (whatever that even means). None of these said sessions will tell you the multitudes of complaints AIESEC receives, and the type of lowly work you will be doing on your internship.

5. Enjoying Your Money Participation

It's all about quantity when it comes to AIESEC. LCs are ranked based upon how many EPs they raise and then match (send abroad); we just need to get you EPs out of the country, regardless of how terrible we know your internships will be.

6. Acting Recklessly Sustainably 

There's nothing more reckless than sending students abroad without adequately ensuring their safety. YOLO.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Posted by John Smith
Tag :

AIESEC Egypt - My Bad Experience with AIESEC Cairo University's Local Committee

Here's another AIESCAM EP testimonial from Egypt.

source: http://guidecosmos.blogspot.ca/2013/04/aiesec-egypt-my-bad-experience-with.html
Not the AIESEC way at all

How i got to know AIESEC

I was introduced to AIESEC through one of my friends who went on an internship with them and during that time i was starting to believe that it's time for me to start having some international experience and to travel abroad to see a different culture through a big organization that has many followers across the world.So i signed up with AIESEC through my LC (local committee) which was the one in Cairo university in June 2011, they asked me to pay EP fees (exchange participant) to be able to get my profile on myaiesec.net and start the matching process. They explained that these fees are used to fund housing for the interns that will come to Egypt and that they don't make any kind of profit. I paid the fees which back then were 1000 EGP and i got matched to the LC in Kiev, Ukraine

Read on to get to the part about the scam.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Posted by John Smith

Top 5 GCDP Internship Problems

As a former EP manager, I can attest to the endless complaints I deal with over the summer. Here are the top 5 most common: 

1. The Local Chapter (LC) didn't take care of me

A common problem is when the LC you're going to is a no-show. You arrive at the airport, thinking that the receiving LC will pick you up and bring you to your accommodations, but you end up having to find your own way in a strange new city. Not only is this false marketing about the services AIESEC provides, but it is also extremely dangerous. Take for instance Masuno Yurika, a Japanese universeity student whom was sadly raped and killed on an AIESEC internship after taking a taxi alone from the airport to a nearby train station. The biggest flaw in the AIESEC structure is that your home LC has no idea which LCs are good and which LCs are bad. AIESEC members come and go, so the quality of foreign LC change constantly. 

2. I don't have work to do 

So you thought that you would be doing high level, intellectual work, be it working with other NGOs, universities, or museums. Think again. False marketing is riddled throughout the AIESEC database. If an internship sounds too good to be true, it is. 

It is common, especially in China, India and South America, for EPs to get forced into teaching english even though your TN states a completely different job description. The people running the organization then collect the money you've earned for them.

For instance, one of my LC's EPs went abroad to China believing that he would be managing a university research project on China's education system. However, when he arrived at the LC, they brought him to an elementary school and told him he would be teaching English for the next 2 weeks until the project was ready. Once the two weeks was up, they told him that it would take another two weeks. The truth was that the project never existed, and this EP ended up spending his summer doing work he didn't sign up for. 

3. My living conditions are disgusting

When you sign up for a GCDP program, you are told that you shouldn't expect 5 star residences. Sure, it can be a part of the experience -but the accommodations should at least be livable. Whether it be too many interns stuffed into the same room (can anyone say fire hazard?), or a lack of filtered water or cooking stoves, EP's should be provided with at least the basic amenities.

One of my EP's told me that her group was provided "accommodations" in a hospital ward in Venezula. Another EP who stayed at an intern home told me that she had $90USD stolen from her wallet while she went out with the other EPs. Enough said.

It's not ok for companies to lie on their TNs about the accommodations, but unfortunately, there is no means of quality control. As well, scams are plentiful as many interns are taken advantage of and told to pay absurdly high rates for their living spaces, much above market rates.

source: http://aiesecchandigarh.blogspot.com/

4. There are no other EPs, and I'm all alone 

You were told that you would be spending your summer abroad with wonderful people from all over the world, giving you the opportunity to build up your international network. Often, this is not the case. Many companies hire only one or two EPs due to cost constraints. EPs end up spending their time abroad completely alone in a strange city, especially if the receiving LC is unresponsive and irresponsible. Add on to that language and cultural barriers and you have yourself a terrible experience abroad.

5. I'm having problems with my internship or accommodations, but no one can help me 

My last and most important point is that you CANNOT believe for one second that AIESEC can take care of your needs when you're abroad. The home LC has no way of helping you when you're half way around the world. Sorry, but you cannot rely on me, your EP manager, to fix your issues even if I want to -all I can do is send a couple of emails to your receiving LC, which will likely be ignored. Sure, you can file a complaint with the bureaucratic mess that is AIESEC International, but that too will  likely be ignored. 

Monday, October 21, 2013
Posted by John Smith

Exchange Experience with AIESEC in Beijing, China

**LC = Local Committee. GCDP = internship but unpaid. GIP = internship, paid. PKU = Peking Univ. RUC = Renmin Univ. EP = Exchange Participant.
It’s my story when I went to Beijing last August (2012). I just moved it from another place to this blog…because I wanna share to wider readers.
This is a story of my second exchange experience with AIESEC with GIP program (two years ago I went to Beijing for a GCDP program, which was a bit messed up too, but this is another story).  My EP ID is: EP-In-ID-US-2012-1445 and the TN ID of my program is TN-In-CN-PK-2012-1984 via AIESEC PKU.
This program is an Education Training program where I can teach English in China as an assistant teacher for one semester, started from September 2012. In the TN form, it wasn’t stated that only NATIVE SPEAKERS or WESTERN PEOPLE could apply, so I applied and got accepted by a girl named Gujing in May 2012. The interview process was very quick and I got accepted right away.
Yet several problems happened before and during my stay in China for a short one month. It was an exceptionally bad experience. To make it easier to understand, I will put this story into some parts. I wrote this solely for a ‘warning’ and ‘sharing’ purpose to other future-exchange-participants/people in general so they won’t experience the same awful things like us because of this company and a certain man called Larry (*9 people who were in the same project with me from many different countries). I don’t intend to do a libelous act nor put the blame solely on one party.
Click to read on.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Posted by John Smith

Considering a GIP internship? Think Again.

"Global Talent is an internship program that gives you the opportunity to take on a cross-cultural professional development experience with professional companies from around the world."
Sounds pretty neat, eh? But before you pay the so-called "matching fee", you may want to know the truth behind their enticing claims. 

"You will get to work at the most prestigious companies"

P&G, PwC, UBS, ING, Microsoft: you name it, AIESEC has it. The organization is simply so great that all these companies have flocked to become its business partners. And you, a prospective intern on its service, will soon be welcomed to the headquarters of these companies, where you will spend your holiday developing life-essential, professional skills in a foreign country. 

This dream will come to an end when you officially become an exchange participant. Just like the real world, jobs at these big shot companies are in high demand, and quite frankly, as a first year university student or a graduating senior who has no previous work experience (which is probably why you have decided to join this program in the first place), you will never get those jobs. 

Generally speaking, each of those named AIESEC partners has a maximum of 5 job listings on the database (once you pay, you will gain access to a database with "thousands of internship opportunities"). Assuming each country recruits 300 interns every year (this number varies from country to country, but in this case let's pretend it is the global average) and there are 124 countries, there will be 37200 like-minded students who also have access to these opportunities. If you are ready for such competition, why don't you apply for a real job instead? Did I mention that it's free? No middle man there to collect a so called matching fee. 

And that was a conservative estimate. Globally, AIESEC has 100,000 members and they all have access to the job listings. Some of these people are local chapter presidents, vice presidents, or even just general members that have been in AIESEC for years. If the corporate partners receive a lot of applications(which they will), why would they pick you over the current AIESEC members (AIESECers)?

"You will make money while gaining valuable work experience"

Okay, first of all, that applies to all the jobs in the world. But, through AIESEC, you may actually lose money by participating in their program.

Yes, it is true that the company will pay you during the internship. However, since AIESEC does not provide accommodation or food when you are on the Global Talent Program, all your salary will be contributed toward your living expenses. And don't forget about the cost of the flight and other travel expenses. Most importantly, don't forget about the matching fee, which I will provide more information in the next section.

If you are really interested in an internship abroad, you will probably find cheaper alternatives that do not bind you to the same restrictions that AIESEC will impose on you.

"You are paying for the service"

After you officially become an exchange participant, your local chapter will assign you a person (an exchange participant manager), who will be directly responsible for your internship search process.  The quality of that service depends on the person and varies depending on the chapters. A good manager will provide constant feedback, encouragement, and job suggestions for you. However, in the case where the person provides no assistance to your job search, just remember that you have paid for the "matching service". 

In my opinion, the only reason that justifies the matching fee is the access to the database on myaiesec.net. However, many AIESEC chapters have recently begun to hide the database from EPs, since they "don't think the exchange participants are capable of identifying suitable internships; [access to the database] will create inefficiency and dissatisfaction." 

It must be even more comforting to know that the database you have paid for is filled with job listings that even the AIESECers believe are scams.

Technically, the matching fee also leads to services abroad, including airport pickup, free sightseeing, and automatic friendships with AIESECers abroad. Depending on the chapter that you are exchanging to, your experience with AIESEC will vary. In many countries (namely China, India, and Romania), you should not be expecting any of those promised services. Since most AIESECers are either clueless volunteers or evil schemers, they have no interest as to whether you will actually enjoy your international experience as long as you have paid the fee. 

In information sessions, they preach about the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone while highlighting the supportive AIESEC global community. Let me give you a realistic scenario:
Imagine you have just landed in the underdeveloped airport of India after 23 hours of travelling. Unable to speak the language, you were told to stay in the airport until an AIESECer comes and picks you up. Five hours have passed and no one has shown up. All of a sudden, an Indian man offers to carry your baggage and runs away with your bag. You have now lost everything except for the contact information of the AIESECer. Now, you are really stepping out of your comfort zone! 
*This happened to a past exchange participant*

"You will become a part of the global community"

Whether you liked your exchange experience or not, you will never be able to leave the AIESEC family. Given that you have survived your experience abroad, you will return to school, where your local chapter will shamelessly harass you for exchange testimonies, information sessions, and being featured in other promotional materials. 

If you actually enjoyed your internship, you may to share your experience, after all, it would have been nice if someone else did the same for you a year ago. But how many times do you actually want to do that? If they are really desperate, you may end up talking in every information session and in every exchange participant related event. To AIESECers, EPs are just free promotional tools to be used. 

"The program is highly flexible and refundable"

In the likely case that you won't find anything appealing on the database, AIESEC will eventually offer you an opportunity somewhere. Your manager will most likely recommend you to try the Global Citizen Program (volunteering) this year in order to build up your CV to be more competitive in the paid program next year. For more information regarding why the volunteering program is even worse, please refer to the review for the volunteering Program.

AIESEC makes money when you pay the matching fee; it does not provide a full refund ( in some chapters, the fee is even non-refundable!) since it "undertakes a selection process to ensure that candidates who are entering our exchange programs have the have the best chance of finding an internship". They will deny you a refund on the grounds that the "matching service" is already rendered. You have to prove that you have exhausted and considered all internship options AIESEC offers, and found no suitable ones, for the partial refund to be processed (around 53% of the matching fee). Statistics have shown that the number of exchange participants who have passed the review board and paid their fee, but remain jobless, is substantially larger every year. 

If you are debating whether an AIESEC internship is right for you this summer, proceed with caution.

Thursday, March 14, 2013
Posted by John Smith


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