Libby Chiu, 22, from Taiwan, recent graduated in Foreign Languages and Literature and currently living in Estonia. In the summer of 2015 she was part of a volunteering project with AIESEC in Cairo, Egypt, and this led to the next experience she is currently having with the organization. She is now the Vice President of Talent Management of the national team of AIESEC in Estonia and she told us a little bit about her experience in the land of the pharaohs. While in Cairo, she worked in a project called Enlighten, with the goal of teaching basic English to the local kids and exposing them to different cultures.
We caught up with Libby for a little chat about her AIESEC experience in Egypt and Estonia, check it out:
Why did you decide to go on an exchange?
Going abroad was always in my plans during university. At first, I was planning to do an academic exchange, but I changed my mind when I realized that AIESEC’s volunteering opportunity is not only about developing myself in a cross-cultural environment, but also having a social impact on the local community. I had never though that I, as a young individual, could have an impact on anyone. So I felt it was a cool idea, and that is why I decided to go on an exchange with AIESEC.
What was the biggest cultural shock you experienced abroad?
Cairo is an interesting and exotic city. The life in Egypt was very different from the life I had in Taiwan. Firstly, because of the language barrier with the local people. I had to use body language to explain what I wanted to buy or google the photo for them. Secondly, traffic and cars were mixed with donkeys, carts, bikes and camels, all on the same road. And the constant traffic and noise with unwritten code. But overall, I enjoyed this culture shock a lot. This is what made my experience so different and memorable.
What was the best part of your experience?
I made lots of good friends from all over the world and we still care about each other. The connection does not disappear with the end of the experience. Instead, it grows stronger. There were more than three projects happening simultaneously in AIESEC Cairo University, so I was able to build up a connection with almost 100 interns from different nationalities. Every time we went out, some Egyptian would ask us where we were from and we always answered: “We are from the world”, because it would take a lot of time to explain the nationality of every individual.
How has your internship experience helped you in your experience as national team in AIESEC Estonia?
Definitely, the internship experience helped me a lot. In Taiwan, sometimes it’s hard to understand myself as a person, because I’m in my comfort zone. Due to this experience, I was able to explore my strengths and weaknesses and find my personal values through living in a foreign environment and working with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Now that you live in Estonia, what do you love the most about this country?
I would say the clean and safe living environment, the hospitality of the Estonians and convenient digital services, that facilitate credibility and trust online. Estonians work hard and play well. They know how to relax and enjoy their life. Estonia is a true digital society, Wi-Fi is literally everywhere and the convenient service makes life easier.
Would you recommend an international experience? How has it developed you into a better leader?
Yes, I would recommend it! These two international experiences have helped me to realize my identity as a Taiwanese. Also, with a strong understanding of different cultures and backgrounds, I have grown more emphatic towards universal problems. I am able to bridge cultural differences, to deliver desired results and be more solution-orientated. These experiences also enabled me to become more independent, self-reliant, adaptable, open-minded, patient and tolerant.