“I can be friends with anyone!”
“I don’t care where the person is from, I don’t judge!”
“We are all the same, we should treat everyone equally!” and so many other empty words that I used to throw here and there, just because I’m a Millennial and this is how my generation is supposed to think.
What I stood up for, was indeed, completely true and morally right. However, at the time, I never had a friend from another country, I never had to understand a person with a completely different background, nor had I witnessed a discriminatory act in society. This is precisely why I did not comprehend what living diversity was…until my experience abroad with AIESEC happened.
The story is long and full of emotions, ups and downs, turns and twists, but mostly, it is about embracing the spectrum of cultures that I got the chance to come across.
Being a member of AIESEC is truly what made me realize that there is a bigger world out there and that, for me, the only way to fully understand it is through an experience abroad. Therefore, AIESEC offered me the opportunity to explore both my strengths and weaknesses, as well as my values and qualities.
I always thought I own this value – living diversity – but it was only after my time spent abroad that I actually started to wrap my mind around this idea of variety and inclusion.
Living in China for 6 weeks made me experience aspects of a reality I was not aware of. From Communism and all the related restrictions to Asian cuisine, from traditional family rules to social policies, from meditation to the latest technology, everything was new to me. But it was not just the Chinese culture that welcomed me, but also the fact that I met, traveled, laughed, cried, danced, and shared these memories with other volunteers from 8 different nationalities.
Now, I have many foreign friends due to the international experience that AIESEC offered me. At the same time, I can understand people from different backgrounds and we can easily work together and achieve common goals.
But, unfortunately, by now, I have witnessed discriminatory behaviors around me, and I’ve also learned how to defend people in these situations. I think that the biggest change it’s noticeable in the way I keep myself eager to personally experience other people’s reality, while also connecting what I already know, with the new things I am about to learn about them.
As much as it might seem a value-oriented view towards the external environment and the people around you, I consider its impact to be, mainly, aimed internally.
I am, in no way, exaggerating when I claim that living diversity changed my life. Not in a sense that I completely changed that “loud and proud” superficial behavior mentioned in the beginning, but more in a way that I learned there’s more to a person than what meets the eye.
I realized that we are not all the same!
This is an important lesson I carry with me every single day. It’s the differences that teach you how to accept people, how to listen to people’s stories, ignore stereotypes and preconceived ideas.
This is a story by Stefania Vergelea, Team Leader, AIESEC in Bucharest. Find out about what is happening #behindthescenes of AIESEC, by reading more stories soon! You can also #JoinAIESEC here: join.aiesec.org.ro!