“When I think about my time back in China, I always have a smile on my face. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. 6 weeks filled with awesome people, new adventures and doing something good for the world.” This is what Anna-Liisa said about her experience with AIESEC in The Middle Kingdom, also known as China.
Anna-Liisa knew instantly when choosing a project that she wants to go somewhere very different from Estonia. She has always been drawn to Asia and thus it happened that one opportunity in Beijing, China sparked her interest. Anna-Liisa chose a project about gender equality (United Nations Sustainable Development Goal no 5).
“I have always believed that women can do whatever they set their minds to and that is why this topic interested me the most.”
Before setting out to China Anna-Liisa had some concerns about how Chinese people were going to accept her, how will she like the food, handle the language barrier, the hot weather and air pollution. The first day in Beijing hit her like a train — no fresh air to breathe accompanied by a migraine as well. The pollution levels were not even so high that day and it took some time to adjust to the new environment. Wearing pollution masks was a must-have.
The food was very different from what she usually ate back home but she found lots of new delicious options. Back in Estonia you just cannot get a hot pot like in China. It was also pretty amazing how generous and inviting the local people were. They always made you feel at home and helped you navigate around Beijing.
Anna-Liisa’s project had homestay accommodation. She lived with 3 very different families — 2 weeks in each home. All families were similar in some way despite some being more traditional or modern than others. They were always happy to introduce her to their culture. Families treasured spending time with one another the most.
“If possible, I would suggest everyone to look for a homestay project because it truly gives you the feeling of actually being part of everyday life of the local people.”
During the project Anna-Liisa had many different activities to take part in. One of the most memorable one was being able to take part in a volunteer conference with almost all of the North China AIESEC volunteers. There were over 100 volunteers and so many different nations represented. Anna-Liisa learned a lot about different cultures, had many fun team activities and of course made friends from all around the world.
The main goal of the 6 weeks was to inform young people about gender equality. For that lots of interviews were carried out with students to have some knowledge of how they view gender equality. To help spread the word the interviews were filmed and later posted on social media. Articles on the same topic were written as well.
Another activity Anna-Liisa took part in was doing a breast and ovarian cancer charity collection. A Youth Forum was also held to inform young students about gender equality in our countries. It was really eye-opening to hear how easily everyone was willing to share their personal stories regarding gender equality as well.
“I learned a lot during this time and was able to inspire youth to go for their dreams and not let society pave their way.”
Our free time was spent on discovering the city and visiting its endless temples, parks and of course the Great Wall. Even at the most touristy places a lot of people did not speak English, so it took some effort to get the right tickets and information. Mobile apps helped out a lot. Anna-Liisa’s project volunteers were lucky enough to have lots of local volunteers who were happy to spend time with them and show them around, so that made things a lot easier.
“I don’t regret a second spent in China and will forever treasure the memories and the people who I met. I believe I made an effort and inspired youth in China, learned what are their struggles with equality and became more open-minded towards different cultures and ways of thinking.”
Anna-Liisa will definitely go back to China- there is still so much more to discover and of course, meet up with the friends she made there and families she lived with.
This was Anna-Liisa’s experience. Find out what could be yours!