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There are more than 800 organizations worldwide which promote these immersions through a variety of social, cultural, environmental, educational, innovative, and technological projects; these range from those that have to do with the protection of endangered animals to teaching Spanish as a foreign language to European children.
La Sergio has an agreement with AIESEC, the world´s largest organization supported by UNESCO, which seeks to promote the presence of leaders in volunteering experiences, and professional internships that contribute to the Peace and the development of human potential.
AIESEC is an NGO, which was born in 1946, at the conclusion of World War II, when a number of European university leaders realized how the lack of knowledge of the different countries of the world had led to more violence.
With this in mind, AIESEC was born to foster friendly relations between individuals in many countries and to disseminate everything a nation has to offer by expanding the understanding of its citizens, thus changing the perception of the world, person by person.
Kevin Gonzalez, AIESEC´s vice-president on exchange programs, believes that “a volunteering experience is transforming both in a personal and professional way, because it allows the individual to go beyond his comfort zone to understand the needs of others”.
Willingness to serve and to explore the world is a must in order to embark this endeavor. It is important to choose the destination and the project in which everyone wants to be involved. “Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Poland, Argentina and Italy are among the many countries of choice with AIESEC, depending on the activity to be carried out ”, explained the vice-president on exchange programs.
With this organization, tasks around volunteering can be related with Marketing, Public Relations, Environment, Education, Event Organization, Human Innovation and Management, in NGOs around the world or directly with vulnerable communities.
“It is important to take into account that if you are interested, you must be between 18-30 years of age and have availability to enroll in volunteering for a period of at least six weeks; if your chosen country is in Africa or Europe you must have an intermediate level of proficiency in English as a second language” adds Kevin.
He also points in certain key aspects of the registration process: “check the website and the social networks before applying online; once you receive the confirmation e-mail, access to the project portal where you can find the offers of each country and choose the program. You´ll be called for an interview in order to assess your profile deeper”.
Once officially admitted, the candidate has to make a 765.000 COP deposit which covers admission fee, housing and orientation to the program. Sometimes this fee may include foods.
It is important to take into account that airfare, medical insurance, visa and personal expenses are not included in the volunteering program or in this initial payment.
Speaking the native language of the American country of choice is not mandatory according to Kevin Gonzalez; however, Ángela Sarmiento, Director of the Language Center at La Sergio, strongly recommends that volunteers have a minimum knowledge of the native language, which would “allow survival communication and also reduce stress associated with living in a different culture. The ideal would be to have a B1 level of the language to enjoy the experience and reduce levels of frustration in a strange environment”.
For that reason and as a preparation for activities like these the Language Center develops personalized courses designed to meet the needs of students. “We are open to assess them once the student has an exact date of his trip; as soon as this is happens, we will design the work plan which will provide them with the tools to make it a successful experience”, adds Ángela.
These international experiences not only strengthen their communications and social skills in challenging environments, but also promote the immersion in other cultures and individual mentality us transformed, all of which results in a better profile of the participants, who at the end, receive their certificate of attendance. Undoubtedly, this is an experience that supports global and competitive professionals, capable to face the challenges of today’s world.
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