Saturday, June 25, 2011


I had a very interesting conversation with a veteran AIESECer.  His words of wisdom focused on 'Intrigue".

During our recruitment, I had a personal mission to be as informative as possible with the AIESEC opportunities and structure.  I told friends, family, strangers and peers about all the things that AIESEC offers.  This was an overwhelming sales pitch that few understood.  Good thing I'm passionate.

In an effort to simplify things, here is what I say to someone who has never heard of AIESEC and asks what it does.  Rather than tell them all the ins and outs (which have confused my friends and family), I will only speak from experience.

In 7 short months, I attended youth impact conferences with 300 delegates in both Edmonton and Ottawa. I have traveled to India to teach and recruited a graduate from China to work in Waterloo, Canada.  While in India, I facilitated a 400 person seven day national youth conference with other internationals from Russia, Ukraine, UK, Nigeria and Romania.  I will be flying home through Kenya to attend an international youth conference with 600 delegates. I have connected with hundreds of people through business ideas, leadership thoughts, dancing, drinking and impromptu road trips.

I lead a team of 5 dedicated colleagues to accomplish national and internationally achievements.  My personal network now includes like minded individuals from Brazil, India, Kenya, Ukraine, France, China, and Japan to name a few.  I am supported by my university's Co op program, my university's business school, my university's arts council, our international business program, our city's mayor, CEO's of local businesses, my friends, and most importantly my family.

If you want this experience, or more, then make some time to ask about AIESEC.

JFDI List Item: Attend the June National Conference in India

I have just been accepted as 1 of 6 International Facilitators for AIESEC India's June National Conference!

This is an intensive 6 day conference from June 24th to June 29th that draws 400 delegates from across the country and international talent from around the world.

Known as "JNC" this is the biggest national event in the AIESEC India calendar.  The conference is dedicated to the development of Team Leaders and Executive Board Members from AIESEC India and abroad.

Our International Facilitator team includes: Carson Kolberg from Canada, Leo Szivo from UK, Amalia Ghiban from Romania, Katia Kovalchuk from Russia, Laura Nwabia from Nigeria and Yulia Kuzmenko from Ukraine.  We have a combined AIESEC Experience of  15 years and 55 attended AIESEC conferences.

You can live stream in on the Conference at any point:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

AIESEC as a Co-op Experience

I would like to share this with anyone who is considering pursuing an international co-op job or international working experience.

In order to pursue a job abroad, please review this list.
  1. Making money is not the priority.
  2. Taking a Holiday is not the priority (though weekend trips and 'pre-start date' and 'post-end date' trips are excellent opportunities to explore)
  3. You embrace challenges.
  4. You are adaptable.
  5. You are bilingual or are actively learning a second language.
  6. You will share your experiences.
International co-op opportunities are available to anyone, but not everyone is suited for an international co-op job.  You must realize that working abroad will be considerably different than working locally, offering challenges and rewards that, from personal experience, are widely recognized by your university, your peers, and globally-minded employers.

Working Abroad requires you to step outside your comfort zone and expect the unexpected.

AIESEC as an International Co-op Facilitator

This post was created by Carson Kolberg, 2011 President of AIESEC Laurier, one of 1600 local AIESEC Committees.  AIESEC is a not-for-profit, student-run organization with over 60 years specializing in an international working exchange program.

Through AIESEC, there are a large number of 4 month and 8 month opportunities available.  If you only want to work in Western Europe or Australia, you should probably just stick close to home, because AIESEC requires you to be flexible and open minded.

Some of the greatest opportunities are in developing countries, outside of most people's comfort zones.  But this is where your experience will set you apart.

Your next step, if you choose AIESEC as a platform for finding international working experience, is to attend a AIESEC Exchange Participant Information Session at your local university.

Please explore my Blog for further insight's of an Arts/ Communications Co-op student, and for insight's of a Business student.

Some additional facts:
  • AIESEC facilitates over 10 000 student working internships per year
  • All AIESEC opportunities cover the cost of living in your destination country, but do not cover the cost of flight, insurance, visa, service fee or additional travel.
  • Internships are offered in all fields of Management, Technology, Development and Education
  • China, Brazil, India, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and Colombia are some of our 107 destination countries.
  • Business, Science and Arts Co-Op students all have opportunities to work abroad.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I had a conversation last night with a friend about 'Intent'.

Working abroad is a challenging adventure.  Choosing the country, the city, and the job.  Convincing your family, your friends, and your wallet.  Getting the vaccinations, the flight tickets, the working visa, the health insurance, the travel insurance, and the packing list done.  Saying your good byes and learning how to say hellos.

All these things are the challenges you will face before you have even left, and I am sure you can find many more.

Everyone will have different first impressions and first experiences when they arrive at their foreign destination.  These are all based on your mental preparations and your physical preparations.  I will not get into detail about these, because everyone must learn their own preparation needs.

During our conversation, my friend and I were speaking about all these little details and how many different factors affect your trip.  Of the whole list, the only step that will carry you through from start to finish is convincing yourself.

We realized that only two things can happen when you arrive.

You will either want to stay or want to go home.  Intent is the difference between the person who stays and who leaves.

If you undertake an AIESEC internship, or a trip in general, and want to leave, then it is your decision and your decision only to do so.  If you choose to go abroad, before you even start packing, state your intent.

"I will work abroad in India for the summer 2011" This is my intent since August 2010.

My advice is to firmly understand your 'intent' because this will carry you through any obstacle.  Intent is the difference between someone who embraces a challenge and someone who gives up on it.

I have been extremely satisfied with my trip so far, but that doesn't mean I haven't hit all sorts of obstacles.  By stating my intent and understanding it, I overcome challenges and enjoy the experience.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unofficial Chandigarh Tourism Video

I was speaking with a man about travelling and tourism.  I asked where in the world he would like to go.  He paused for a moment, and replied: "Before I take the chance to travel the world, I want to know my own country.  How could I appreciate what else there is before I knew what I have right around me."

Its been two weeks in India, and I feel as though I am living a micro version of his philosophy.  Sure there are a million places to go and a billion people to see, but before venturing off from the city limits, I would like to know what it is that makes Chandigarh 'The Beautiful City'.

I can't promise continuous video updates, but I can promise to continue collecting HD footage whenever and wherever I see fit.  If you leave a comment on the blog, show this blog to a friend, or help me reach 2 000 views (see the counter in the bottom right of the page), I will post another one.

A large number of these people agreed to participate in my antics.  Some of them clearly had no idea what was going on, some were promised to be featured in a small Chandigarh Tourism Video (did not mention unofficial) and some were just excited to see a foreigner.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Suite Sixteen

I moved into the Trainee House!

Rather than pictures, I have made a movie for this experience.  These are my first impressions and a quick tour of the house known as Suite Sixteen.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Somewhat Opinionated Facts about Chandi and India

Hello Everyone,

I asked the 10th Grade (standard) class to share some facts about Chandigarh and India.  Here is a list of responses.

About Chandigarh:

  • People of Chandigarh are very polite and this city is very clean and beautiful.
  • Chanidgarh is very very beautiful city out of all cities.  And we can see fashion and fashion all around us.
  • Chandigarh is very green.  Famous temples are there.
  • Chandigarh is the first planned city of India.
  • It's a nice place to hangout with friends and the night life of Chandigarh is amazing.
  • Chandigarh is famous for its architecture and landscape.  It derives its name from the temple of 'Chandi' - goddess of power and 'Garh' - the fort.  It is the first planned city of India, by Le Corbusier.  It has the distinction of having a unique world - acclaimed Rock Garden by Nek Chand.
  • Earlier, the Chandigarh capital was also called the 'Tricity' because of Panchkula and Mohali as adjacent cities but with the mushrooming of other towns like Zirakpur, Kharar, etc... with considerable population, it is better called 'Chandigarh Capital Region'/
  • It is one of the most clean places found in India.  You won't be able to find clean places like it, except Kereh (Situated in Southern India).
  • The people who live in Chandigarh are good in their nature.
Facts about India:
  • India is known for its spirituality and respect towards elders.  In India, you can find all types of culture and religions.  Unlike Canadians, Indians like spicy food.
  • India has the second largest population in the world.
  • Most popular food of Punjab - Sarsa da Saag, Makki di Roti.
  • National Animal of India - Royal Bengal Tiger
  • The influences of Hinduism and the past tradition of the caste system have created a culture that emphasizes established hierarchal relationships.
  • India is one of the oldest civilizations.
  • 'India' got its name from River Indus.
  • India is the largest democracy in the world.
  • India has the largest number of post offices.
  • India has the world's highest cricket ground in Chail, Himachal Pradesh.
  • India has very rich religion and customs.
  • Vedic Culure (Indian culture) is the oldest culture in the world.
This post was technically outsourced...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Dear Farewell

Hello Everyone,

I know this blog is about my experiences in India, so pardon the temporary departure as I share a more personal note.  Regardless of where you are, life always continues and ends everywhere.

It is with considerable sadness that I bid farewell to our family dog.  At 12 years, one month, I knew that this summer would likely be her last as I departed for this adventure.  I am very happy to have spent time with her before and taking some wonderful pictures.  Emma lived a full and happy life, with summers swimming and playing at cottages, winters getting lost (literally, she was white) in the snow, and far too many afternoons and nights sleeping on couches and beds that she knew were off limits.  This cleverly oblivious animal provided us with headaches, heartaches and plenty of fond memories.

The the choice to have her put to rest was proper as her medical condition would have become severe quickly and lead to considerable pain.  At noon on Saturday, June 4th, 2011, and surrounded comfortably by my family, Emma was put to rest.

Whether in India, or in Canada, this news would have been difficult to learn, but having prepared mentally prior to the departure gives me some comfort.  Knowing that my family and friends are only a click, skype chat or call away also brings plenty of comfort.

Shubh raatri and alvida Emma, you will be missed dearly.

Chabir on a hot Summer's Day

In Chandigarh, a pleasant tradition is carried on.
On especially hot days, a group of individuals will voluntarily gather together to serve a sweet drink to anybody who is thirsty.  Along the sides of the roads, a drink called 'chabir' is prepared in large pots.  According to the local AIESECers, this tradition has very religious roots.  

Along road sides of highways, these booths are set up for individuals trekking across India.  It seems to be a Sikh tradition which carries some elements of good faith your fellow people and to God.  By volunteering their time and preparing this sweet water, people may contribute back to others in need.

Chabir quite literally translates to "sweet".  Though it looks similar to pepto bismol, the flavour is 'flower-like' or 'nectar' like and a much appreciated gesture as the temperature approaches 40 degrees.

Homestay at Gurin's

For my second two night's in Chandigarh, I have been staying with Gurin pal Singh and his family.

A snap off the front Balcony of Gurin's Place.
They live in a lovely sector of Panchkula, the neighbouring town of Chandigarh.  Similar to Siddhant, his family has shown tremendous hospitality and helped me in my adjust period to India.  I have provided a quick slideshow of pictures from his place.

One memorable moment to share was a delightful breakfast of 'aloo parantha'.  This is roti stuffed with a potato filling.  It would be equivalent to a waffle-hash brown.  Thank you to the whole family for being so friendly and accommodating.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Back to School

So it’s official: At 7:30 this morning I returned to the playground, the library, the science lab, and the classroom.  Though this time around, not only do I get a chance to learn, I get a chance to teach and share.

The internship that I have chosen is a 3 month educational traineeship (AIESEC lingo for an internship focused on subject education, English development and cross-cultural learning activities).  India school systems takes holidays for the month of June, so for my first month I only get to meet the students who have chosen to take extra activities and classes throughout the summer term.  Unlike North America, where summer school is like extended detention (I apologize to all school board’s for this general assumption, but... I speak from perception), the students here are brimming with energy and enthusiasm.  

The school is called St. Soldier’s Divine Public School and is located in Sector 16 of Panchkula  (which is the town directly beside Chandigarh to the East).  It is a kindergarten through grade 12 school of about 850 students and 40 teachers.  This is the first time that this school has taken an intern, so I am the first ambassador for our program.  This is nice because we have freely discussed what we would like to contribute.

I have every intention of surpassing the expectations while respecting the structure and boundaries of the institution itself.  It would be easy to arrive with assumptions of changing the world and improving the system, but this is not the purpose of my internship.  I plan to learn a great deal from this experience by spending my time actively participating.

For the next 2 weeks, I will be leading morning activities with a small group of about 30 students.  From 7:30 am until 11:30 am, my responsibilities include sports activities (awesome), and PD (Personal Development) classes.  We played basketball today, focusing on passing, dribbling and simple shooting. I chose not to use the BEEF acronym for the jump shot (Ball, Elbow, something, Feet) because the cow is a sacred creature.  PD is a new concept to me and is I have been given some freedom to lead classes.  The criteria for these classes are improving soft skills and cross-cultural development.  We talked about formal and informal introductions in India and in Canada and practiced eye contact, body language, warm greetings and a firm handshake.

School officially begins in the first week of July, so these next couple weeks are a fantastic orientation to a small group of students, the faculty, and the school itself.  I have given the students homework for the first day (what a terrible guy), but the assignment is simple.  They must bring a fact about Chandigarh, a fact about India, and a Question about Canada tomorrow.  I will share these facts with you!

Oh, and this class is perfect for the word a day challenge:  today’s words include:
Yes: Hanji
No: Nahi
Today: Aaj

About Chandigarh and the Tri-City

Chandigarh, also called ‘The Beautiful City’, serves as the capital of two sates: Punjab and Haryana.  However, administratively, the city is not under the jurisdiction of either state – it is administered by the Central government and hence classified as a union territory.

The city derives its name from a temple of goddess Chandi  (the Chandi Mandir) located in nearby Panchkula district of Haryana.  The word Chandigarh literally means “the fort of Chandi”.
Chandigarh is known for its high standard of living, high per capita income, and self acclaimed “best butter chicken in India” (Gurin Pal Singh). 

Chandigarh is part of the tri-city area, which is remarkably similar to the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge situation of my home LC AIESEC Laurier.  The two other cities are Panchkula and Mohali.  I live and work in sector 16 of Panchkula, while Chandigarh has its main AIESEC offices in Sector 25 and Sector 49.

Finding your way around the city is quite easy, as Chandigarh is the only planned city in India.  Major streets are clearly divided into a grid format, and Sectors represent large city blocks.  From any high point in the city, you can see the Himalayas, which begin 60 kilometres outside of the city.  Chandigarh itself is roughly 15 kilometres in diameter and represents 116 km2.

Cost of Living
Panjab University Campus
The common expense for an AIESECer in Chandigarh includes Rs. 4000 for rent and roughly Rs. 1000 for travelling around the city.  The cost of food varies, depending on how often you eat out, and can range from Rs. 1100 – 4000 approximately.

My weekends and entertainment activities will likely represent a good portion of my monthly expenses.  To put this all in perspective, $1 CDN = Approx Rs. 45.  To do the math quickly, I take the Rs. Value, withdraw a zero and divide the sum by 5.  Not the easiest thing to do after a couple beers, but the butter chicken was worth it anyways.

Other expenses include getting my SIM card and pay as you go minutes.  These are crazy cheap!!!!!  Roughly Rs. 1000 would be normal each month.  To put this in context, Rogers would not allow me to put my cell phone plan on pause without withdrawing my benefits.  I have unbelievable features on my plan, so I decided to just keep in active during the summer.  Each month, my bill is about $80.  Sucks.

While eating a 6  inch Paneer Tikki,
 a black out happened, lights
came on just as I snapped the shot.
Raghav didn't skip a beat.
Local Hospitality
Since I have landed, Chandigarh has felt like a safe city to me.  Of course I am under the watchful eye of the local committee, but any interaction I have had with locals has been friendly and warm.  They have helped me adjust quickly by providing a very comfortable place to sleep.  Each night I have stayed with a local LC member and will move into the trainee house soon.  They have also helped me adjust my belly to local food.  We eat home-cooked food in the evenings, and typical student food during the day.  Subway and maggi (Indian Mr. Noodle).

I have also been introduced to the other interns in town and will be getting a chance to meet more in the coming days.  Laurier, I learned a game called skolling!  Let's add it to the Teleco game.