Nov 17, 2010

Salvador Sunset

This last weekend we went to Salvador, the old capital of Brazil, the capital of the region of Bahia and the capital of Afro-Brazilian culture. It´s located on the Northeast Coast of Brazil in a state that is known for its beautiful beaches and rich cultural heritage. It is where Capoeira originated.

We were greeted at the airport by an AIESECer from AIESEC Salvador and stayed with one of the interns there. We first went to the Pelourinho, the oldest part of the city, with beautiful Baroque architecture.

In that area, there was the church of São Francisco which was decorated with gold inside.
Sao Francisco Church

 The city has an upper city and lower city which are connected by an elevator.

View of the Upper and Lower Cities and the elevator that connects them.
We took the elevator down to the lower city and visited the Forte de Nossa Senhora do Pópulo e São Marcelo. We learned a lot about the history and making of Brazil there.

Forte de Sao Marcelo
And then we went shopping at the Market, and had lunch. So far, food from Bahia is my favourite Brazilian food. It is heavily influenced by African cooking and uses much more spices than in Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais.

Traditional Bahian Food
The evening was spent dancing Forro, a brazilian dance done in pairs, and is slightly similar to Salsa. I have just started taking Forro classes.

And our final day was spent shopping and going to the beach. We watched the sunset at the lighthouse at Barra Beach, as is the tradition here. And were entertained by a local actor/comedian, and applauded both him and the sunset. Cariocas, people from Rio de Janeiro have a similar tradition, where they sit on the Arpoador rock, overlooking Ipanema and watch the sunset and applaud when it finishes.

Sunset at the lighthouse at Barra Beach

Oct 27, 2010

Discovery Days

This last weekend I went to AIESEC Rio's induction weekend retreat – Discovery Days. We boarded a bus on Saturday to a ranch in Petropolis (an hour away from Rio de Janeiro). During the weekend, there were sessions for the new members to learn all about AIESEC.

I helped out with a session by describing how my leadership role in AIESEC has helped me in my career. I listed competencies that I developed while in AIESEC that helped me: resilience, flexible thinking, adaptability, commitment to results, self-awareness, awareness of others and developing others. And I told them about how my experience in AIESEC helped me to succeed in the jobs I have had; from writing a youth recruitment strategy for a large federal government department to doing marketing, public relations and event planning for a children's hospital foundation. And now I am participating in the best AIESEC internship program I have ever heard of and I know that one of the reasons I was selected for this job was for my leadership experience in AIESEC. In fact, AIESEC leadership experience was written as a preferred criterion on the job description.

I also had lots of fun introducing the AIESEC Canada portfolio cheers to the AIESEC Rio members. They had a competition to see who could cheer the loudest and I think the small but mighty finance team won.

I was so impressed by our inspiring chair, the hardworking Organizing Committee, the engaging Executive Board, and most of all, the motivated and talented new members. Everyone who helped to organize and run the event did an incredible job. And those who participated really helped to make the weekend a great success!

Oct 20, 2010

Welcome to Miami

Barra Beach as seen from Prainha Park
Our weekend in Vitoria was full of fun. Vitoria is a beautiful small city on the coast about 6 hours away from both Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. We spent Friday visiting the port and its operations. Friday night we met the local AIESECers. And on Saturday we headed to the beach and then straight to an outdoor restaurant with live Samba music. Our new Brazilian friends tried to teach us how to dance Samba no Pé (Samba solo) with great difficulty. It seems like something you had to grow up doing. Never in my life have I felt like I had two left feet before. Afterwards we saw two cover bands: Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam. And the next day we flew back to Rio de Janeiro.

Since then we´ve had three weeks more of training together on subjects related to Management and Leadership. And after that I started working in the Barra da Tijuca office. I have been here for a month now. It has been a slow start at work. Everyone else is very busy and I have so much to learn. Most of the documents I have read in the last two weeks have been in Portuguese. And most of the people in my area only speak Portuguese. Google translator is my new best friend. So are my Portuguese classes. We have 2 hours and 15 minute of classes 4 night a week. I´m learning very quickly but not fast enough, I feel at times.

One month ago I also moved out of our hotel in Copacabana to an apartment in Barra da Tijuca. Barra da Tijuca (or Barra for short) is a suburb just south of Rio. It has a 20 km long beach, some very large shopping malls, and apparently some the best restaurants and nightlife in Rio. The city is modeled after Miami. Our apartment is across the street from the beach and we can see it from our balcony. I am so spoiled. I can walk to work and Portuguese classes. And our office is in a shopping mall.

I have been waking up before work each day and running along the beach. There´s lots of people out at this time—running, walking, cycling, surfing and kitesurfing. Brazilians seem to be very active people. And it´s very easy to find healthy food.

As for what I´ve managed to do in Rio on what little free time I have:

-seen a football (a.k.a. soccer) game at the famous Maracana stadium before it closes for renovation for the World Cup (the crowd is amazing—people stood the whole time yelling tons of different cheers in unison)

-soaked in some sun at Copacabana and Ipanema

-visited the Forte de Copacabana

-visited a favela (Rocinha)

-volunteered to spend a day at the park with some kids from Rocinha through the Two Brothers Institute

-taken a surf lesson

-went to a Samba club in Lapa (Rio´s entertainment district). Its name is Democraticos and has been around as long as Canada has been a country.

-had an introduction to Brazilian Funk

-climbed the tiled steps up to the Santa Teresa neighborhood

-seen the beautiful beaches of Prainha and Grumari

-visited the nearby city of Niteroi, including the museum of modern art designed by Oscar Neimeyer


Aug 25, 2010

Black Gold

The last two weeks have been spent in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritages site of Ouro Preto (Portuguese for Black Gold). The town was founded at the turn of the 17th century and was the focal point of Brazil's gold rush. The city has the largest collection of colonial Portuguese architecture in the world. I feel like we've taken a step back in time. It's so very different from the fast-paced week we just had in Rio de Janeiro. The town is extremely hilly and the roads are made of cobblestones. We walk everywhere (up and downhill in both directions to and from work). The streets are lined with small shops and cute restaurants. Everywhere you turn, you can see a church. We went inside one and the detailing inside was magnificent.

Tonight we had dinner on a patio overlooking a park, while listening to a talented musician playing your typical Antonio Carlos Jobim hits. The Portuguese language sounds so beautiful –like someone is telling you a secret.

There is always something going on in the town square, whether it's a marching band parade or a capoeira demonstration.

The people here are known for the kindness and I have had many opportunities to practice my Portuguese. I can now order food, buy clothes and ask for directions. But with great difficulty and a lot of "mais devagar por favor" (speak slower please). Most of the people here either work in mining or tourism, or they are engineering students at the university that is training us.

For our training, we have been learning about mining (geology, industry, economics, operations, logistics etc.) in a classroom and taking field trips to various different mines. There is so much to learn. Tomorrow it's off to the beautiful seaside city Vitoria for a few days to see more of Vale's operations.


Aug 14, 2010

Life’s a Beach

We've had such a busy week; I don't even know where to start.

It's winter time in Brazil right now. In Rio de Janeiro, that means the weather is like our Spring. It's warm but not hot and I've been wearing jeans and a t-shirt most of the time. We've been staying at lovely little hotel across from Copacabana beach. We've been so busy with work and getting adjusted (lots of bureaucracy with getting registered with the federal police), that the only tourist attractions we have seen are the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

I love the beach culture here. People are jogging along the beach at all times of day. Volleyball nets are up and the surfers are catching waves. There is even a free gym on Copacabana out in the open. There are tons of food vendors scattered along the walkway serving food and fancy cocktails. There are some people who walk along the beach selling watermelon, cold drinks, souvenirs and henna tattoos. I thought it was annoying at first but not having to get up to buy a cold drink is great. On Sundays they close down the road next to Copacabana and everyone is out walking along the street.

The AIESECers have been extremely helpful in getting us settled. They threw us a welcome party at a beautiful house by a beach. There is so much to learn about living and getting around in Rio. I'm gradually gaining more independence as I become more confident in my basic Portuguese and become more familiar with my surroundings.

Our first day of work started the day after we arrived. We've had presentations on different departments by various heads of departments. It's been wonderful to get a holistic view of how the company works together and operates. And I feel so lucky to have met so many important people in Vale already.

I got a tour of the office that I'll be working in. Starting October, I'll be working in the shared services office in Barra de Tijuca—a beautiful suburb of Rio with a very large beach. The office is in a huge open air mall. Inside, everyone has a cubicle–even the higher ups (their desks are just made of fancy oak). And the cubicle walls are low so you can see everyone when you stand up and look across the room. There's a decompression room with a punching bag, funny hats, artificial turf and whiteboard walls, where you can go to take time away from your desk and get those creative brain waves working again. There's also a room where you can book shiatsu massages. And the largest gym in Rio (completely with a climbing wall) is on the floor below us. I think I'm going to enjoy working here!

On Wednesday night, we attended the Brazilian Music Awards with Vale. It was the best introduction to Brazilian music. I only wish I could understand the lyrics. On the way out we walked along the red carpet and saw Brazilian celebrities get photographed.

On Thursday we gave a presentation on Canada to Vale employees. Organizing 17 people to present was no easy task but everything worked out great and our audience seemed to really enjoy it. I learned a lot more about Canada in the process too.

And yesterday, we flew on the company jet to Belo Horizonte where we were picked up by buses that took us to the beautiful town of Ouro Preto (Portuguese for Black Gold). We're here for two weeks to take a course on mining at the University and go on day-trips to nearby mines. This place is very different from Rio. It's a small cowboy town with the largest collection of colonial Portuguese architecture in the world. You have to wear runners to walk along the steep cobble-stone streets. I can't wait to go out and explore.

Aug 2, 2010

My Next Adventure

Tomorrow I get on an airplane bound for Brazil. I'll be embarking on the next stage of my AIESEC experience – Exchange! And it's not just any AIESEC exchange. I, along with 19 other Canadian recent graduates, will be working for Vale Inco, one of AIESEC's Global Exchange Partners for one year. The internship involves 8 months work experience in the company's Brazil offices followed by 4 months work experience in the Canadian offices. And pending favourable performance reviews, permanent employment in Canada. It's a sourcing strategy for the company to add to their leadership pipeline and bring back the Brazilian headquarter's culture to Canada.

We arrive in Rio de Janeiro for the first week and learn all about Vale. After that it's a trip to the state of Minas, where we'll learn more about the company and the mining industry. And then we go back to Rio for training in Management and Leadership. After that training period of 2 months, our group will separate into three cities (Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Vitoria) for 6 months of work related to our future positions in Canada. At the end of those 6 months we're rounded up together again for an Experience Workshop to reflect on our internships. And then it's back home to Canada.

In Canada I'll be a Recruitment and Selection Analyst based out of Toronto. I know a lot about what my position in Canada entails, but I don't know much yet about what I'll be doing in Brazil. I don't even know which city I'll be in after we finish training. I will find out soon after I arrive in Brazil though, so I'm not worried.

I can't believe I have a career in recruitment ahead of me. Back in my time in AIESEC, I loved planning and executing our recruitments—almost a little too much! It was such an intense experience trying to spread the word about AIESEC all over campus, finding the right people and having all of our information sessions, interviews and induction days all lined up. And after having two co-op work terms in recruitment, I just know that I'm going to have a great time.

I've been told by many people that I'm going to have a great time in Brazil too. Brazil is a popular destination for Canadians going on AIESEC exchanges. And last I heard, AIESEC Canada receives more interns from Brazil than from any other country. Even our National Committee President is from Brazil.

The person in Brazil in charge of coordinating our internship program is a Canadian AIESECer too. In fact, she was the first National Committee member I met when I first joined AIESEC.

Going to Brazil will be quite a different experience for me –unlike anything I've ever done. I've travelled to a dozen different countries but I have never stayed in any one city for more than three weeks. Rio de Janeiro is nothing like Victoria, but I feel ready for this. After a few borrowed Portuguese language tapes from the library, some lessons and advice from friends, several questions and answers from our Vale Global Coordinator and a 37-page welcome booklet from AIESEC Rio de Janeiro, I am set to survive my first few days in a new place. Of course, AIESEC will be helping us to get adjusted along the way. After hosting many interns in Victoria, I am looking forward to becoming an intern myself!

May 31, 2010

More Young Canadians Need to Experience Life Abroad

This morning I attended a breakfast hosted by Export Development Canada and the Asia Pacific Foundation. Speakers from each organization discussed facts, figures and realities of international trade and foreign investment with an emphasis on Asia.

One statement that caught me by surprise was that the number of Canadian students that go abroad for a university exchange is probably the lowest in the G20. The CEO of EDC placed a particular emphasis on the need for young Canadians to work or study abroad so that we have more people with experience working in international markets. No doubt I will have to add this to my list of reasons to go on an international internship through AIESEC.

Another surprising fact I learned is that Canada is 2nd in the world in research and development but only 17th in commercialization. No one there could completely explain why. Any thoughts on why this is so?

Apr 18, 2010

My last semester as Local Committee President

The last few months in AIESEC Victoria were all about transition. After National Congress in January, our semester was months of non-stop coaching, learning and innovating as we went through recruitment, orientation, training, BoA meetings, creating turnover materials, campaigns for exchange, corporate relations and talent management and much more. It was a lot of fun. The incoming team is one of the most talented, passionate and tight teams I have ever seen.

Our intern, Maté, from Hungary arrived right after National Congress. He worked on our University's Career Fair, which was very well done and we all had lots of fun helping out on. I've learned about a dozen words in Hungarian and have tried cherry soup, cottage cheese noodles, poppy-seed cake and lángos delicious fried bread). It's also been a great excuse to see all the wonderful tourist attractions in Victoria.

It took a while to find just the right person to be Local Committee President (LCP) but the long search was worth it. At the end of February, our VP Communications, Cory bravely ran for the spot. I have not met any other 20-year old with same amount of maturity, keen business sense, organization, and public speaking skills-- to name just a few of his talents. But I'm sure his team would say his greatest talents are the strong relationships he develops with each of his teammates and how he never fails to keep them entertained.

By the end of March, Cory was done his transition and he headed off to National President's Meeting, while the rest of our Local Committee took the ferry to Vancouver for Coastal Conference. It was the absolute best way for me to end my term. There were over 80 delegates from SFU, UBC, Kwantlen Polytechnic, San Jose (California) and Victoria. My friend, Terrence, the outgoing LCP from UBC and I (along with lots of help from our chair and facilitators) planned the agenda of the conference. As we ran our sessions, everything just came together well. The west coast local committees just have a way of magically coming together. In the final minutes of the conference, as we formed a giant circle around the room to the song of "Stand by Me", I realized that we managed to achieve what he hoped to for this conference: a sense of togetherness in our sub-region, training to be successful at our goals, and renewed passion.

Being a facilitator was a very different experience—it was a great way to learn and create connections. I think the highlight of the conference for me was meeting two Board of Advisor members from AIESEC SFU who helped us all to understand what it truly means to be in AIESEC-- to push ourselves and have international and leadership experiences unlike anything that any other organization can offer. One of them even said that, as accomplished as he is, he still considers his LCP year to be his biggest year for personal and professional development. It was the year that he learned the most.

I don't know if that will be true for me. But I do know that I have learned so much more than I even expected this year. After this experience, every small challenge I have to deal with, whether it's an email, a phone call, a handshake, a time-crunch, a conflict, a networking event, a meeting, a speech, a job interview, an event, a plan that changes, an item to delegate, a letter to write…everything is easier. And those are only the little things. I would not be the person I am today –confident, enthusiastic, assertive, passionate, opinionated, risk-taking, outgoing, eloquent, organized, productive and ready-for-anything, if I had not taken up this role in AIESEC.

In my year, there were many things to be proud of: large improvements in every single portfolio, a best-case practice regional conference and a fantastic new team to replace us. We didn't reach all of our goals, but we learned a lot from our mistakes and we gave it our all. I feel at peace with myself, knowing that I did my very best. It may not have always been the best way to do things, but I continuously learned how to do my job better and always strived to improve.

As I wrote individual greeting cards to the new executive team while crossing the Georgia Strait, I thought about the final words I would tell them at my last time at their Executive Board meeting. And here they are:

"Yes, you change lives in AIESEC [through leadership development and international exchanges], but the most important things are what comes after your time in AIESEC. It's the AIESEC alumni—the globally-minded, responsible leaders—who are well-equipped to make the word a better a place.

In the end, it's not about how many lives you've changed, but how you've changed your own life—how much you've grown, learned, experienced and loved. It's what you take away from this experience. The real winners are the ones who have learned the most and the ones who know they've done their best. These are the people who are bound for success…"

And now that I am an UVic Grad and no longer an LCP… What next? I was an alumni panelist on AIESEC SFU's review board which was a great experience. I've passed my review board and am applying to AIESEC internships abroad. Hopefully this blog will turn into an exchange blog later this year.

Jan 21, 2010

National Congress 2010

Long overdue - - here is my recap of AIESEC Canada's National Congress 2010 in Quebec City (hosted by AIESEC Laval), Dec. 30th 2009- Jan. 3rd 2010.

What a conference! Over 200 delegates from 27 university chapters across Canada. The conference was designed for those in the Leadership stage or Taking Responsibility stage of AIESEC. We came to Quebec City to get training on how to perform our volunteer positions in AIESEC, to get professional development, to develop our leadership, to challenge our worldview and to network. And we got what we asked for and more!

Here are my personal highlights:

-Tracks. We all separated into our different portfolio tracks: Talent Management, Corporate Relations, Communications, Alumni Relations, Finance, Outgoing Exchange, Organizing Committee, Local Committee President – Elects, and Outgoing Local Committee Presidents (my track). My delegates had nothing but great things to say about their track's facilitators. The sessions were extremely well done. And for the first time (at least since I've been in AIESEC), we had cross-functional tracks. Portfolios met with other portfolios to learn how to work better together on areas such as recruitment, local committee sustainability and outgoing exchange projects.

-The Cooperators, one of our national partners gave us a sustainability challenge. We were divided into groups and came up with ideas on how the Cooperators could encourage others to adopt green practices.

-We had other partners come in and give us professional development sessions on topics such as project management, crisis management, ethics, microfinance…to name a few.

-A social entrepeneurship session in which all of us, after learning about social entrepreneurship, branched into groups based on issues we cared about most and discussed ways we could improve social problems around the world.

-Getting on stage with all of the other Local Committee Presidents and AIESEC Canada National Team to announce our results from the year. There was a feeling of pride in the room as each of us spoke. We each knew, regardless of whether we achieved our goals this year that we had worked extremely hard and done our very best.

-A simulation in which everyone tried out their roles in AIESEC. Whether it was selling our Global Internship Program to a company, recruiting university students or asking a professional contact to sit on our Review Board Panel, everyone engaged in some heart-pumping, competitive fun.

-Sharing our knowledge with the Local Committee President-Elects. We may have scared them a little, but it was wonderful passing on advice and encouraging the next leaders of AIESEC Canada.

-Legislation. It was a much shorter session than last year's conference. While legislation can be long and boring at times, it is pretty inspiring to see a group of LCP's passionately pass motions and vote on what they believe is important for AIESEC Canada.

-Getting to ring in the New Year, with many wonderful AIESEC friends that I have come to know over the 13 AIESEC conferences that I've been to.

-Member Committee President elections. After speeches and 3 question and answer sessions, we elected our next Member Committee President of AIESEC Canada – Vitor de Avelar!

-The conference team. Chair, Secretary, Member Committee, Facilitators ---they were all energetic, inspiring and just overall amazing.

-The organizing committee. I don't think I've ever been to a better organized national conference. We had a great rate at the Hilton. The social events were fantastic. Everything ran smoothly. The hardest-working group of people at any conference is the organizing committee. We could tell they were tired, but they always made time to smile, make us feel welcome, help us out, play some amazing piano, and always be friendly and professional. We love the O.C. we do! L-A-V-A-L Laval let's go!

- The unveiling of the Experience AIESEC campaign. AIESEC Canada created country partnerships with Brazil, Kenya, Malaysia, Turkey and Ukraine. These countries are expecting our exchange participants. We just received promotional postcards and posters for this in the mail yesterday and it was very exciting to unwrap. Check out