Student-run group offers international internships
February 28, 2011 —
History and international studies senior Stacy Stremlow experienced her first internship more than 4,000 miles away from home.
With a membership in AIESEC, she interned in St. Petersburg, Russia, last summer with a nongovernmental agency spreading awareness of HIV and AIDS.
AIESEC is a global, nonpolitical, independent, not-for-profit international organization run solely by students and recent graduates of institutes of higher learning. Through its internship exchange program, AIESEC is a global network that offers leadership development experiences to its members.
The organization was founded in 1948 after World War II to promote peace between countries. The first exchange took place between France and Germany. More than 60 years later, there are 50,000 members at 1,700 universities worldwide.
SVSU has one of the two chapters in Michigan. Interest in the organization was sparked during the fall 2009 semester when French and history senior Kristen Beschoner heard about the organization from a friend. She met with AIESEC representatives from University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and found that she had a lot to learn to start a chapter on a college campus. She attended a conference in Indianapolis, Ind., for new members.
The AIESEC SVSU local chapter was founded in January 2010. In just over one year, AIESEC SVSU has grown to 26 members.
Beschoner, local committee president, explained that each member is part of one of four teams. The business development team makes sales calls and encourages local businesses to host interns. The outgoing exchange team helps students locate internships. The finance and logistics team decides how to allocate funds and resources. The talent management team recruits new members, follows up with member education and supports oncampus marketing and events.
Beschoner said that AIESEC is run like a business and is maintained entirely by students.
“The leadership and professional development skills gained through AIESEC are useful in any profession, which is why our group attracts many different majors,” she said.
The exchange program helps students leave the country and finds ways for international members to come in. As vice president of the business development team, Stremlow looks for companies in the Great Lakes Bay region interested in having international interns.
AIESEC recruitment occurs in the beginning of the fall and winter semesters. After attending an informational session and filling out an application, applicants may be asked to return for an interview. The number of students accepted depends on which positions need to be filled and how many students have graduated. If accepted, members attend an induction night, training session and then a “ROKS” conference for AIESEC members nationwide.
More than 470 AIESEC conferences are held worldwide each year. AIESEC SVSU has attended conferences in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. In April, the group will spend a weekend in New York.
Beschoner said that the conferences encourage more interaction with members from all parts of the globe.
“Even if you are a member that doesn’t go on an internship, the conferences are a great way to meet people from all over,” she said. “You have an instant bond with other AIESEC members and it is very much a family.”
Tom Hentkowski, finance senior and vice president of finance and logistics, said that he has realized that AIESEC is not just about the potential internships.
“I’ve found that the vast network of members and alumni are a great asset, and AIESEC-ers are always willing to help one another out,” he said. “I want to advance myself as an individual and gain great friends and skills along the way that will make me a stronger individual when it comes time to enter the work force.”
Hentkowksi said that being in AIESEC means that a student aspires to be an agent for change in the world. He recommends AIESEC to students who want to make a difference, no matter how small it may be, to the world around them.
For some students, study abroad trips provide initial international exposure and then AIESEC is the way to continue on the international path. Beschoner said internships can be a less expensive option compared to study abroad because housing and food is covered during the internship. There is also the added bonus that some internships pay students.
Upon completion of a study abroad in London, England, accounting sophomore Megan Stecker knew that she wanted to return to Europe. When AIESEC sent out a recruitment e-mail, she said that it seemed to be the perfect fit for her.
She emphasized the benefits of the international contacts that can be made as a member of the group.
“AIESEC gives you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world,” she said. “At our last conference, there was an AIESEC member from Australia who was on an internship in the Detroit area. It was interesting to learn about where he was from and just listen to him talk.”
Stremlow joined AIESEC for the chance to return to Russia after previously studying abroad there.
“When I found out that I could go back to Russia and get paid for it, I was immediately intrigued,” she said.
She also said the organization has changed in culture from its beginning until now.
“We are now focused on people and developing our members,” she said. “The larger network doesn’t matter if people aren’t engaged with what’s going on. We want them to feel a connection to the group.”
The group holds weekly meetings Sunday nights. Students are encouraged to visit the website for SVSU’s chapter of AIESEC (aiesecsvsu.com) or e-mail Brandon Murphy, the vice president of outgoing exchange.