There are things in life that everyone should be able to experience at least once. One of which is to travel alone in a foreign place with no plans and no expectations — some things might surprise you. It definitely did for Fernando.
Through this article, we will uncover the mind-awakening journey of Fernando’s experience with the Global Volunteer program at AIESEC Prasetiya Mulya in Sri Lanka that really bridged new horizons in his personal growth in ways that he had never imagined before, especially in his views on personal growth and development.
Growing up, Fernando had very little experience with overseas traveling, let alone solo travel. But when opportunities came his way, he didn’t hesitate to grab it. When discussing personal growth, Fernando believes that it is not an open-ended question, rather a product of accumulated practical lessons and experiences that have shaped a person for who they are in the present.
Fernando’s experience with AIESEC has contributed not only to his professional experience but also to his emotional intelligence and internal self-exploration. To him, this experience is a journey of self-discovery. A platform where inexperienced, raw, and clueless individuals as himself discovered certain traits and behaviour that may have gone unnoticed if not for this experience.
“One of the most significant changes I’ve seen in myself since this program is I learnt to gradually let go of my tendency in over judging new people and stereotyping. Because once we get to know people personally, we realise that stereotypes are irrelevant.”
His days in the program have sharpened Fernando’s point of view of his understanding of personal growth. To him, personal growth is the situation where today is better than yesterday. Although the progress is not always perfect, he seeks to surpass himself every day through the continuous process of learning. His days in Sri Lanka taught him the wonders of the world that never cease to bore us with its never-ending lessons — hence, it is our duty to learn.
When first joining this program, Fernando did not set high expectations for himself nor the program. His simple motivation was not merely to enroll out of curiosity but rather to escape the tedious university life. But in his words, “some things in life may surprise you”, and living by his words, Fernando gained tremendously more in return from the program than what he initially expected.
Through his perspective, the biggest contributor to his personal growth is the cultural shock he experienced during his first few days in Sri Lanka. From language barriers to social anxiety, the cultural shocks of an inexperienced solo traveler suddenly hit him with the fact that he is now alone in a foreign place. His usual extroversion seemingly vanished, as he felt uncomfortable with the sudden change of environment.
“Once I realised how difficult it is to communicate due to my language barrier, I finally understand that this is what it means to be a leader. Not merely a one-way lecture of the program, but self-taught skills based on real-life experiences.”
Yet, a blessing in disguise. Despite all his struggles and grapples, Fernando finally accepted the inevitable fact that the only possible way to survive the unpleasant feeling of alienation is by simply adapting. Though for some people adapting to a new environment is not rocket science, for others it’s not a cinch either. Yet, regardless of the unending struggles he faced, Fernando’s ability to cope up with his new reality is beyond his comprehension.
Once he returned, he admitted that his Sri Lanka trip undoubtedly brought positive changes to his daily life. During the program, he was more or less forced to practice self-leadership, as there was no one else around to direct him. This experience has molded him into a more independent and self-reliant individual with more responsibility towards himself.
At the end of the tunnel, Fernando expressed that self-growth and development are not built overnight. Rather a continuous process of life-long learning. Fernando had found this program highly pleasant as his stepping stone towards a new and improved version of himself.
He advised: “When you see an opportunity heading your way, grab it. Don’t stand back and wait for change. Change isn’t coming, we make that change.”
Words by: Tamara Rosa Anatolia Simarmata & Giannina Tan