Unsuspecting visitors to Calgary might assume that this city follows the normal seasonal changes the rest of the world enjoys. This pleasant state of obliviousness often gets a rude awakening in the form of a surprise ambush by a hail or snow storm in the middle of summer. Luckily there are ways students can prepare before travelling to a new country.
Alexandre Ste-Marie, VP Communications for AIESEC, explained that an international internship experience with her group includes support from a vast global network of fellow AIESEC members. Outgoing interns are provided with the resources and information that will prepare them for working abroad, including advice about the local weather.
AIESEC is the world's largest student-run organization. Spanning over 107 countries and 50,000 members, AIESEC connects students with international internship opportunities.
With partners that include Unilever, Cadbury, PriceWaterHouseCooper and Facebook, AIESEC offers access to intern positions with organizations around the world.
"You can go on an internship or be a part of the support team helping other students go on internship," said Ste-Marie. "We have different roles ranging from communications to alumni relations. General members can also take ownership of projects they find interesting. In that sense, AIESEC really offers students concrete work experience."
While their offices are located in Scurfield Hall, AIESEC is not limited to students in the Haskayne School of Business. Students from any faculty can become members and choose an internship based on their interests.
"We recently sent a management intern to Malaysia and some developmental studies interns to Brazil, Pakistan, India and China," she said.
An internship's conditions can vary greatly depending on the prospective employer. While room and board are usually provided, internships may be paid or unpaid and can last between two to 16 months. It may also be possible to complete an internship post-graduation. Details are usually provided within the job description and it's the student's responsibility to be mindful of the parameters of the placement they are applying for.
Ste-Marie also pointed out that the organization couldn't be more different than the Student Work Abroad Program.
"The focus of AIESEC is professional development, while SWAP is about working holidays," said Ste-Marie.
The Travel Cuts location in the MacEwan Student Centre also identifies SWAP as a working holiday program that assists in finding service-level jobs for long-term travelers. While internships are not SWAP's primary concern, they do offer some professional opportunities in the United States.
Ste-Marie believes that one of the greatest benefits of being an AIESEC member is the friendly worldwide network.
"Interns will be welcomed by locals that are also AIESEC members," she said. "Knowing some locals before arriving in a foreign country makes the transition much easier."
The AIESEC membership fee is $20 and includes admission to local club events and discounts on tickets to regional conferences run by AIESEC Canada. Upon joining, AIESEC members can access the internship database where they can view and apply for positions based on their field of study.
Ste-Marie described an internship abroad as an unrivalled opportunity to gain international awareness and a sense of cultural discovery that, yes, may include the occasional surprise of getting taken out by golf ball sized hail.