Category Archives: AIESEC

My Reason Why

In AIESEC, we place a rather high premium on expectations. We like to manage the expectations of everyone we work with, from our colleagues, the students and recent graduates who join our programs, to the companies and organizations that choose to partner with us.

I am now in my fifth week of living in Mongolia, and frankly, it is only now that I am understanding why our organization values expectation setting and management so highly. I didn’t know what to expect out of the city of Ulaanbaatar, the country, my role, nor the organization. At the time, I saw this as a good thing, as I wanted to enter Mongolia with a blank slate, without good or bad impressions.

But when I got here, the experiences I had the first few weeks seemed to subconsciously implant a new set of expectations in my mind:

  • Every trip to the Mongolian Immigration Agency will be filled with despair and aggravation.
  • All that members of the expat community seem to do here is complain about life in Mongolia, and whine about how they are all still single.
  • Everything is cheap, except when people find out that you are not Mongolian, then you get charged foreigner-tier prices.
  • Mongolian food is completely and totally different to what I would usually eat.
  • Winter is coming, and when it comes, it really does come. Prepare to die.
  • Internet here sucks.
  • The concept of customer service is not as strong here in comparison to other places I have lived in.

Part of what I find wrong with expectations setting and management is that people are conditioned to expect a difficult time. Or at least, that is how I find it with me. The new set of expectations that evolved in my mind conditioned me to expect the worse, to expect to be frustrated, to expect to get delayed, to simply expect a difficult time. The new set of expectations creeping up in my mind seemed to implant the idea that there was nothing that I could do to counter the difficulties that I was facing.

What I have observed, at least in my case, is that the best way to manage expectations (both pre-departure, and post-arrival expectations) is to ensure that the reason why I came to Mongolia to work for AIESEC is strong enough to overcome both small and big frustrations that come with living and working here.

During my stay in Singapore earlier this year, I met Alex, a good friend and colleague of mine when I was working for AIESEC Singapore. Around the time that I met Alex, I was considering applying for AIESEC national roles in various countries. It was all fun and good, discussing all the possibilities, until Alex asked the most annoying question:

“Why?”

To be frank, I could not answer the question, which is why I got so annoyed, both at him, and at the fact that I simply had no straightforward answer to provide. So, for a good four weeks, I suspended the idea of applying for AIESEC national positions until I figured out the reason why I wanted such a role with AIESEC so badly.

At the end of that four week period, I came up with my reasons why:

  • I want to have a unique and memorable team experience. I want to be able to work with a dedicated and passionate group of people towards the goal of developing both ourselves, and the AIESEC organization in the country that we are in.
  • I want this experience to help me in my career in the future, and I want it to serve as a reference point for me when I make critical decisions as a manager or a leader.
  • I want to live and work in a country that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to go to, if it were not for AIESEC.

Despite the day-to-day challenges of the role, and the lifestyle changes that I had to make as a result of being an unpaid volunteer, I found that my reasons why have been more than sufficient in keeping me motivated, and in driving me to push on regardless of the difficulties I face, challenge expectations that have developed in my mind the last few weeks, and when possible, change the difficult circumstances that I find myself in occasionally to suit my ends better.

I have an awesome team that has an awesome drive to achieve an awesome vision. I know that what I am doing now will help me in the long run. And at the end of the day, I am also fulfilling my dream of living in another country working for AIESEC. Strong enough reasons for me to come to Mongolia and to keep me here for a year.

AIESEC Mongolia’s National Team is Complete!

IMG_0612

AIESEC Mongolia MC 2013-2014! Back row, l-r: Me, Nathan. Front row, l-r: Peggy, Dominic, TK . Photo by TK

On Friday, the last and final member of the MC team arrived in UB. It is official, AIESEC Mongolia’s new National Team for the 2013-2014 team is now complete and ready to go! After dealing visa issues and delays, this really is a huge victory for us as a team. Needless to say, I am super excited.

This weekend, we went on our first team outing, and first night out as a team, and it was great. Looking forward to working with, living with, and getting to know this awesome group of people over the next year!

I am now a Registered Alien

photo(6)

I am slowly, but surely, navigating the Leviathan that is the Mongolian Immigration Agency. Very happy that everything has worked out, and that I’m now considered “legal” in the country! Dominic figured things out for us at the beginning, and now I’m starting to better understand how things work, so hopefully in the future things will be much easier for the interns and other AIESECers that come to Mongolia in the future!

Raluca

Swag from Raluca: wine, the Romanian flag, and a traditional Romanian drink. Wine will come handy after planning is done!

Swag from Raluca: wine, the Romanian flag, and a traditional Romanian drink. Wine will come handy after planning is done!

Earlier today, I had the chance to talk to Raluca, one of AIESEC Mongolia’s interns. Her AIESEC internship just finished, and she will be returning to Romania tomorrow. I really valued talking to Raluca, she talked to me about her experience living in Ulaanbaatar, and gave me tips on how to deal with businesses and NGOs in Mongolia.

She left me (and the national team) a parting gift. FYI, the water bottle doesn’t contain water, it’s a traditional Romanian drink (which is really, really strong!).

Thanks, Raluca! I hope that you enjoyed your time in Mongolia. Have a safe flight back home, and thanks for the swag!

Planning Week

Our first ever full team photo! Peggy, me, and Dominic (in person), Nathan (on the laptop Skyping in from Manila), and TK (on the corner, taking the picture from his laptop all the way from Bali).

Our first ever full team photo! Peggy, me, and Dominic (in person), Nathan (on the laptop Skyping in from Manila), and TK (on the corner, taking the picture from his laptop all the way from Bali).

We started our Planning Week on Monday, and it’s been pretty intense. We’ve been having long discussions on our team’s vision for AIESEC Mongolia, what we as a group want to work towards and achieve, and our strategies for meeting our goals for the organization.

Nathan and TK discussing critical issues during transition… lol!

Planning Week has been made a bit interesting as a result of two members of our team still not being in Mongolia, and getting their visa applications sorted out, as well as getting our own individual alien registration processes finished. Since last week, at least one member of the team has been bouncing back and forth between the Ministry of Education, the Immigration Office (conveniently outside of UB, near the airport), and the printing shop (whenever the Ministry or Immigration demanded extra documents). I’m confident that everything will work out, after all, three of us are already here. Frankly, it’s just a question of timeliness, and how quickly the people at the Ministry and Immigration get things done.

Regardless of the side issues we have to deal with, Planning Week has been very exciting so far. Tomorrow, we’ll be delving in deeper on the type of strategies we want to pursue in order to reach our team’s goals for the organization, as well as our individual goals for our respective departments and roles. This will definitely be an exciting week!

Term has started

AIESEC Mongolia 2012-2014 team (from left to right): Peggy, Hien, me, and Dominic. Photo from Dominic's phone.

AIESEC Mongolia 2012-2014 looking into the distance… or more likely, distracted from the camera (from left to right): Peggy, Hien, me, and Dominic. Photo from Dominic’s phone.

So this week, we had the final farewell party for the last remaining member of AIESEC Mongolia’s 2012-2013 leadership team. Hien left UB early in the morning this Friday bound for Finland to complete her university studies.

With this in mind, our term as AIESEC Mongolia’s leadership team has officially started. We are now in charge. A bit daunting, but exciting at the same time. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’re still waiting for two more members of the team to arrive, but we’re ready to go.

Trying to learn Mongolian


Mongolian is a hard language to learn. I’ve been trying to learn a few words, and this is what I have so far (disclaimer: pronunciation may or may not be accurate):

Mongolian Pronunciation English
Сайн байна уу Sain bain uu Hello
Баярлалаа bayarsla Thank you
үнэтэй вэ? init vei How much?
Баяртай bayarstei Goodbye

As you can see, Mongolian’s a bit more difficult to learn compared to other languages, as the writing is in Cyrillic rather than the Latin alphabet that English speakers are used to. I learned how to speak Bahasa Indonesia through reading the Indonesian subtitles on DVD movies that I watched, while Spanish was easy to learn, provided you memorized how conjugations for each word and each tense worked.

None of the members of the AIESEC national team in Mongolia are Mongolian, so there are times when we have to rely on our members to translate for us, and even do the simplest things like read letters, or talk to a taxi driver via phone to tell them where we want to go!

Learning Mongolian will be a challenge, but hopefully we’ll be able to pick up some more useful phrases, and at least be able to have a brief conversation in the language!

First Week in Mongolia

Today marks my first week in Mongolia, and what a week it has been!

So much has happened since I stepped off the plane. Time has gone by so quickly that it feels like I’ve been in Mongolia for more than a week! That being said, this blog post will be a bit disjointed. It won’t capture everything that has happened over the last week, but I hope that you’ll be able to get a glimpse of it.

The flight

The Cathay flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong was delayed for two hours because they, in the words of the pilot, had to “change the plane’s batteries,” which was concerning! Fortunately, the flight went smoothly, and I was able get enough sleep to mitigate the effects of jetlag.

Flight to Ulaanbaatar

The flight to Ulaanbaatar

I had a six-hour layover in Hong Kong. During my six-hour stay in Hong Kong, I had some time to eat breakfast, and take a shower (which would prove to be a smart decision later on). Afterwards, I boarded the MIAT Mongolian Airlines flight to Ulaanbaatar. The flight was quite bumpy, we were frequently in turbulence, and the landing was a bit scary. I’ve been told that this is normal, given UB’s weather situation.

Summer Youth Leadership Conference

Immediately upon arrival, I was fortunate enough to get picked up by Tenger, one of the chapter executives of AIESEC IFE. He and his family took me (and my luggage) straight to the venue of AIESEC Mongolia’s Summer Youth Leadership Conference, which was outside of Ulaanbaatar proper.

954866_10152931652730541_1032352475_n

One of the gers that delegates to AIESEC Mongolia’s Summer Youth Leadership Conference stayed in.

The conference venue was in the countryside, pretty much right in the middle of nowhere. The facilitating team and the delegates stayed in concrete gers, which is supposed to be the traditional dwelling of nomads in Mongolia. The gers we stayed in weren’t exactly “traditional” as it was concrete. The normal/usual gers that nomadic people use are essentially heavy duty tents that help them survive through the winter.

SYLC 2013 Delegates. Photo by Nami.

SYLC 2013 Delegates. Photo by Nami.

The conference itself was awesome. It was very different from AIESEC conferences that I have attended in Canada, as well as the conference that I attended in Singapore. The delegates seemed to be really interested and really engaged in the conference. The parties weren’t bad either!

Bits of UB

Ulaanbaatar (or UB) was at first, very intimidating. It’s very different from any of the major cities that I have lived in previously. Crossing the roads, getting a “taxi,” and even taking a shower is completely different (as the hot water has been turned off for our district for the next few days).

We’re fortunate to have the flat situated right in the middle of the city, making day-to-day work and errands easy and convenient.

The city was at first very confusing for me, but from my point of view, the key to being able to get around in UB is to ensure that you know where your landmarks are.

State Department Store (also known as Nomin)

State Department Store (also known as Nomin)

The State Department Store is one such landmark, as the MC flat is very close to it. The State Department Store (aka Nomin) pretty much has everything you need, but there are places you can go to that are much cheaper.

Sukhbaatar Square, which is basically UB’s city centre, is another landmark. The Square contains Mongolia’s parliament house, as well as a massive statute of Chinggis Khan.

Mongolian Parliament

Mongolian Parliament at Sukhbaatar Square

There are tons of statues in UB. In Sukhbaatar Square, the most noticeable ones are the statues of Chinggis Khan, and Sukhbaatar (Red Hero).

Chinggis Khan

Chinggis Khan

Charlie Party

And finally, a video from the farewell party for our former MCP, Charlie. Members of AIESEC Mongolia gathered at the national team’s new flat to send her off just hours before her flight.

And that’s all I have for now. I’m aiming to blog more about life in UB as well as my work for AIESEC in the coming days. Until then, see you later!

Shape the Future 2013 – my first AIESEC conference outside of Canada

The last week has been pretty intense:

  1. Work at the Asia Research Institute has kept me busy – the survey that the Migrating Out of Poverty Research Program Consortium will use is almost done and almost ready for approval (hopefully)!
  2. My new role with AIESEC Singapore has also kept me busy.
  3. Lost my NUS Student Card 🙁 I don’t remember where I placed it! This particular event didn’t really contribute to the intensity of the week, to be honest. Just more of an inconvenience!

What made this week extra intense was the fact that last weekend we had an AIESEC national conference. Effectively, Shape the Future 2013 was my first ever AIESEC conference outside of Canada.

I was lucky enough to facilitate two sessions during the conference. I have to admit that it was a bit of a culture shock for me at first, as I found that I had to get the audience to warm up to me first before getting started with the session, but it went well overall.

267814_335486019885925_1241126329_n

Shape the Future 2013 Delegates and Facilitators (photo by conference team)

On a separate note: it is now March, and I’m now halfway through my stay here in Singapore. Time flies!

AIESEC update

Okay, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I applied for a position on the AIESEC Singapore national team for the 2013-2014 term.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. However, there’s always a silver lining! There was a vacancy in the national youth marketing role as a result of the Youth Marketing Director’s resignation. I’m happy to report that I will be serving as a part-time, volunteer MC Youth Marketing Director for AIESEC Singapore’s 2012-2013 outgoing team for the duration of my stay here (until April 30).

I will be doing MC work after hours – after all, I am here for my research internship during business hours, and I remain engaged and excited about the work that I’m doing for the Migration Out of Poverty Program. Furthermore, I remain committed, and I want to make sure that I perform well. Which reminds me, I have to blog as there have been developments over the last few weeks!

Also, I made a snap decision last week to apply for AIESEC Canada’s second round of MC applications. Not too sure if I’ll get it or not, but lo que será, será.

Anyways, just wanted to share this update.