AIESEC Goes Rojak!

loading AIESEC's Asia Pacific Leaders Summit 2017.

Tomorrow’s leaders are created today, and global youth organisation AIESEC, is committed to that process.

AIESEC has been making its impact on the world since the Second World War, when a group of young people determined that cross-cultural understanding was essential to prevent future similar conflicts. An international youth-run, not-for-profit leadership development organisation for youths and by youths, AIESEC enables leadership development through crosscultural exchange.

With the vision of achieving peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential, what started off as a small presence in Europe is today found in over 120 countries and territories around the world – and the community is growing.

From coaching spaces to conferences such as the Asia Pacific Leaders Summit (APLS), team leaders of AIESEC employ a variety of methodologies and strategies to develop leadership skills among their members, giving “AIESECers” from different parts of the world the opportunity to explore how their collective efforts can contribute in making our world a better place.

A conference experience is deemed crucial for each AIESECer as it not only functions as a networking platform between entities, but also works as a productive coworking space for strategising and bonding. Unlike normal conferences, AIESEC conferences create an effective and enjoyable atmosphere for learning.

Celebrating All Things Rojak

With the theme “Rojak – Embrace Diversity”, a diverse group of 150 newly elected local committee presidents of AIESEC from over 15 countries within the Asia Pacific region – such as China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Korea, Sri Lanka, Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Malaysia – gathered to represent their entities for APLS.

Previously hosted in Thailand and Nepal in 2015 and 2016 respectively, APLS came to Penang in December last year. The conference aimed to redefine the meaning of leadership for future leaders and to align their AIESEC operations towards a larger goal: one that requires the efforts of the entire Asia Pacific Region to be achieved.

“APLS provides an international platform for youth leaders to not only develop leadership skills, but to challenge themselves at a whole new level. It helps them to perceive AIESEC in a wider perspective,” says Yeap Qi Chen, the leadoff person for the conference.

The congress was held on November 30, 2017 for three days, kicking off with an opening ceremony officiated by Danny Law Heng Kiang, chairman of the state’s Tourism Development Committee, the event’s main sponsor.

The opening ceremony was held consecutively with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Night, where over 200 exuberant youths, including the delegates, participated in thrilling and impactful games prepared by the committee hand-in-hand with Langur Project Penang as well as several NGOs from around Malaysia, such as Penang Green Council, Amnesty International Malaysia, Women’s Centre For Change, National Human Rights Society and Arus Education. SDGs Night aimed to inspire and enlighten its participants regarding the SDGs – each game was designed in a way that was specifically aligned to particular SDGs, such as Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Participants of APLS 2017.

A Baba Nyonya Fashion Show held during the APLS's Cultural Night.

Leadership qualities

The following day, delegates returned to their leadership development sessions that were facilitated by the experienced facilitators of AIESEC International (the high command of AIESEC based in Netherlands) and several other AIESEC national presidents from the Asia Pacific Region.

The conference involved a great deal of practical activities with minimal theoretical learnings, and the newly elected leaders were placed in challenging environments to develop leadership qualities.

On the second night, leadership development took a break for the grandiose Cultural Night. Delegates dressed up in their unique cultural garments to showcase ethnic diversity to reflect the conference theme.

Cultural performances included a modern-day contemporary Indian dance and an exclusive Baba Nyonya Fashion Show, where undergraduates took to the catwalk in beautifully woven baju kebayas accompanied by an insightful commentary by Peter Soh, a Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) postgraduate student currently pursuing his PhD in Communication. USM’s Kung Fu Club showcased flexible yet strong martial art moves that were remarkably in sync with the music.

APLS provides an international platform for youth leaders to not only develop leadership skills, but to challenge themselves at a whole new level.

The entity in the Asia Pacific Region, AIESEC in Colombo North, Sri Lanka, was awarded with the Best, Biggest, Loudest! award.

The congress ended with words of appreciation and encouragement being exchanged through little pieces of paper known as “sugarcubes” – a culture prevalent among AIESECers all around the world.

“Youths are the future of Malaysia and they will be the ones shaping Malaysia towards the current needs and trends of the community,” says Govinash, head of Partnership Development for AIESEC in Malaysia. There is definitely more to come for AIESEC in Penang and AIESEC in Malaysia, which was established 50 years ago. AIESEC in Malaysia has provided lifechanging experiences to over 4,000 people through cross-cultural exchanges.

Alexander Fernandez is a USM undergraduate currently pursuing his degree under the English for Professionals programme. While most people eat to live, he lives to eat instead.

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