A few months ago I read an E-mail in my inbox about a summer internship opportunity abroad which also had elements of a cultural exchange. It looked exciting since I love traveling and meeting new people. The organization hosting it was called AISEC.
A few weeks later, they came to my college for an information session. It was hosted by students my age who worked at the organization, but when I asked them if they’d themselves been to any of these AISEC exchange programs, 3 out of 4 of them said no.
When I inquired about the fees of the program , it was something between Rs1 Lakh and 2 Lakhs, including travel, living costs and program fee.
This was a lot of money considering that one had to pay this much to volunteer somewhere. Now I am absolutely pro spending and investing on projects that help others and the world. However, being a student myself, I couldn’t imagine asking my parents to put so much money into a volunteer program. The reason is that I am Indian, and my country itself needs a lot of development work. It would make more sense for me to volunteer here if the purpose is to help people and lead change. Had I been from the west, it would have been understandable for me to pay so much to work in countries that needed a lot of volunteers. But being from a country that could use volunteers itself, it would be highly elitist of me to spend so much to volunteer in a different country.
I would understand if that same amount was being paid to gain/be trained in a specific skill that I couldn’t acquire in my own country. I don’t mean that the domain of the volunteer work/internship wouldn’t enhance my skills, but the the cross-cultural interaction that I would gain (which is mostly the skill acquisition aspect of AISEC programs, as they advertise) can actually be gained in my own country to by just seeking out to people from different countries and cultures who are traveling here or even traveling abroad for education programs. I am not downplaying the importance of global exposure, I am just saying that it can be acquired in more cost effective ways.
The reason I am writing this post is because the one student out of the four who were conducting the information session who had gone for an AISEC exchange program, did it quite irresponsibly. He bragged about his experience as if it were a vacation, and when I inquired about the living and costs of various things, he again bragged about how he payed extra to live in a more luxurious hotel and how much more fun that was if one could afford it .