Learnings from 4 years in AIESEC !

Aditya Barrela
7 min readAug 3, 2017


National Team of AIESEC Poland | 2016–17

It’s been almost 4 years with AIESEC for me and after multiple team experiences, projects, conferences meeting a lot of people and travelling across multiple countries, there is always a profound emptiness and stillness in my mind when I just think of what has happened. (I guess, the calm before the storm may actually be the calm after or between storms !)

Before you read any further, I wrote this with the intention that it adds some value to you and might as well spark something within you.

At a glance here are 5 main learnings I have distilled from my experience with AIESEC and within AIESEC that you may find interesting:
1. The Power of a Common Purpose.
2. The advantage of Diversity and Inclusitivity.
3. How love, can be the secret to excellence in work.
4. How I tried to find perfection, failed and the place where I found it !
5. Reflections/thoughts on World-Change.

I find myself to be filled to the brim with an over-flowing gratitude towards AIESEC (most of it goes towards its people) for having stumbled across this potentially life-changing organisation which has definitely changed my life.

Still, going ahead with my sharing.
They say “AIESEC is a platform to explore and develop your own leadership potential. I have probed into the platform and explore and found much more that my own leadership potential.

Here are a few things I have learnt :

  1. Common Purpose is an unstoppable Power :
    This is quite apparent in AIESEC as youth from different backgrounds come together and strive towards a “common purpose”. The sheer power that “common Purpose” unleashes is only known to those people who have worked sincerely in its alignment. And any young person volunteering their free time away knows the inherent feeling of working towards a common cause. The joy in giving away one’s own time for the greater good in the case of AIESEC for “Peace and fulfilment of HumanKind’s potential” is bigger motivational factor for all of us who work towards the vision than even any salary or monetary incentive received. In that sense Intrinsic motivations are inexhaustible and far more powerful than extrinsic motivations. Daniel Pink has a great book on this called “Drive — The surprising truth about motivation.” and I believe AIESEC channels all its energy from its larger than life purpose and propels the youth in to a positive way forward.

2. Inclusivity is an advantage :
Its true. That the world can be a family. That people from different cultures, belief systems, tastes and preferences can live together in harmony. That as a human race, we have more things in common than our superficial differences. When I talk about inclusivity, I am not talking about just co-existing, Im talking about thriving together. I have read in a blog by Ichak Adizes, that Diversity shouldn’t just be tolerated, but instead it should be celebrated and I totally agree with this from my experience. There is a distinct and tangible advantage to “living in diversity”(one of the 6 AIESEC values) when conflict becomes constructive, under mutual trust and respect and hence acts as a definite advantage. This happens because of the variety in the points of views and perspective that improve any group decision making process. For example I have found the Indian culture to be naturally endowed with emotional intelligence, or I have found the Poles to have a greater ability to plan and organise work than some culture. (All in relative terms of course, at the risk of generalisation)

3. Love Your Work and you don’t have to work a day :
After spending the past year working in the role of National Vice-President Talent Management, Developing direction and strategies, improving process and coaching volunteers, travelling and organizing conferences, I still don’t feel I have worked even a day in a very very very real sense. There have been times where I had been up late night in post meetings at conferences fighting some fires and there have been other times where weekends have been spent in the office or when I had taken “fake weekends” togo and work. I know workaholism is not healthy and I am admittedly a little bit of a workaholic, who still doesn’t feel he worked ! What is fantastic about loving the work we do is the love works through us, and allows us to overcome our own limits and to go the extra mile in whatever we are doing. The feeling can be understood as something close to what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi( FYI : I copy pasted the name as I cannot type it) describes in his book “The Flow”. I only feel that I had been doing my duty towards my own planet and its species and I am very grateful to have been a servant.

4. The Search for Perfection and the surprising place to find it :
I have long been an idealist and I will continue to be so. For ideals give me hope and help me change for the better. So although I will not stop chasing perfection myself, I stopped expecting perfection outside. Through the windows of Experential learning and all the cultural immersion at AIESEC
I found out that no culture/person/organization is perfect in itself. Hard to swallow the truth sometimes but it is what it is, yeah?. Still my own healthy insanity made me ask the question “How to find perfection if organisations and people are never perfect?” The answer I have found is in Collaboration. Collaboration and synergies that allow people to complement each others weaknesses and amplify strengths.
So although I haven’t read Simon Sineks “Together is Better” I have found this motto to be effective and efficient in the everyday workings of AIESEC and also in many spectacular failure/learning experiences in AIESEC.
So I see that perfection usually manifests in the convergences of intentions, thought, will and skill. Waking up (I am still waking up ) to this truth makes me ever so humble and prevents me to never flaunder my ego but only to put it to purpose in collaboration and team work. In this sense, I realized, no one person can take credit for the achievement of the team.

My opinion : Change has to begin from the individual level. For example, To feed the whole society, we need to feed all the individuals within it.

5. Why we cannot change the world and how we can :
Trying to change some other person or to change the world is like
trying to punch a huge wall
and expecting it to fly away or its like “wishing” for the clouds to stop raining when there is a thunderstorm just because you want to have a good hair day. I realised this after actually “punching the wall” multiple times because the pain has reinforced my learning of this truth, but the insight here is, when I changed myself, people started changing for me.” I live by the value called “forebearance” and whenever I am in a situation where I am “fault-finding” I always check if I have the same fault within myself, and usually when I reflect and work upon it with all the will I have at my command, and eradicate it within me, I become an example for people to mimic me in this regard. So maybe to some extent, it can be said, that people are mirrors and when one mirror changes itself to reflect something amazing, maybe one day all the mirrors in the world reflect the same thing? So if we find Peace and Fulfilment of our own potentials maybe we might actually achieve it for the world !

So in conclusion, I would definitely recommend AIESEC for any young person in the world, if there is an eagerness to develop oneself in it and serve the world through some good work. (If you didn’t know AIESEC runs projects on SDGs and Cross-cultural professional programs in over 124 countries and territories).

Our National team in Budapest during our mid-term Replanning. It was about -10 degrees when the photo was taken and we ran back to put on our winter jackets right after the photo !

I once again thank all those miraculous people from across the world for all those conversations, collaborations and role-modelling, which provided me with inspiration and ignited me to live and share an inspired life. Maybe a few people may have had negative experiences with or within AIESEC and for those people I am sorry, as this platform and this dynamic organization is still continuing to improve like any other !

Thank you for reading this !
Wish you a great day and lets do our best together for the little blue dot wherever we are and in whatever way we can !



Aditya Barrela

What can we do to make this world a better place for all of us?