Ms. Li Yi （李懿老师）
Thanks to the great opportunity AIESEC has offered me, I could give a glimpse into a country I have long been entranced by, Italy. The destination of my AIESEC experience in 2013 was Palermo, the capital of the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo, noted for its history, architecture, art and gastronomy. About the breathtaking historical relics, I loved them very much. Its history of over 2,700 years have shaped its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings. The beauty of them were beyond my imagination and description, every small thing was delicate and elegant. Every day when I went through the streets, the buildings, traditional and modern, were speaking to me, they were smiling and dancing with the loud noises and crowdedness in the streets.
In my eyes, the culture puts emphasis on its slow pace. Here people slow everything down. At first I was not quite used to it and I got so frustrated and anxious about waiting. I saw it as a waste of time and extremely inefficient and disorganized way of doing things. But as my patience grew every time I was forced to wait, I realized that work here is not as important as we value it in China. When people are waiting, they make circles and talk and laugh and quarrel loudly as usual. So happy are they that it seems no one thinks being late is a big deal or they have not realized they are waiting for someone or some event to start. They are enjoying the moment.
The project Educhange was intended to have an impact on high school students, organizing sessions on 3 themes, namely diversity, sustainability and entrepreneurship. It was held by AIESEC Palermo and its cooperator--Istituto Statale Superiore Mario Rutelli involving 8 classes. And we have 3 interns altogether, a girl from Tunisia, a Mexican guy and me. We started our volunteer job from the first week by visiting the high school teachers and students, organizing presentations and designing interactive activities of the topics. For diversity, each of us took turns to present some aspects of the culture of our own countries, share information and discuss the issues students found interesting. For sustainability, we gave speeches and showed public advertisements, then we encouraged the students to devise and perform their own ads on environmental protection and talked about what they felt. And for entrepreneurship, we introduced the Canvas Model in latest version and helped them to create their own business plan in groups. After six weeks, we held a final event when all the classes and teachers involved, the school headmaster and some of the students’ parents present, showing our great gratitude, reflecting our experience and presenting some of the fantastic works by students in videos.
We had great fun in the cultural exchange with students here. Not only were we progressing in the way we organize a session, but also we learned from each other especially the students. When we worked on what could be the best business plan here in Sicily for each group to discuss, some of them came up with the idea to run a restaurant for pets. I was surprised by their imagination and creativity, and it is really a brilliant idea that pet owners can get together there sharing their common interest and experience about keeping pets with such a restaurant while their pets can meet and enjoy their feast. And they can be pet professionals then contribute their knowledge based on reflection and new discovery about animals to us general people. There was another group who came up with an idea to run a medieval restaurant where their guests would dress like people of middle class in the middle ages and be served with mimitated food from that time and have fun in that historical setting. It is most exciting when we saw the concentration and inspired looks on their faces.
In sum, Palermo have showed me an experience I have never had with the excitement I have never felt. It was constantly challenging me to learn and explore about the unknown and myself. For those reasons, I love Palermo.
Yi LI (李懿), Italy