Mauritius is a stunning island nation, known widely for its beautiful beaches, lagoons, and reefs. However, Naman Ahuja, who went for a Global Volunteer Programme as an Exchange Participant has a lot more to add, besides the aesthetic landscapes of this republic.
This is the story of how this exchange helped him develop his personality while adding to the positive changes that these programmes sought to initiate in the world!
“IT HELPED ME LEARN MORE ABOUT MYSELF”
“The exchange made me self-aware in so many ways! I got to know and explore my own abilities and capabilities. For example, I didn’t know I could deliver a speech in front of 50 students and teach them too!” says Naman, who had been a reluctant introvert.
“Another self-realization I had was about my physical fitness.
We went on a lot of trekkings and that’s when it posed a challenge. I realized I wasn’t as fit as I needed to be to go hiking, unlike everyone else (who did not face this problem). It made me self-aware that I needed to build my stamina in order to live up to the tasks which were essential for my exchange projects.
If there’s something I couldn’t do, I had to work on that.
One more thing that this exchange helped me realize was how efficient I was with introducing myself to a group of total strangers, getting to know them and building a strong bond with them. These are qualities I thought I really lacked because I never really put myself out there.” he adds.
“I LEARNT WHAT IT MEANS TO EMPOWER OTHERS”
Communicating effectively in diverse environments, and engaging with others to achieve a bigger purpose play a pivotal role in empowering others, which is a key component of AIESEC’s leadership development model.
“My job role was to work on projects that were assigned to us: The Women Empowerment Project with the National Women Council of Mauritius, which was a huge deal.
There were three projects under this: Awareness Project, Self Defence project and the IT project.
One of the best things about this programme was that we were allowed to introduce our own projects, give our inputs and ideas for an entirely new scope, and they would create it for us! It was absolutely amazing.
“We worked with the National Women Council, and all their employees were women. Me and two other EPs from Kenya and China were the only males working in the organization, and all the other people who worked on this project were women!
The team I worked with conducted workshops on Information and Technology, teaching women basic Microsoft skills, etc. We taught around 500 women regarding this.
We also took part in teaching specially-abled children during some days of the week, and it was an enlightening experience.
In the self-defense project, we had to organize a proper workshop and invited a self-defense trainer from Lebanon, the only woman in the entire middle-east for the job. So we understood the level we were actually working on.” he adds.
“I BECAME RESILIENT AND SOLUTION ORIENTED”
“One time we were locked in our house for two days, because of a Level 3 Tropical Cyclone that was going on at the island.
It was a sudden crisis, as we had to arrange food for everyone, and we had no external resources in case we ran out of food! Besides that, we also had to come up with ways to protect the house we were living in from the physical damage of the cyclone.
So the ten of us came together and planned out how we were going to protect the windows, we rationed food and cooked it together to effectively manage the limited resources we had!”
Hence, being solution-oriented in times of crisis is an essential lesson that one can learn from such circumstances.
“I LEARNED ABOUT DIFFERENT CULTURES AND BROKE MY MINDSETS”
People from all around the world aren’t so different, according to Naman.
Living together with people from different countries under one roof taught him that people may look different and dress different, speak different languages, but they connect. Because deep down we are all humans and that is the power of human connection.
“There wasn’t a huge cultural shock as I expected. Mauritians are mostly of an Asian-African descent, and I kind of felt at home, within a few days of being there.
The nationalities of other EPs differed: there were people from Kenya, Australia, China, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Taiwan. These were people with dynamic personalities who helped me develop and even discover the hidden aspects of mine.
One thing I was worried about before going for my exchange was what do people think of India? Everyone I met in my exchange loved India and were totally fascinated by the Indian culture, so being the only Indian in the exchange was an amazing experience.
The one thing that absolutely stood out for me were the people of Mauritius. They are one of the kindest, most considerate and grateful people that I have ever come across. They are always there for you.
I didn’t know the local language, but whenever I traveled alone, I felt that there were people who would help out with the smallest of things. Even if I found myself lost for a second, they helped out and were super-approachable.
I still remember some of the shopkeepers and the people I used to wait with at the bus stand.”
“EVERYONE SHOULD LIVE AN EXCHANGE”
For as short as it is, and exchange really teaches you how to bond with the people, be vulnerable, strong, flexible. You connect with those with similar vision and goals as you, you achieve something by putting in your hard work, and appreciate the result together!
Naman’s experience changed his way of seeing life and helped him become a better version of himself. If you want to read about another breathtaking country, check this article about Vietnam!