Why was I in Sri Lanka?

You may wonder what did I actually do in Sri Lanka. Why I stayed there for nearly two months. And here is my answer.

I have always dreamt of exploring the world, learning more about different cultures, developing myself.. and that's what I did in Sri Lanka. I participated in a voluntary internship. In the first year of university I used to be a member of an international organization called AIESEC which is run by students and found in more than 120 countries. They provide other students with cross-cultural voluntary or payed internships (not only that!) - in order to develop themselves, find their potential, become leaders that won't be afraid to take an action and inspire others. All that understanding and empowering leaves a positive impact on our society and actually creates peace. I truly believe in this vision and that's why since starting AIESEC a few years ago I knew I will go for an internship one day and started saving up for it.

I got really excited about spending a few months somewhere in Asia doing a good thing and that was the time when my boyfriend decided to join me. We started all the paperwork and were ready to look for an internship. The whole process is quite simple and you don't have to be an AIESEC member but a university student. It basically works like this - you pay a fee to your local AIESEC, get the access to the internship database (each AIESEC branch presents their projects there), upload your CV and some information about yourself, apply for the internship you like, make a Skype interview, got selected (or not) and then you are ready to buy your flight ticket and go! One tip I can give you is that you need to be clear about WHY you want to do it. You need to set your own reasons and goals. Knowing what the outcome of an internship for you should be can help you develop further and actually achieve your goals.

I would like to stress that before attending an internship in a very different country - you need to open your mind, have no high expectations and do your homework - research the country, the culture and its traditions. This will help overcoming all the struggles during the internship and the cultural shock as well (stay tuned for an article on this topic!). Our project was organized by local students and they were very helpful and just amazing from the day one. I'm so grateful that they showed us their culture and some amazing places in Sri Lanka, opened their minds and hearts for us and so we all were able to become one big family and good friends!

In our team were 14 members from a lot of of different countries (8 to be exact) and we all lived in a house in a part of Colombo called Maharagama. I loved that we were such a cultural mix and were able to learn a lot from each other. We discussed some interesting topics that I would never even though or knew about if I haven't met these guys. We had a lot of fun, support each other when the organization of the project was a bit miserable and enjoyed our time spent together. Also I'm proud to say that I've learned a couple of sentences in Chinese! Even though I spell them probably wrong and so they mean something totally different. What we struggled the most with was the organization and the time management of the project. We did have a timetable but it changed nearly every day, we were not always informed about what we are doing, some events got cancelled, being on time didn't really exist and being one hour or more is not a big deal in Sri Lanka.. but you know what - that was a part of the experience and that's how we learned! You need to accept the cultural difference which might be very difficult - I learned to be a lot more patient and to try to see various situations from a point of view of someone else. I guess it wasn't fun at all to organize the whole project and take care of people from very different countries. And so I'm thankful to all the guys from Sri Lanka for making my experience just amazing!

The project that we worked on was called INZPIRE and what we focused on was entrepreneurship. Sri Lanka is a developing country and therefore there's a lot of potential for new ideas and starting businesses. Not many young people and students start they business after finishing their studies as it is normal in many developed countries. They follow the paths of their parents and prefer a normal and a steady job. What we did was to inspire and motivate all those young people that are finishing their studies soon not to be afraid to start their business - to transform their ideas into a reality and with a profit. We did a couple of school sessions in which we talked about the current situation in Sri Lanka and about how many goods are only imported to the country and not produced there. We mentioned stories of very successful entrepreneurs and also talked about qualities that you need to develop further in order to become successful in everything you do not only businesswise. After the presentation were students divided into groups in which they had to think about a business idea and how they would make it happen. I was surprised how amazing and creative those kids were, most of them also worked in teams very well! I believe we gave them something to think about and I hope they will follow their passions and eventually turn them into what they do for living.

Other than these school sessions we also interviewed and recorded some of the local successful entrepreneurs. This was pretty cool - in most cases we got invited to their homes and they shared their stories with us while sipping a cup of tea. We asked them questions about their business, how they got where they are today - and from all those stories we concluded that the most important thing is just to follow your passion. Which is something I completely agree and do myself.

During the project we had a lot of time to travel and so we made trips all around Sri Lanka and explored some amazing places. We also attended some events and one of them was a global village - all the people from all the projects in Sri Lanka met in one place and shared their experience, each country presented itself and it was pretty cool to meet all these guys! We also visited a children orphanage as a part of CSR. We came there to play with those children and to make that day a very special one for them. I was so close to having tears in my eyes when I entered the orphanage as I imagined what some of these kids had to go through so early in their lives. This experience made me very happy - they were not sad children but very happy ones that loved to play with us and cared about each other a lot. We all had a very good time and that was one the best days in Sri Lanka for me, very special and emotional - and I actually do have tears in my eyes now when writing about it.

Long story short, this internship was a life-time experience for me. A lot of people who attended one will tell you how much it will change you. And you might think - of course it will. I personally have travelled a lot on my own and so I thought - OK maybe it will change me a bit but it won't be such a big deal. How wrong I was! It changed me SO MUCH and I guess I still do not realize how much. When arriving back home, to the Czech Republic, every part of me wanted to scream how important is to experience something like this - life in a very different country, experiencing a different culture and religion and meeting people that actually believe they can change something and realize their dreams. How unimportant is to study a university, get a diploma, get a job and don't know anything about the world. How happy you can be without having a material life - all you need is a happy mind. How we care about things that are not important at all and how we all should do what we LOVE. How we all should follow our dreams and actually live them.

I have realized so many things. This experience literally opened my eyes and my heart. I understand myself better and I understand the world around me better. My priorities always used to be very similar to what they are now - but now they are so much toughen and I feel so strong and confident about them. I quit/postponed my postgraduate studies for the following year as I feel the urge to explore more - myself and the world itself. Opening ourselves and trying to understand the world around is a real education that we can get and we all should do. So let's do it while we can! I can't tell you HOW it will change you, all I can tell that it WILL DO.

Thanks for reading! You can let me know what you think/ask me anything in the comments down below or just send me a mail. M.