The basis for an international career: Alvaro Ipanaque’s AIESEC experience

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By Richard Lam

Alvaro Ipanaque had served leadership roles with AIESEC for five years before going on his first exchange. Coming from Lima, Peru, he came here to Calgary not for the weather, not for the skiing, not for the Stampede, but for a job opportunity.

“It was always the job description and not the city [or] country that droved my interest,” explained Ipanaque. Ipanaque started a year-long internship in August 2009 for Agrium in the corporate organization development (or talent management) team. He was involved in and contributed to three major projects: the Global Workforce Strategy, the New Grad Rotation Program and the Human Capital Metrics and Scorecard.

“It has contributed a lot to challenge myself, [and to] understand the importance of talent management in a company such as Agrium,” said Ipanaque, describing his experience to date. “As a result, I will definitely be developing more in this area keeping a broader perspective.”

One of Ipanaque’s reasons for joining AIESEC and going on the exchange was to reinforce and build his international professional experience before pursuing his MBA. He felt that he could use the practical, hands-on work experience towards his education.

Through his five years in AIESEC, he has held two VP positions (outgoing and incoming exchange), LCP and MCP positions, and has facilitated and acted as trainer at various conferences. But even all of that didn’t prepare Ipanaque for what he would learn from actually going abroad.

“I travelled in North America and I learned a lot about the cultural differences between U.S. and Canada,” he says, describing his travels while on exchange. “Within Canada, every province has something different to offer. Going to the east was like going to a different country. This is especially true in Quebec.”

The eye-opening experiences went further, with Ipanaque’s first-hand exposure to Canada’s down-and-dirty hockey culture. “I was pretty surprised [to see] the hockey players fighting in the middle of the match,” he says. “Suddenly it becomes a boxing show.”

Ipanaque’s AIESEC experience remains one of the most comprehensive and well-rounded of any AIESEC member, and he’s always happy to talk about the great time he’s had both at home and abroad. To him, it’s the most intense and most fun way to experience a different culture and to develop professional skills.

“If you see yourself working in a multicultural environment and being challenged everyday, this should be your first step.”

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