Keeping An Open Mind When On Exchange And Making The Most Of It


By Richard Lam

Why is Irina Lipskaia, an accounting major, teaching English to kids in Kiev?

A student at the University of Calgary, Irina was looking to gain experience in international management, but had trouble finding a management internship amidst the competition. So, she figured, why not try an educational and development internship instead?

“I’m super grateful for going on an educational internship because it allowed me to explore my personal potential beyond what I would have imagined.” —Irina Lipskaia, accounting student, University of Calgary

“[An] international management internship would have helped me greatly with my future career goals,” admits Irina. “Nevertheless, I’m super grateful for going on an educational internship because it allowed me to explore my personal potential beyond what I would have imagined.”

Through AIESEC’s international exchange program, Irina found a teaching position in Kiev, Ukraine, teaching various levels of English to university students, businessmen and even young children at a summer camp. Certainly an experience few accounting students encounter.

Along with the shift in what she would be doing abroad, Irina ran into another tough mental adjustment: culture shock. Though of Slavic descent, she is accustomed to Canadian culture first and foremost.

“Ukraine’s disorganized mentality and inability to form a line up, for example, really frustrated me,” Irina explains. “Sometimes the city looked like a zoo with horrible traffic with swearing and yelling from drivers or pedestrians. Coming from a more civilized nation like Canada, it was a little hard to get used to unless you adapt a humoristic point of view.”

But it’s all about attitude. Irina was given a unique opportunity, getting first-hand teaching experience across all ages, as well as travelling to beaches in Bulgaria and exploring the ordered streets of Germany.

“What impacted me the most was the reality of living circumstances and conditions in second and third world countries,” says Irina. “It makes one deeply appreciate what he or she has and try to impact or change if not the world but at least a person’s life.”

“I’m very grateful for this experience, including the good and the bad,” adds Irina, who had her fair share of disappointments over living conditions and organizational complications.

Irina Lipskaia on exchange in Kiev, Ukraine“On the other hand, I really enjoyed children’s affection and attachment to me as their mentor and teacher, but most importantly their friend.”

Though it may seem surprising or discouraging, Irina’s parting advice is amongst the most sensible.

“Mainly to have no or low expectations, because no matter what you imagine your internship to be like, it will always be really different,” she says.

“After being a teacher for two and a half months, I now consider this profession as a possibility in my future,” says Irina. And what other way — aside from patience and an open mind — could have brought her to that conclusion?

AIESEC is currently accepting applications for internships in Brazil, China, India, Turkey and Ukraine. For more information, check out AIESEC’s profile on TalentEgg or visit

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