Ihnátová: Our generation holds in their hand the future of our countries, economics, the EU, environment and political situation

One of the world’s most famous and active organisations is AIESEC, an organisation which gives the young people opportunities in their personal and professional development. It is focused on active education (trainings, courses, workshops, national and international conferences), the development of leadership in the field of middle and higher management and organising projects beneficial for the society. Furthermore, it connects universities´ top talents with business environment homeland and abroad (discussions and meetings with the managers of the most influential companies). Today we have interviewed for you Lucia Ihnatova, the chairwoman of AIESEC Slovakia 2013/2014.

Lucia, could you give us more details on AIESEC, from an active member’s point of view?
If somebody asks me what is AIESEC, I usually respond that it is a global organisation which gives its members the possibility to develop their leadership as well as to use their knowledge from studies in practice, all this in a very dynamic international environment. However, from our member’s point of view it is a full play where they can discover what they like, what they are good in, they get the possibility to improve in this and at the same time they help their surrounding and other people. They broaden their horizons, get knowledge for their future job and life, travel the world and discover that also small things can have a huge positive impact on many people.

One month ago you were elected a chairwoman of AIESEC for the period 2013/2014, there is a very active year in front of you. What are your visions? Where would you like to push already now one of the most active organisations in Slovakia?
In the next year our priority will be our customers, the fulfilling of their needs and the providing of high quality services. This year on the national level of AIESEC Slovakia I am responsible for external relationships, the customer care and the management of our product portfolio. My main task is the work with customers, this will be for sure reflected also in the next year. My personal vision is to aim AIESEC Slovakia to listen to our customers – whether students, companies or other organisations – to find out, what they need and then to create products to fulfil their needs. What does it mean in practise? I would be very glad if we succeeded to break through in the domestic market and to back Slovakia’s export by the work of foreign students from selected partner countries in Slovakia. Furthermore, I would be glad if we managed to send at least 250 young people abroad, to the internship of their dreams.

You have been working in AIESEC for some years, what is the moment you like to recall?
It is very difficult to choose only one, so here is one of the freshest. One month ago I participated on a global conference for all the present and newly elected chairpersons of all the 113 member countries. The strongest moment was the day of the legislative meeting when all the participants took their seat around a round table, which is similar to that in the UN, and they decided about the future of one of the world’s biggest student organisation. In this time I realized several things: first of all, I am the one who stands there for Slovakia and my decisions represent all the members of AIESEC Slovakia, what is so far the biggest responsibility I have ever had. Equally, in the game is the future of AIESEC, because the decision I take now defines the way the organisation will look like in decades. Moreover, this was the place where I saw all the 113 cultures, ways of thinking, characters, understandings and attitudes altogether. I got aware that I represented Slovakia, and at the same time I was a global citizen.

Could you explain us why a student should go abroad for an internship during their studies? What benefits can they gather on an internship in India or Spain?
First of all I believe that an experience from abroad is one of the biggest assets of a young student. I see this mainly while speaking with our business partners who are searching for students or freshly graduated.

In AIESEC we offer to students two types of internships abroad. The first one is a professional internship, where the young person goes abroad with the aim to improve in the area of their studies. In most of the cases they work in a company as a full-time employee, where they transform their theoretical knowledge into the practise, they study how exactly their field functions in another country and they build they professional profile. This all is of course connected with discovering of a new culture and country.

The second type of internship is a voluntary internship, where a student or graduate works on a selected non-profit project, either connected with global problems, intercultural learning or promotion of Slovakia abroad. The main merit of this kind of internship is not only the strong cultural experience, since the number of volunteers on this kind of projects is growing constantly, but also the personal development, the acquirement of new life perspectives and clarification of their priorities. As for being usually a part-time job, this internship allows people to travel more.

Do you also have any personal experience with an internship abroad through AIESEC or other organisation? If so, can you tell us more?
I have joined AIESEC mainly because I was interested to go abroad for a summer internship after my Bachelor graduation, what I also did, in 2010. So I was working 6 weeks in Istanbul, where I had to school the local high school students about Slovakia, global subjects and cultural understanding. In total there were 52 interns from 27 countries working on this project, what has been for me the most intense international experience so far. Moreover, I was deprived of all the stereotypes about Turkey and could witness what an influence does this internship has on my personal growth, but also on the children I was working with.

How would you sum up the present situation in the EU from the point of view of a young person?
I think that a young person is interested mainly in the possibilities that the EU offers them. On one hand this is the international mobility in form of internships and studies, on the other hand the opportunities in their town or region. By supporting the international mobility I often run up the case when the individual programs meet a lack of applicants. From my point of view this can either mean a lower quality of the experience which the project offers, or a lack of promotion and integration to the school system of individual countries. I firmly believe that the idea of all the projects is great, though not enough emphasized. Moreover, not all the students or young people have access to it. More flexibility and dynamics and a better interconnection with the school system would definitely bring more know-how transfer, economic growth and better prepared young people for the present labour market.

With the possibilities in the regions I am referring to the promotion of the projects for the development of communities, promotion of education etc. Here, in my opinion, many things can be done to decrease the paperwork and the static character of the system. I talk from my experience, since we as organisation are also trying to get grants for the projects we are working on, but the present system setting, from my perspective, restricts such efforts to a large degree. The EU should try to simplify the young people’s access to such sources, so that they can be used in the most effective way and what is the most important – for the projects of benefit of the whole community.

What message would you like to send to young people in Europe?
I would like them to realize that our generation holds in their hand the future of our countries, economics, the EU, environment and political situation. How the future will be depends only on us, but it is very important that we prepare for this task the best we can and that we accept it. AIESEC is only one of the possibilities which nowadays young people have, but in my opinion it is fundamentally important to work on ourselves to become better leaders, personalities and example for the society. Therefore I appeal to everybody to accept this challenge and to find such opportunities which would teach them responsibility, cultural understanding, global thinking and spirit of enterprise. The world needs a new, strong generation, able to overcome all the dangers of these days.

Miroslav Hajnoš