There’s a Taoist Chinese proverb that goes, “Once I dreamt I was a butterfly, happily fluttering around in the sky. Then I awoke and wondered, am I a man who dreamt I was a butterfly, or am I a butterfly that dreamt I was a man?” The rest goes along the lines of how there’s a distinction between man and butterfly – a transition, a transformation.

So I literally plucked this quote out of a pocket-size Chinese proverbs book because it resonated well and submitted it for my “official” senior quote in the high school newspaper before graduation.

Little did I know 7 years later, it’s become the guiding mantra – my life is a dream 🙂

I joined AIESEC during my freshman year in 2007 and cannot think of a single other decision that has so overwhelmingly shaped my life experiences, who I am today, and my direction in career and life.

My reasons to join were on par with most others: I was happy, yet unsatisfied with my routine of class-friends-dorm-fun and was looking for a more meaningful overall experience. I attended an info session and was sold on an international internship! I was intrigued, got involved in my team, then embarked on my first traineeship. The rest, is a dream…

…Though I’m unsure how else to condense my ongoing dream besides listing it. This was first shared with the chapter (LC), but thought others might like to see my timeline. On speed below is my dream both via and directly impacted by AIESEC below, try to keep up! 

**Summer 2007* 1st internship, Rabat, Morocco – A magical, mystical experience whilst teaching English to underprivileged children, then part of the Salaam Program. I learned from my students, made lifelong friends, and opened my eyes to beautiful insights of the world.

**Spring 2008* Started an incredibly fun, yet challenging term as President of the AIESEC Illinois Chapter (LCP) with an Executive Board (EB) that was passionate and strong headed in all the right ways.

**Spring Break 2008* International conference MENAXLDS (Middle East North Africa Region Exchange Leadership Development Seminar), that year held in Tunisia.

**Summer 2008* 2nd traineeship, Chandigarh, India at ArriveSafe – I saw what real passion+hard work looked like at a Road Safety NGO during a beautiful and colorful summer both in the city and across India.

**End of Summer 2008* International Congress 2008 in Brazil, the largest annual conference, in a different location each year, celebrating AIESEC’s 60th Anniversary with delegates from 100 countries.

**Fall 2008* Two of my top college experiences: 1) in AIESEC Illinois – Global Village event with hundreds of fellow diverse students showcasing and celebrating 40+ cultures, the only event to bring groups together for a night across all cultures, and 2) at my uni, UIUC – celebrating the historical election of Obama with half the campus as one united group.

**End of 2008* Faci at Winter Conference, voted for our LC’s choice for MCP, and said “see ya in a year!” to the LC that became my family.

**Early 2009* Backpacked Southeast Asia with 4 LC-mates.

**Spring 2009* Studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, got involved with LC/MC which became my Austrian cultural experience, and traveled 14 countries visiting AIESEC friends without a single night in a hostel.

**Fall 2009* 3rd traineeship, Rio de Janiero, Brazil – While at a NGO (nonprofit) consulting educational NGOs for children in the favela slums, I lived in a city where its raw beauty elevated its people’s passion for life.

**Spring 2010* Organized first attempt at LC Skydiving that failed due to weather, honored with a UIUC award I received alongside President Correa of Ecuador, which he shared that he works closely with AIESEC in his country, and then, I graduated!

**Summer 2010* Officially as an AIESEC alum in Chicago, for the first time I received trainees and had a ton of fun integrating them around Chicago.

**Fall 2010* Started my job as a media advertising buyer/planner at Starcom Worldwide in Chicago, helped lead a company volunteer day, coordinated a monthly volunteer event, did pro bono work for WWF, and outside of work, volunteered at several places as a creative writing workshop teacher, nonprofit consultant, and org fundraiser.

**Spring 2011* Skydived with 15 others during AIESEC Illinois Alumni Weekend

**Fall 2011* Ran my first marathon in Chicago, and raised $5000 for Room to Read to sponsor 20 girls across developing countries to remain in school and complete an education.

**Spring 2012* Left my job at Starcom, traveled, chaired a AIESEC Hong Kong National Conference during which AIESEC Illinois alum Hamilton Le was MCP, and started my current job at Mindvalley, based out of Malaysia.

None of the experiences above – international internships, fluid traveling, such volunteer roles – would have been possible if I had not joined AIESEC.

It was Steve Jobs that said you can only connect the dots looking back. Every single experience I listed above, all the mini moments in LC I’ll cherish, and everything in between, are dots one after another. An LCP term. 3 traineeships. 7 international conferences. Traveling 40 countries via AIESEC or with/to meet AIESECers. All these dots seem to have gone by in a blur. However as time goes on, these dots gain greater relevance I couldn’t have foreseen. That these butterfly dreams and the transitions between them have ultimately shaped my self evolution.

I currently work at Mindvalley based in Malaysia, a former AIESEC global partner and founded by a former MCVP of AIESEC US. About 70% of us are foreigners from 30+ countries, and about 30-40% have had an AIESEC experience. Many that have shown a contribution far exceeding expectations and/or risen quickly from their entry roles, were indeed very involved AIESECers in the past. I can even see AIESEC’s impact on me in my role and at my previous job, that the analytical and strategic muscles I developed in AIESEC seem to flex in the workplace. 

Has your AIESEC experience contributed to your role in life and the workplace?

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