Annual Conference 2016

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All packed and ready to brace the -15ᵒC (is that even possible?!) that hit the Czech Republic during the night, IAESTE Malta headed to Prague for the 69th IAESTE Annual Conference (AC) with the 17 job offers ready for exchange.

Japan, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Oman, Nicaragua, Norway … Those are just six of the several member countries that the IAESTE Annual Conference brings together to exchange internship offers and to discuss the development of the organisation. Apart from being the key point in our exchange process, the AC is also an opportunity to finally meet in person the representatives from fellow IAESTE branches which you would have spammed with emails throughout the year.

This exchange of internship is a neat, sometimes somewhat stressful, process. Each member country is assigned a table, and following a set of bilateral appointments which are scheduled before or at the AC, IAESTE branches come together to exchange job offers according to their students’ preferences. To be honest, I find this to be quite cool. How often do you get to say: ‘Be right back, I am heading over to Hong Kong now!’ or ‘excuse me, Estonia will be here in a second!’

Finding the right jobs for your students is not an easy, straight-forward task. However, when you put aside the stress of finding good architecture jobs before they run out or stop looking at the giant stopwatch keeping track of the 15-minute slots for each appointment, it gets rather fun. As well as exchanging jobs, gifts such as sweets, beer-opener keychains, and other memorabilia are swapped. So if you have just made it through the Wizz Air baggage limit on the way to the AC, you have to find creative ways to stuff all these prized possessions into the little space that you have left.

The AC is neither the beginning nor the end of hard work. Now that we are back in Malta, the jobs exchanged are presented to the Maltese students who specifically apply for the internships in which they are interested. Our choice is ample: Will you choose a standard European country like UK and Austria? What about a more exotic country like Brazil and Thailand? Or are you one of those who looks for the places who are known for awesome summer receptions like Serbia and Poland?

Together with the exchange sessions, the conference sessions also make a huge part of this 6-day conference. Matters of the organisation and its development are discussed and voted upon by the member countries. Nonetheless, the development of IAESTE would be impossible without the development of the friendship between members. And this is where the IAESTE party, IAESTE spirit and IAESTE fun come in. Gala dinners, underground room parties, karaoke nights and the infamous International Night served as such opportunities.

I cannot even start expressing the feeling that the International evening brought with it. Traditional dress, dancing, food and drink from SO many countries. I see it more as a bombardment of the senses; the spicy Indian food, the oh-so-tempting Swiss cheese, the way-too-strong Slovak Tatratee, the smooth Vietnamese tea, the rich Jordanian coffee, the essential Czech beer, the soothing Belgian chocolate and much, much more. And when you have an impromptu Colombian DJ on top of that, and a room bursting with colour and energy, you can truly say that the celebration of the uniqueness of each country brought the shattering of borders and prejudices.

This conference, to me, has been yet another proof that, in Günter Müller-Graetschel* words, “friendship and trust are the currency of our organisation” and that you can get as much warmth from any nationality as much as you are open to receive and give!