IAESTE Connects: “It will always be a special part of who I am”

IAESTE Connects: “It will always be a special part of who I am”

IAESTE Connects: “It will always be a special part of who I am”

Mon, May 20th, 2019

Edwin Henry and Kerrie Drum are active members of the IAESTE Ireland Local Committee, supporting international trainees who come to work in Ireland through IAESTE. Edwin is a a process engineer with PM Group in Dublin, and joined the Local Committee two years ago when he returned from his IAESTE traineeship in China. Kerrie is an R&D Engineer in County Waterford and is the IAESTE Ireland Local Committee President. In this post, Edwin and Kerrie describe what they learnt at the IAESTE 2019 Connect Conference this year and how they hope to bring that learning to their work on the IAESTE Local Committee.

Connect Conference 2019, Glasgow

The Connect Region is a group of mainly western European countries who collaborate on many issues and use each others’ experiences to develop IAESTE in each individual country. The current members are Ireland, the UK, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and–as of Connect Conference 2019–Malta.

photo of group at IAESTE 2019 Connect Conference

The annual Connect Conference involves workshops delivered by experienced IAESTE members as well as plenty of opportunities for formal and informal networking. It is a true embodiment of the IAESTE motto: Work, Experience, Discover. This year’s four-day conference was hosted in a lovely hostel in the West End of Glasgow up on a hill, with a beautiful view of Kelvingrove Park and the University of Glasgow. The conference provides workshops on various topics that contribute to the development of IAESTE in the Connect Region.

Edwin: “I was not willing to give up on the exciting world of IAESTE just yet!”

Returning from my IAESTE internship in China in 2017, and facing into my final year of university, I was not willing to give up on the exciting world of IAESTE just yet! So I joined the Local Committee in Dublin as Connect Region Representative. I attended my first Connect Conference in 2018; this being my second conference, I knew what to expect and was looking forward to it months in advance as it would allow me to reconnect with many of my IAESTE friends.

The workshops I completed this year were Social Media Marketing, Cultural Differences in Management, Presentation Skills and Workshop Leader Preparation. I chose these topics as I believe they will help me in progressing IAESTE in Ireland while also helping me in my professional and personal life. The main thing I learned from the workshops, and hope to implement with IAESTE Ireland, was the importance of having a consistent, professional and targeted social media presence. I now plan to set out a more structured social media platform for IAESTE Ireland. I also learned about the importance of being aware of cultural differences when it comes to punctuality, giving feedback etc. This will be particularly useful when meeting the international trainees coming to Ireland this year.

I am hopeful that these will be very beneficial for IAESTE Ireland, as the lessons learned from last year’s conference were instrumental in the achievements of the committee. These included the organisation of multiple trips for the international trainees in Ireland last year, including trips to Galway, Cork, Donegal and Dublin.

photo of people on cliff

Kerrie: “Building relationships will keep you motivated”

This year’s Connect Conference taught me a lot of things that I am hoping to implement in our Local Committee (LC) here in Ireland. The workshops I attended were LC Management, Member Engagement, Social Media & Marketing and Remote Teamwork.

photo of workshop at IAESTE 2019 Connect Conference

From the LC Management workshop, I learned that it’s important to assign roles to your LC members. This ensures that they are extrinsically motivated and feel a sense of achievement when they do something. We have several roles such as University Relations, Social Media and Marketing, and Events Coordinator. It is important to value your LC members and give them a chance to learn and show what they can do.

Planning is key: If you plan your year out in advance, you can keep track of events, milestones, deadlines, and monitor your budget and cash flow.

Building relationships internally and externally will help with development and will keep your motivation fresh and inspired. Internal groups include other LCs, the IAESTE central board, and other IAESTE countries. External groups include the universities, career officers, employers and sponsors.

It’s important to ‘plant the seed’ early: One of the reasons we have an event before trainees leave Ireland is to make the outgoing trainees aware of the LC and what we do. This means that when they come back after their amazing IAESTE experience, they will know that they can stay involved with IAESTE. The outgoing trainees are our future LC after all!

Edwin: “Leaving China I had grown immensely as a person”

My involvement with IAESTE began with my application for a traineeship to China in 2016; while I wasn’t successful that first year, I tried again the following year and was successful. Completing my traineeship in China during the summer of 2017 was one of the most challenging, rewarding and exciting experiences of my life. Leaving China I had grown immensely as a person with a greater awareness of what I wanted in life as well as life-long friendships.

Having now graduated and entered the working world (I’m currently a process engineer with PM Group in Dublin) the benefits of completing an IAESTE traineeship, as well as being an active member in Ireland, have become very clear. Besides the obvious outcome of gaining relevant work experience, I feel that the main benefit in my personal experience was being put out of my comfort zone, working on a truly international team, and experiencing cultures other than my own. I experienced this during my traineeship of course, but I am continuing this in my role within IAESTE Ireland. I believe that in this ever more global world this is invaluable experience and I hope to use it to further my career.

Kerrie: “My current employer even remarked on my ability to adapt to whatever environment I am thrown into”

My IAESTE journey began in 2016 when I did a seven week traineeship in Tunisia. Since then, I have travelled to many places around the world with IAESTE such as Finland, Belgium, Cyprus, Romania, The Netherlands, and Scotland. I have met so many people from all over the world and have made tonnes of friends. I can now say that I have a bed to sleep in anywhere I decide to go travelling!

I have had the opportunity to showcase my country and my culture and learn from others about their countries, their language and their culture. Working with the trainees who come to Ireland in the summer means I have seen things and visited places in Ireland that I haven’t been to before. I love going on trips with the trainees as it gives you time to get to know each other and have a good time!

Volunteering with IAESTE is also beneficial in the work environment. Employers see an IAESTE traineeship or committee membership as a unique and impressive achievement. My current employer even remarked on my ability to adapt to whatever environment I am thrown into and I thank IAESTE for this! I have improved my soft skills through conference workshops and general LC meetings. These soft skills include leadership, presenting, management, social media, and project planning. I used to think that I didn’t have a management or business bone in my body, but now I am confident that I can improve these skills because of IAESTE.

All in all, I see more opportunities in life now being a volunteer with IAESTE. It is like a second family to me and I know that whatever I end up doing in life, it will always be a special part of who I am as a person.

Find out more

If you’re a student and you’d like to find out more, visit the student section of our IAESTE website.

If you’re an employer interested in providing an internship, visit the employer section of our IAESTE website.

You can follow the IAESTE Ireland Local Committee on Instagram and Facebook.

You can follow IAESTE Ireland (in Léargas) on Twitter.

Both Edwin and Kerrie are on LinkedIn.

Images courtesy of Edwin Henry and Kerrie Drum. We welcome contributions to ‘Insights’ at comms@leargas.ie.