TIPS and TRICKS:
If I had to give one advice to people who are going to travel to a different country where they’d never been, it would be check the weather forecast… When I was going to prepare my luggage for Russia all my friends and family told me to buy extremely warm clothes, jackets and shoes… But what they would never imagine is that during summer the city where I was gonna stay the average temperature is 30 to 40 centigrades, so I took of course some jackets and warm clothes to stay warm but I also took skirts, swimsuits and shorts, either ways my jeans ended up to be shorts because of the heat…
Another advice, I recommend you to try to learn some words or greetings of the language they speak (if you don’t speak their language) people are surprised and they really appreciate when you do an effort to try to communicate with them in their language and it wouldn’t be bad to try to lear of their cultures as well as their traditions… It’s always nice to bring something to the host family and AIESEC committee, because it speaks for you and how grateful you are, I recommend you to bring small toys (for the kids in case you are working with them) and for adults some bracelets, bags or something small that will represent Mexico your beautiful country, also they love sweets (candies) bring some traditional candies and they will love it! I also had a friend who collected money, so I gave her a 5 pesos coin and she was so happy and exited!
About transport from your home to the foreign country I’ll recommend you to look for scales, as many as you can handle because it’s cheaper and buy your plane tickets with time (1 1/2 or 2 months). Once you are at your final destination to start this new experience transportation in the city depends on the country you are visiting, because all of them are different, but public transport is the best and cheapest way to go one place to another. Ask for help of AIESECers of the committee you matched, I’m sure they’ll help you and give you the best way to transport. Don’t never ever change money at the airport, it’s the most expensive rate you’ll ever find.
About cultural shock… Well first, you’ll have the one where they can’t believe you how you live in Mexico and in their country, some of them they don’t know how we live and what’s going on with our country, some people will like to talk to you about politics and religion because they are really curious, also about our traditions and how we celebrate some things.
Please don’t go with the idea of what you’ve heard of that country, forget about ‘stereotypes’ for example, my dad wasn’t really happy with my choice about Russia, because he believed Russian people were cold and mean with everyone who wasn’t Russia, and yes… some people are mean but so does here in Mexico, when I arrived my buddy took some traditional stuff and was really happy to meet me and every single person I met was happy to meet me and so was I, I made so many friends so fast you’ll almost think it’s impossible, also I felt kind of a rockstar because they always wanted to take pictures with me!
About the VISA and all that, I did had to wait until the government of Russia send a letter to the Russian embassy here in Mexico inviting me to their country with a special letter written by the Russian LC, but I did not have further problems because I was prepared and had checked for dates and everything.
As for the LCs, my LC was in Leon Gto and they helped me with everything they could… My LC in Russia was Rostov-on-Don, and they were amazing with all of the trainees that went for the summer, it was the biggest reception they had and they could manage it pretty good! I was always with someone who spoke English and Russian so that I could communicate and go around the city without getting lost, unless I asked to go alone somewhere they will always keep track on me.
I did not have major problems, none involved with AIESEC, and I’m waiting to take another experience as soon as I have vacations from school and some saved money.