This is the story of a Quebec city girl doing a 13 months term on an International MC...


A family of 60 000 young people in 110 countries

Translated version of a blog post from Marta Orias Hidalgo from Costa Rica

Those who know me have heard me talk about AIESEC a lot but I still think that many don't understand even half the things I say or why I do what I do.

It is always difficult to explain to those interested or those just entering AIESEC why am involved. 
It is difficult to explain why I decide to spend my evenings, mornings, nights, days, months and even years in an organization that does not pay me or give me something tangible to show as a result of my work.

It is even more difficult to explain what makes the simple fact that a young man who lives hundreds of miles from where I am and die thousands of miles away from where I am affect me that much. And not just me ... thousands of young people around the globe are mourning this fact.

I come not to speak of the accident, I am speaking of that passion that makes thousands of young people move around the world under one purpose. This passion makes me mourn a young man who sought the same purpose as mine and was only 22 years but wanted to change the world. It is this passion that makes it not matter if we know him or not. We treat them like family and our doors are always open for all those 60 000 young people no matter where they come from. No matter where I go I know I have a home somewhere in the world. When something happens in one country, the network gets activated and we all care about this country as if we had family there. In fact, we do. This is really just global awareness.

Ladies and Gentlemen this is what makes me get up every morning and not wanting to give up even though everything seems impossible. This is what makes me want to continue working so that our network grows, so more have the chance to develop. It is this inexplicable passion that unites us that makes me proud to say "I am an AIESECer." This is something you can't buy and that they will never teach in a classroom.

R.I.P Elmer Perez Requiz, President of AIESEC in Bolivia 2011-2012


Why living in Puerto Rico is a unique experience

--> Riding a scooter across Condado at night and smiling like a dog sticking his head out of the car. Yes Mom, riding a scooter. Yes, with a helmet.

--> Boiling your last pack of pasta and simultaneously starving only to find out there are over 40 insects boiling in/with them because they were living in the bag (sealed bag). These suck. They're called something i can't remember so i just call them "borbonjas"...

--> Hearing crazy stuff come out of Emanuel's mouth during team skype meetings. Something about boobjobs.

--> Re-organizing the cabinets taking into consideration our future roomate is like 4 feet tall.

--> Arriving the monday morning at the office and finding 3 +size cochroaches on the floor ready for me to commit a murder...Always carry flipflops

--> Finding BAGELS in Puerto Rico. This made me the happiest girl on Earth. What else are you gonna eat your philadelphia cheese with?

--> Learning that beans take like forever to cook from scratch.
1. Let them soak for 8 hours. They get fat.
2. Put them to boil for an hour AT LEAST.
3. Find the right temperature of burner so you don't have to stare at the pot while they cook.
4. Eat the beans that cost you more energy than what they will bring you. (like celery)

--> Going to the grocery store with my new roomate and colleague Karla. After 1h20, seeing she has done only one aisle. At least she knows all the types of ketchup (pronounce cat soup if you are her), spices, canned tomatoes, etc..

--> Finding out we actually DO own some placemats in the MC flat (thank god we won't be washing that table like crazy after every meal anymore or lletting it get dirty as shit).

--> After just less than 3 months of living here, being the one people ask directions to in the street (and succeeding in providing them some).

--> Telling your puertorican colleague (Huberto) directions in his own city

--> Thinking of Suzanne every time we hear our MC song on the radio (happens a lot). Plus, finding out she recorded herself doing a video tutorial hahahah. Nice.

--> Teaching Karla (mexican roomate) that going to grocery REQUIRES a sports bag to carry the groceries back in the bus. Like her you will think it's crazy and like her you will find out monday that i am right.

--> Getting marriage/Dating/Sexing offers whenever you wait / cross at an intersection.

--> Getting a side-job as a shot girl for Fat Tuesday the upcoming thursday and friday for the San Juan Outdoor Festival. / Dreaming of it at night.

--> Playing tourist at The Morro Fortress with some friends on the hottest day ever.

--> Having a roomate (Oriana) that understands the difference between a cocoqui guy and a coquiqui guy :)

--> Finding Oreo with her head in the freezer because us NORTH americans can not wear long clothes when it's over 30 degrees C / 86 degrees F. EVER.


 The disgusting insects...
 Some members that I am currently coaching from AIESEC OE Ponce
Mango: 89 cents, Huge avocado: 1.99$


Random times

First of all, I need to apologize for neglecting you, dear readers.

This is why you're in for quite a lot of news.

So last time I wrote, I had just started my MC term in Puerto Rico. Now, I am six weeks in and I have settled into my new routine. The getting up everyday to go to work is now normal for me although I'm not used to doing such an "officy" job. In the summer, I usually work with kids at Keno Summer Camp in Quebec city. Let me tell you it's quite a change. I'm progressively adapting to it although it has been hard working without most of my teammates. Emanuel and Suzanne are on internships in Colombia and Panama, Ana and Karla are waiting for their visas and Huberto was busy with summer classes. That means it was mainly me and Miriam (the president) in the office. Happily this gave us the occasion to go do random things during our lunch breaks or to end the days by being "locas" (crazy) in the office. 

The good news is that Karla should be arriving within a week! YAY! That means a new roomate in the house and a new colleague in the office. I'm excited about helping her to discover Puerto Rico as she has never been here. Happily for her, I took care of the moskito issue and we now have screens in ALL of our windows. I am not ashamed to admit that I do give a kiss to my screen everyday because having it just changed my life. NO exageration.

Since you last read me, I celebrated both the Quebec and Canada Days here in San Juan. It was quite random for me to celebrate alone but it gave me a great opportunity to let Miriam know a bit more about my culture. 

On a less cheerful side, I started getting sick about a month ago. After seeing a first doctor that gave a wrong diagnosis (which implies also the wrong antibiotics), I ended up having to go to the emergency room after about 10 days of being sick. I had fever, I was coughing my lungs out, I had body pain and my energy was very low. It gave me the occasion to experience the Puerto Rican hospital system. I can't say I enjoyed my experience. (If you know me, you should not be surprised). I was alone to face a VERY mean nurse that ended putting me on IV in a hospital bed. I ended up laying down in my bed, freaking out because I have a phobia of hospitals when suddenly the power went out because of a tropical storm. It's one of those moments where you think "I didn't think this could actually get worse". Well, life prooves you wrong!. I just wonder what happens in case they have somebody on a breathing machine. After a couple hours, she let me out with a bunch of medication to take. Not only was I regularly happy to get out but also because I felt like an Ice Cube. The AC in the hospital is SUPER strong. We are all freezing. After walking back home in the flooded streets, I spent the next few days taking my medicine, going to work and sleeping. That was it. I was too weak to do anything else. Enjoy the photo of me freaking out hahaha.

That's the moment where my wonderful mom comes in and offers me to come rest at home (Canadian home) so I can eat some home cooked meals, see a Canadian doctor (because second bunch of medication did not work), celebrate my parents 25th wedding anniversary, celebrate my birthday and be there for my dad's cancer detection test. All planets were aligned like she said. We decided to make it a surprise for my dad. Evil us!

Right before I left, I had my birthday party! It was happening at Fat Tuesday (my favorite place) and it was organized by my dear roomate Oriana. It was lots of fun since my friend the DJ played lots of reggaeton (puertorican music I love) for me. I had to nap first, of course, since I had NO energy.  Four of my Ponce Boys (The executive team of AIESEC in the city of Ponce, the office I am coaching) even came down for the occasion. I gave them some training and then took them out to my favourite sushi place to take their sushi  virginity away. The next morning, I was boarding on a plane to Canada.
Photo of my Ponce Boys :)

The week I spent working from Canada was a blessing. I got to see my family, to eat healthy food (and LOTS of sushi because they are much cheaper in Canada. No, I did not say cheap.), to reconnect with friends and to relax. Work wise, I did get a lot of work done since I am in recruitment planning mode. It's a lot of work but at least, it's useful work. I came back to the island last Sunday sad to leave my loved ones but happy to come back to my latin land :) I am such a latina at heart. Going out in a Quebec city bar and seeing how the average quebec guy acts to flirt with girls and seeing how everybody dances alone drove me nuts. hahaha

 Family dinner on my birthday.

Sushi my friend Steph and I made :) YUMMY!

On the way home and back, I had issues with US airways, that was flying me. On the way to Quebec, my flight was delayed four hours because they dropped fuel next to my plane in Philadelphia while on the way back, I also got home 4 hours late but this time for a different reason. The plane that was from Philadelphia to San Juan supposedly got broken and they replaced it with one that supposedly had 50 seats less. That means that 50 people including me did not have a seat that existed anymore. Lesson: always choose your seat in smaller numbers of rows and letters closest to A. As an example, a plane will always have a 5A seat but not always a 2G seat.  Turns out I was not able to give my ticket to the 4 year-old little girl who was left out without a ticket since I didn't have one either. I was truly shocked at the way that US airways managed the situation. Proof that they tend to not use their brain: they told the mom of the little girl 

"Well, Mam, you, your husband and your son, need to get on the plane since you have tickets, we'll deal with those who don't have one later."

"But, my daughter is 4 years'old, she can't stay here alone!"

"Mam, get on the plane now."

"There is no way I am letting my daughter here!"

"Mam, I am so done dealing with you. NEXT!"

Seriously not impressed. I was the last one that was attended when it was time to reschedule us on other planes. Needless to say I spoke my mind. Although the situation did not happen to me, I felt really empathic with the Montreal family. I fought with them until they accepted to compensate me by giving me a 350$ voucher (certificat-cadeau for the french speakers). That's enough for me to shut up :P

On my way back, I brought back sooooo many things including maple syrup, my stuff to make sushi, more clothes (because a girl gets sick of having 10 shirts), poutine sauce, photos, my zebra blanket and lots of stuff for my hobbies. It felt nice to unpack while Oriana was staring at everything with curiosity. It felt really good being back in the house with her. I missed her "shower playlist" (which is the music she plays while she gets ready to go out. 

Now that my energy is still low, I hope to be able to go back to Zumba again soon.

Breaking news:  I found out yesterday that my dad is officially cancer free. This is the best I've had in a very long time!

So, that's it for the updates. Thanks for reading all the way down!
Please leave comments, that way I know you're reading.

Hugs from Santurce, Puerto Rico where the weather is like 40 degrees Celcius. It's SUPER humid today. Do not envy :P



It's a new beginning

I have started my term last Wednesday as the MC VP of Organizational Development of AIESEC Puerto Rico. As you can conclude considering the delay between that date and right now, I have been a very busy girl since then. As a matter of fact, we were hosting our first national conference last weekend (aka 2 days after I started) and I was one of the facilitators. Between the creation of my trainings, the learning of our MC roll call and all the chaos, I had no time to take care of my dear readers.

The first conference, SummerCo, went great. Delegates were happy about the content and most of them felt really pumped when it was time to leave. It was weird for me having a national leaders conference (EB) where we have 22 delegates (aka less than the number of presidents in Canada) :) Here, I have to adjust the way I do things to make them relevant in the scale of this country. We have a total of 45 people in leadership roles. That's 45 people leading this country towards accomplishing our vision.

 The local committee presidents presenting their work at SummerCo 2011.

Speaking of vision, my team and I have created our MC name and motto. We are MC EPIC 2011-2012.
I loooooove it.

Major change in my life, I now have a fan. I became the trendiest girl in the neighbourhood because my fan is black (instead of white) and it has a timer and a remote control. I am a bargain hunter. It might seem ridiculous for me to assign that much importance to a fan but trust me: when you live in the Carribean for a month without a fan or AC, it changes your life.

Random story: On Sunday, my roomate and I had to walk into 2 inches of water to go down the stairs of my building... RANDOM. The upstairs neighbour had decided to clean the staircase and his appartment by pouring water on the ground during 2 hours. All the dust and disgustingness was floating on top of water... That's the beauty of Puerto Rico, you never know what you will wake up to.

The flooded stairs...

Last night I was at the mall, when a small earthquake started. It was a bit scary but nobody really freaked out. So I just went back to shopping when it stopped. Today though, I was in the office ALONE when it happened. Not nearly as fun... It was a small one so DO NOT freak out.

Good news: a guy came to measure ALL the windows of the appartment today to order some custom screens (aka anti-moskito weapon).
Not so great news: a 5 year-old kid would use a measuring tape with more accuracy... he was measuring with an angle...



Recently, life has been like a rollercoaster. In a very short period of time, I have had a sudden and very intense change in my lifestyle. Afterall, most people feel like it's a big change moving out of the house when they do it in the same city. In less than a month I have gone from...
- living at my parents place to living with roomates;
- studying full time to working full time;
- living in a city where everybody speaks French from a city where nobody speaks French;
- having a solid friends network to having no network whatsoever;

This experience is a challenging one. Moving into a new city can feel pretty lonely. Sure there is technology so I can skype my friends or follow their lives over facebook but let me tell you it's not the same. It's all a matter of adaptation, it's where this experience becomes enriching. Because everyday when I step out of my room I end up stepping out of my comfort zone. To all those that I have been harrassing with that statement "Step out of your comfort zone", just know that it never gets easy but the more often you do it, the wiser you get. I used to feel uncomfortable when stepping out of it. I still do but I now have the wisdom to know that:
 a. it's worth it
 b. everything gets better with time
 c. it's the whole point of why i'm doing it. the fact that it's hard makes it life-changing

I really don't wanna feel depressing for you, Dear readers. I just think that it's important for you to know that it's not always easy. Here, my lifestyle is quite different from the one of people that surround me. I don't study while almost all of them do. I haven't started work officially so I'm sort of in a grey zone of my year. Not quite started but already here. I feel like the 2 people who could truly understand the way I feel are my two colleagues who haven't arrived here yet. One of them is from Mexico and the other is from Colombia. They are waiting for their visa procedures to be done (touch some wood please). Once they get here, they'll move in with me and they'll get onto the same rollercoaster ride that I'm on right now. I wish we could all take the ride together but life isn't like this. Timing does not always work your way. You just gotta deal with it.

On the bright side, I danced reggaeton Friday and Saturday night :) things could be worse!


Settling down

I have been in Puerto Rico for five days now and I can finally say that the dust is starting to come down. I have finished unpacking, moving into my room (which included lots of cleaning), zebra-ing my environment, walking in my new neighborhood, visiting my new office, etc. I guess you can't feel at home somewhere before you know your way around a little bit. I now know how to get to Walgreens (drugstore), to work, to the beach, the movie theater, to Marshalls (equivalent of our Winners stores), to the bus stop, to Placita (the coolest hangout place), and back home :P all by myself. Yay!

I still need time to get into a new routine but my room makeover sure helped me feel more "at home". It's gonna take me a while to get into the mood of cooking since the kitchen is invaded by moskitos. Considering the bad state of my legs right now (they are terribly bitten), I need to figure out a strategy to get in there without getting eaten alive. My roomate Oriana and I have started implementing some anti-moskitos strategies today but I'll start taking B12 vitamins tomorrow. I took them before and during my internship in Honduras and they actually make your blood less appealing to those idiots. For those away on internships, note that tip down!

I have an appointment tomorrow with the Department of State of Puerto Rico to make sure everything is fine with my visa and so the officer can check my proficiency in English..... it's gonna be interesting to see how I survive wearing formal clothes when it's 35 degrees outside!

I met some of Oriana's friends yesterday and today and it felt really good to hangout and have fun with some interns (from Mexico and US).  There are definitely lots of nice people to get to know here.

Hope you enjoyed the news!


 My moskito bites...40 just on my legs...

Here is part of new room!!


I made it!

After several tasty anecdotes I will detail later, I am proud to say I have made it to Puerto Rico. I am currently in Cabo Rojo (city on the west coast) to participate to a transition weekend with both MC teams. I have trainings from 8 am to late pm and it's great to be part of a structured transition process (it's one of the first times it's formally done here). I am also becoming more aware everyday of the challenges that await for me.. but I'm constantly putting new tools in my tool box. I will finally see my MC flat (appartment) for the first time tomorrow. Woohoo!!! I received my keys and my cell phone: this is getting real!

More news will come later.  Thanks for following me :)



Tips: Going abroad for an extended period of time

When leaving your country for more than 3 months, the number of things you need to think of grows exponentially. Having to go through the process of moving abroad right now, I am learning a lot about all those tricky things we need to keep in mind. Here's a quick list of tips you should keep in mind when you make the big move.

1. Visa 
As soon as you find out your destination, apply for your visa. This can take a while and it's a lot of stress not knowing when you can leave. It could prevent you from getting your plane ticket at a good price...

Side note: Canadians requesting a US visa can apply for their visa directly at the airport (which means skipping the interview process at the embassy) provided that they bring the right forms with them at the airport.

2. Health Insurance
Check with your province/state about your public health insurance coverage (in locations where it applies). They have strict regulations and it can be tricky finding a way to not lose your public protection shall you have any health issues while you're abroad. Dig a bit more and you'll find out if you fall under certain exceptions (which is great!).. otherwise you might have to fly back into the country not to lose your privileges.. NOT cool. Internships or study semesters abroad are some of the potential exceptions you could fall under.

3. International Drivers License
(PCI in French) are a cheap and easy way to be able to drive abroad without having to argue with the car rental companies or the authorities. The IDL is basically a distinct card that you get that works as an appendix to your regular drivers license. You will still need both as your IDL is basically a translated copy of your regular permit. That means you have to pay for your regular license to be renewed if you want the IDL to be effective. It's not a replacement...

4. Plane tickets
They can be tricky to purchase. Unless you have an unlimited budget, resist the temptation to buy right away or the easy way. To save money, use different search engines, check daily a couple days in a row to see the price fluctuations, compare your prices, your schedules and the number of stops. I found my cheap flight on cheapoair.com. It was my first time hearing about it and I found flights that were much cheaper.

Warning: Make sure you are aware of if you have to do an airport switch or not. As an example, in New York, there are 3 major airports (JFK, Newark in New Jersey and La Guardia). You might have to switch from one to another which is not too bad except when you are MOVING. That means lots of heavy luggage. Not convenient in the subway and everything. In that case, it is wise to pay a bit more but to save the hassle of transfers.

5. Luggage allowance policies
When shopping for a plane ticket, it is smart to take a look at the different luggage allowance regulations offered by the different air carriers you are comparing. A cheap flight with company A might end up more expensive after you add the luggage fees than if you had flown with company B. It takes time to do but it can end up saving you some bucks.. As an example, some companies do not charge anything for the first cargo suitcase but charge 25$ for the second one. Most airlines do charge fees since laws were changed in November 2010.

6. Drug prescriptions
If you are under some prescription drugs, thing about having a little chat with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure you will get access to your drugs while being abroad. Many options are possible: you can ask your pharmacist to provide you with enough pills for the whole trip (which is a lot of pills if you leave for a year), you can also ask him to provide you with a way of confirming to your abroad drugstore what you need or you can also go see a doctor while being abroad and do the whole exam and everything.

7. Legalities
You may want to sign a paper allowing one of your family members to do some actions in your name while you are abroad. In French we call this a "procuration". It's a document that you sign (ideally in front of a lawyer) that states that a person you designate can represent you. Ex. cash in checks, sign papers, fill out official forms, etc. This can be useful while you are abroad with either limited means of communication or potentially urgent needs.

8. Passport
Make sure you have one. If you do, make sure it won't expire when you are abroad. If so, you CAN do the renewal process from there but it's a lot more trouble. You can do an early renewal (like I did) if you prove that you have a good reason to do so.

This is it for now! Hope it will save you some headaches!

p.s. Don't forget to get your ticket for my fundraiser event! Only 11 days left before the big day!


Hope you'll be there!

What: Fundraising event
When: May 11th from 6pm to 8pm
Where: Boudoir Lounge, 441 rue du Parvis, Québec
Why: To cover the plane ticket, the visa and some basic expenses
Cost: 10$ per ticket
Tickets can be purchased by contacting me at this email: dufresne.valerie@gmail.com or by using the button located on the right side of this page.

What this event will include:
- Presentation about Puerto Rico
- Latin dance presentation
- Prizes to win
- and more...

You can't be there but you'd still like to support this project? Click on the donate button at the top of this page... Thanks!


Welcome all !

Hi everybody!
Welcome on my blog. Here, you will be able to follow me during this amazing journey: a one year term on the national team of AIESEC in Puerto Rico. There sure will be ups and downs but, as you know, this ain't gonna stop me!

Departure: Mid-May

To make a donation, click the button located in the top corner of this page.