Leanne - Surprise Yourself

Leanne, Bachelor of Commerce

Leanne Yang didn't see herself as a risk-taker. Her goal was to get through school, get good grades, and find a secure job. Thanks to her active participation in a student club, including a volunteer exchange to Mexico and working for an NGO, the 4th year Bachelor of Commerce student has uncovered new skills and talents and found that there are no limits to her ambitions.

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Being happy with being unique

Leanne Yang spent many childhood evenings on the University of Alberta campus.

Her father was a chef at Ho Ho's Chinese Food—a popular HUB mall establishment— for nearly fifteen years and her family would spend a lot of time there. When Yang was old enough, she would take the LRT from her nearby high school to campus and wait for her dad to finish up work so they could travel home together.

“It was so cool to see all these people in their own space, with their own tribe,” said Yang, a fourth-year BCom student.

Yet when Yang stepped foot on campus for the first time as an undergraduate student nearly four years ago, she found herself struggling with what often overwhelms so many university students: a sense of belonging.

“The toughest thing for me was that I wasn’t in any classes with people I really knew,” she said.

But that all changed when Yang took a chance on student groups.

“Joining a club played a big role in feeling like I had a community and people that I could go to.”

Perhaps most significantly for Yang was her involvement with AIESEC, a program that provides leadership and global internship and volunteer opportunities for youth. Through AIESEC, Yang travelled to Mexico as part of a volunteer exchange that had her working with a local organization that works to empower women in situations of domestic abuse to be economically independent.

Yang said her time abroad not only opened herself up to new cultures and new opportunities, it taught her skills that’s helped in many different professional and personal environments.

“That experience made me a lot more patient and open-minded to hearing other people and putting myself in their shoes,” said Yang.

Yang also acted as AIESEC’s local branch manager, an experience that had her leading a team of 40 volunteers, an executive team of six members and a board of advisors. Under her tenure, the team was awarded with the Local Committee of the Year in Canada.

Growing up, Leanne never thought she had the qualities necessary to lead a team. She liked to read, got good grades in school and even received an associate certificate in piano performance from The Royal Conservatory of Music—often practicing three hours a day in high school.

Like many, she believed the misconception that leaders need to be assertive, extroverted and charismatic in order to be successful. And as both a woman and visible minority, she thought it was even more important to mold her personality to that stereotype in order to achieve her professional goals.

“In my culture, the girls are taught to be polite, quiet and to follow the status quo,” said Yang.

But through different mentors at the Alberta School of Business and beyond, she’s learned the value of authenticity and leveraging her own strengths.

“I’ve realized there is a lot of strength in having those introverted traits,” she said. “Having been so quiet my entire life, I’ve learned to listen to people and am better able to pick up on signs.”

However, Yang’s many university successes don’t mean it’s always been easy and she’s often struggled with feeling like an imposter.

She’s been hesitant to ask for help for fear of people realizing she’s underqualified. And in 2019, after her tenure as AIESEC’s local branch manager, she applied for over 50 Co-op positions and didn’t hear back from any of them. Not even for an interview.

“I had what I felt was a really successful year and it was a crushing sense of defeat,” said Yang.

It’s taken many years and lots of personal growth, but Yang’s learned not to compare herself to others.

“You see people doing these amazing things, or having great success, and you think ‘that should be me,’” she said, adding that she’s already secured a full-time position in Vancouver next fall.

And as Yang inches closer to graduation, she knows her journey is just beginning. And it’s her own.


International Exchange

The international student exchange program allows you to live and study abroad while adding an important dimension to your BCom degree.

Outgoing Exchange
Student Clubs and Organizations

Our student organizations are renowned for a strong commitment to linking students to the business community and fundraising for charities.

Join the Club

AIESEC Edmonton is a local committee of the world's largest student-run non-profit located at the University of Alberta School of Business.

AIESEC Edmonton