A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Month: October 2021

Intercultural Journal #2

So far, we have had five sessions of the English Conversation Club, where we have discussed the film industry, the US education system, the US medical system, driving in the US, and the political system. I feel as though each week I learn something different about aspects of US culture that I have come to take for granted which participants see and think of differently. For instance, the role of public education and higher education in the US provides a higher level of access to opportunities than in other countries, which is commonly called the American Dream. While I considered education as one of the factors contributing to a widening income gap and a shrinkage of the middle class, participants in the English Conversation club mentioned that effort to complete higher education provided easier access to a comfortable lifestyle than might be possible in other countries. Participants cited that films and other forms of media helped them form these ideas of life in the US, while I figured that my perspective was different having lived here my whole life because I did not have experiences in another country with which to readily compare. Consequently, I came to revere my own views of the pursuit and benefits of education a little more critically.

As far as similarities, we have discussed the prevalence of compulsory education across different countries as well as the presence of similar forms of media due to such brands as Hollywood. In small group discussions, I have been able to bond with participants about the Marvel franchise, discuss the subtleties of political activism and engagement, and look at how transportation methods affect travel for leisure. Through these conversations, I have been able to gain insights into new perspectives from participants’ lives and form connections that I am excited to go to every week and continue to grow in a learning environment.

Through these experiences in the Global Fellows Program, I have learned about this common thread that connects different people to Durham. From graduate students to spouses of graduates, to general community members, each of the participants has something of value to add to the conversation. One of my favorite aspects has been engaging through listening and allowing space in the conversation. As a fellow, and thus a representative of American culture, I have learned how my own understanding of the US can be limited at times allowing me to reflect on the learning that I still must do.

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Intercultural Journal #2

When completing the form for the Language Partners program, I wrote that I was a Spanish-learner (I am a Spanish minor) looking to pair with a native Spanish-speaker, so we could improve our Spanish and English foreign language skills simultaneously. Hence my surprise when I was instead paired with 2 Chinese grad students and one Japanese law student. Although unexpected, these brief glimpses into their lives and cultures through weekly check-ins and conversations have taught me a lot thus far.

My Japanese language partner and I have bonded over our mutual ambivalence over Disney, one Chinese girl and I have lamented over the recruiting processes for summer internships and my other Chinese partner and I watched our first college football game together. It is through these shared moments and experiences that we have found the common ground between us and built a mutual friendship.

There are, of course, the differences, and through these we are able to learn more about each others’ culture and perspectives. I have been taught some Japanese and Mandarin, which mirror some of the tones present in the Vietnamese language. I have been educated on cultural norms and passions like k-pop, the best places to eat in Shanghai and the college academic system in Japan. These are the qualitative things that are so interesting to learn about from a person whose life and society these arise from.

What have i learned? I have learned that we are all here at Duke, coming together from all parts of the world because we are ambitious, driven, intelligent people, and after our course finishes we will depart back into the unknown and separate, our perspectives that little bit more enhanced by each other. I have learned that the way we see the world is entrenched in our upbringing and where we find ourselves, but is malleable and can be manipulated easily if we let it. I have learned that Gyotaku is not authentic (but I think we all already knew that). And finally, I have learned to listen, because through listening and understanding, we can incorporate other people’s ideas and perceptions into our own.

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