A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Intercultural Journal #5

As I look back on my semester in the Global Fellows Program, I am grateful for the opportunity to have connected with so many people from so many different countries weekly. Through having conversations I have been able to gain an interesting insight into a group that I had not considered before – the spouses of international scholars. A recurring theme that I have learned from discussions with them is the lack of accessibility afforded through the visa process, specifically being barred from working. As some of the international scholar programs range from semester-long to 2 or more years, this can have a significant impact on them not understanding how to navigate American society. An instance that I faced this semester was trying to help one of my language partners navigate getting her license in North Carolina. This language partner is from Japan and her husband’s work relocated her and her family here to the United States. Originally, she started off asking me for advice about how the test might go and if there were any tips that I could offer. The conversation evolved into a discussion about how car insurance works based on observations that I had from when I was in the DMV trying to get my license. For married couples, insurance companies only put the husband’s names on the cards, so even if the spouse is covered under the same policy, her name does not appear on the card by default. At the DMV, this led to a lot of people turning away during their appointments or having the call their insurance company to have them fax over a notice with a new card that has the spouse’s name directly on it. To save my language partner the headache, I let her know about this in advance so that she could prepare and be in a better position for her test.

Due to these experiences, I would say that I skill that I have worked on this semester is creating space for others. As a member of the Language and Communication track this semester, one of my responsibilities was helping to facilitate English Conversation Club and I was unsure of how to approach being a facilitator because I expected a lot of the participants to be older than me. One of my concerns was how to stimulate conversation with people who have had all sorts of experiences with respecting the space. What I learned was to take a step back to let things evolve organically, rather than trying to make an answer for everything, and to also think about myself more like a mutual participant within the conversation rather than a facilitator. Through establishing equal footing with the participants, I felt that we were able to genuinely connect and create a community within English Conversation Club over the semester.



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1 Comment

  1. Ling Jin

    Hi Isaiah, I’m very glad to hear that you learned how to “create space for others” from participating in the program. Space is also a very cultural concept, and different cultures have different senses of physical and social spaces that they are most comfortable with. I hope you can explore how this skill can help you in your cross-cultural interactions outside of the program.

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