A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Month: January 2022

Intercultural Journal

Completing the Language and Communication track of the Global Fellowship Program has really widened my understanding of how language is central to cultural diversity. After fifteen weeks of interacting with people from different nationalities in the English Conversation Clubs and dozens of intriguing discussions with Yue, I have greatly evolved from the relatively primitive understanding of Language I began the program with. Before completing the track, I saw language as a passport, a point of entry into a whole new world. As many languages a person knows as many cultures can they have access to. Now that I look back on this idea, I can see how naïve it is. Because languages are not tokens out there for collecting, neither are they ciphers for understanding some code. The program has made me see how language is a skin, which encloses the subjectivity of its people. It serves as a canvas for their personal experiences, continually altered by its millions of individual brushstrokes yet collectively representing all of them. More than anything else, a language is a legacy, a living testament of the encoded history and sensibilities of a people. To learn a language is to not merely get access to a culture, it is to bear witness to a cultural experience with all the responsibility that comes with it.

Many experiences over the course of the program helped me evolve my understanding of language. A constant catalyst in many of my thinking was the weekly conversation club meeting where I got a chance to hear what representatives of different cultures thought about common themes. Over the course of these meetings, I could see that the world is so much more diverse than the archetypal understanding of Global North/South that a lot of the discourse was focused on. In reality, culture sprouts in various diverse interstitial spaces and I am glad I was able to see that through the program.

A challenge for me throughout the journey was being a representative of English to Yue. While I have been speaking English for all my life, it is not my native language and many of the questions Yue asked made me see English in a completely new light. I could see how a language cannot be divided into a native/non-native binary and how all of us are somewhere in the middle when it comes to truly knowing a language. I will cherish many such realizations that I have gained from the program and am very grateful for this opportunity.

Intercultural Reflection – F21 Leadership Track

In looking back at my intercultural journal entry from the beginning of the Fall semester, my primary goals were to further develop my intercultural competency and leadership abilities, as well as simply connect with other individuals from diverse backgrounds. Upon completing the leadership component of the Global Fellows Program (GFP), I can truly say that it has exceeded my expectations and ambitions. As I reflect on this past semester and my experiences within the leadership track, more generally, I think that it would be most effective to speak to each of my goals independently.

The first thing that we were tasked with was completing the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and I discovered that my developmental orientation was minimization, meaning that I tend to seek “common ground” and minimize differences in interacting with those of varying cultural backgrounds. Frankly, I believe that every event and workshop held in conjunction with the GFP helped me to further my intercultural awareness so as to more wholeheartedly embrace cultural differences and recognize them as a source of immense opportunity for learning and broadening my own worldview. The Global Trivia Night was an incredible opportunity to interact with individuals hailing from cultures across the entire globe while also exercising leadership within a culturally heterogenous space comprising many different leadership and collaborative orientations. Through these experiences, I have greatly developed my intercultural competency, and it would be very interesting to retake the IDI in order to see what my current developmental orientation is; I think that I would likely fall within the acceptance orientation, which is certainly progress and would fulfill one of my goals from the beginning of the semester.

Beyond developing more personal qualities and abilities, I was able to connect with many different people. It was amazing to work alongside everyone in the 2021-2022 GFP cohort, and my favorite part of the program thus far is likely the Language Partner (LP) component. I met with my LP nearly every week, and we have certainly become good friends. It was fantastic to learn about another culture that I have very little exposure to, and it was also great to help one another navigate such a cultural exchange. Not only did I learn a great deal about the culture in which he grew up, but I was also able to help him to understand various aspects of American culture, particularly within the esoteric realm of higher education in the United States. I plan on continuing to meet with my LP from the Fall throughout the Spring semester, and he is someone that I would hope to stay in touch with even beyond my time at Duke.

The GFP has been exceptional, and I think that this is an amazing program. I have been ecstatic with how things have been going thus far, and I’m extremely excited to partake in the Language Track in the Spring semester. As I’ve mentioned, my favorite part of the program has probably been the LP component, and I am really looking forward to interacting with my LPs and undertaking everything else that the GFP has to offer moving forward.

Leadership Track – Intercultural Reflection

This past semester, the leadership track of the Global Fellows program has reinforced the iterative nature of intercultural reflection. At the start of this academic school year, I focused on two primary goals – self improvement and community impact. This reflection addresses the work I’ve done and how I’ve achieved these goals. 


Community Impact: 

Unpredictable is merely one of the many adjectives describing the events that took place during each program. During our first event, we not only caught the attention of over 40 attendees, but also a bird that temporarily joined our company before being rescued and released. This event brought together students of a diverse background over a shared meal and intense competition of trivia. The smiles I saw that night were plentiful and the relationships I saw form were heartwarming. We also sponsored a movie night to once again strengthen the community within the international/graduate student demographic. This was accomplished as a team effort that allowed the distributed load of responsibilities to be evenly dispersed throughout each member. 

Self Improvement:

As much fun as it was organizing and taking part in the community events over the semester, I believe the leadership development training was just as impactful. Our mentors, Ling and Hal provided us with insightful resources and facilitated healthy conversations that allowed for growth. These skills were highly applicable as I was able to bring our conversations into new settings including clubs. Duke Engineers for International Development and my role as a Project manager is a prime example of this. Many ethical questions regarding the nature of foreign aid often come to play when considering the impact of our projects on a community. However, I was equipped with training sessions ideas and potential discussion questions after each Global Fellows meeting that prepared me to facilitate a safe and informative space. I believe this two step process of learning and applying strengthened my own understanding and reflected the self improvement I achieved over the semester. 

Overall, I want to express my gratitude towards Ling, Hal, and everyone who contributed to this program. I’m excited to continue on the Language Track and for what this semester has in store.

A Letter to Jassar

Dear Jassar,

I remember when we first met, you told me you were surprised to receive a language partner that did not have any native exposure to Arabic. As a Korean-American, I imagine I was far from your expectations of a language partner. From our first meeting, I discovered that we live in a very small world. I thought we could not be more different in our backgrounds, and yet, you once lived near my hometown in Virginia. We frequented the same restaurants. We may have even passed by each other in the mall one day and not even known it.

I can’t tell you my exact reasoning for choosing to learn Arabic other than the fact that I found it interesting. Arabic culture and the language were both incredibly foreign to me, and I was excited to learn about what your culture meant to you. With my lack of Arabic language and culture, I wanted to build connections between our cultures, to find something familiar. I look back on these early meetings, and I wish I had listened more deeply, rather than searching for minute details I could relate to. I hope I wasn’t so eager to draw connections between us that I made you feel less like yourself.

This semester was too short for me to fully know you the way I have known my friends for years, and I wish that I could. But from this semester, I also know for a fact that you are an amazing teacher and friend. Thank you for being so patient and sharing everything you could with me. Thank you for surfing Google Earth with me. Thank you for sitting down and talking to me every week. Most of all, congratulations on graduating; I’m rooting for you!

I’m not fluent in Arabic. I’m not even close. But from our first marhaba to our last ma salama, I have learned more than I ever could have imagined. Come by Virginia often; you will always have a friend here.

mae ‘ajmal al’amniati,

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