A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Author: Alvaro Fernandez da Ponte

Values and Culture

As a Spanish-American student, I believe that cultural diversity is a critical aspect of creating a vibrant and inclusive society. In my opinion, the five values that are most important to me are:

  1. Respect: I believe that showing respect to others is one of the fundamental aspects of building strong relationships. Respect involves recognizing and valuing the differences in other people’s beliefs, opinions, and traditions. It is an essential ingredient for creating a culturally diverse and inclusive community.
  2. Open-mindedness: Being open-minded means being willing to consider new ideas and perspectives. This value is critical in a diverse society because it allows us to learn from others and broaden our own perspectives.
  3. Empathy: Empathy involves putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and understanding their feelings and perspectives. It is a crucial value for creating a more compassionate and understanding society.
  4. Integrity: For me, integrity means being honest and transparent in all my actions and decisions. It is a value that I believe is important for building trust and respect in all my relationships.
  5. Inclusivity: Inclusivity means creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of their cultural background, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. This value is essential in building a diverse and vibrant community that values and celebrates differences.

These personal values align with the broader values of my culture. In the Spanish-American culture, respect for others, hospitality, and inclusivity are highly valued. These values are often reflected in the warm and welcoming nature of the Spanish people.

However, I express these values differently in different cultural contexts. For example, in the United States, I may need to be more assertive in expressing my opinions and ideas, whereas in Spain, I may need to be more patient and respectful of others’ perspectives.

In cultural contexts where these values are not prioritized, I would navigate them by staying true to my values while also being respectful of the cultural norms of the context. I would seek to understand the cultural context and learn from it while also being true to my own values and beliefs. I would also look for opportunities to educate others about the importance of cultural diversity and the values that underpin it.

Journal #2

The aspect of my social identity I feel most intertwined with must be my ethnicity and race. To me, being Hispanic signifies the history of my ancestors, and with that label, I can eternally connect myself to them. Not only does it fascinate me to think that people like me started the cultures and traditions that me and my family today celebrate, but furthermore, it also connects me with other people who share my same ethnicity in the fact that we share the lineage of cultures, practices, foods, religious views, etc. To add on, race is another aspect of my social identity that is meaningful to me due to the prevalence it plays in my day-to-day life. The discourse around race is rampant, especially with the privileges that come along with being white. America is highly polarized with regard to race, and we may not come to a consensus any time soon on the role race should/does play in our society. These aspects of my identity are highly discussed in my environment and therefore are at the forefront of my mind. Subsequently, other aspects of my identity that play a lesser role or are not as discussed are less meaningful to me. For example, my able body is not something that I take into account and could even be considered to be an aspect of myself I am ungrateful of. My friend group presents a vast array of races and ethnicities, but we are all able-bodied, therefore conversations that would occur in friend groups with a multitude of body times don’t occur. Discussions like the ones we partake in Global Fellows bring these topics to light and help us realize the inequity of the world around us from more than the mainstream categories. 

Journal Entry #1

Culture to me is the intergenerational inheritance of traditions and knowledge that shapes our perspective of the world around us and how we internalize our environment. No single individual experiences every aspect of society, due to specific personal experiences limiting the number of things we have done. If I never break my arm, I can only emphasize with people who have to a certain degree. However, I would take it a step further and state that even amongst individuals who encounter the same experience, our perspective and what we draw from said experiences can differ if we all come from different cultures. Culture is one of the key defining factors, if not the defining factor, on how we view the world.

For example, I was born in Spain and raised in a very Spanish household that upheld many Spanish traditions and customs. Beyond the evident, such as language differences and the like, Spanish people have certain underlying tendencies that round out the edges of my culture and differentiate us from others. Firstly, the Spanish lifestyle prioritizes leisure and family over everything else. Foiling the capitalistic, hustle-and-bustle of American life, Spanish culture is all about the indulgement of life with family and friends. It is not uncommon to go out to long lunches with co-workers during the day, stay out late at bars and terrazas drinking and eating with friends, or joke and laugh with those nearest and dearest to you while enjoying some tapas and watching football. Spanish culture revolves so little around work and so much around vices that we are infamous for our siestas which are composed of napping for hours in the middle of the day after taking in vast quantities of food. 

Eventually, my family and I moved to the U.S. and I encountered other cultures that differed from my own. These new cultures presented new perspectives to view the world, ranging from everything to outward affection, respect for elders, new religions, and new foods. At first, I clashed with these cultures as I struggled to understand the angle from which other people were coming from, with some of their actions being offensive in my culture and vice versa. Eventually, however, American culture started to rub off on me as I assimilated, and helped me create this interesting blend where I am now comfortable in both cultures and they both feel like my own. Yes, I still enjoy the occasional siesta but at the same time, barbecuing and watching football on Sunday have become routine parts of me and my family’s lives.

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