A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Author: Adrianna DeLorenzo

Journal Entry #4

An interesting challenge I have faced in the duration of the program thus far has been connecting with some of my Language Partners. I was assigned three partners in August and have spent time every week for the last three months connecting with each of them. It was initially very daunting to be thrown into a situation so alien, as I have no background in either Japan or China or in any of the fields my partners are pursuing (one of my partners is a Japanese law student, another a Chinese grad student studying Visual Media Computational Studies and the third a Chinese engineer). Having said this, I have found myself becoming very close to one, yet there is still a disconnect with the other two.


There is a definite correlation to closeness in relationship with regards to whether I meet the partner in person or over zoom, as the one I have connected the most with I meet every week in person. The other correlation is with the level of English, as the same student has the best English of the three. Hence, meeting two partners over Zoom with extremely basic levels of English has made it extremely challenging to build a relationship.


One way to address this disparity is to meet the other two in person. They were both initially very hesitant to do so, as COVID cases were high at Duke and Durham. However, as times change and infections rates decrease, perhaps this will prove to be an option in the future. Another way is to do things with them other than just chat, as English is a strong barrier to the creation of a friendship. Perhaps we could go for a walk and admire the nature or drive around downtown Durham. There are many ways in which we could spend time together in the future without putting pressure on the language differences. Unfortunately, I do not speak either Japanese or Chinese, so this is not a possible method of communication. They are both lovely people doing extremely interesting things at Duke, and I’m sure that with more time and mutual experiences, we can connect even further and understand each other’s cultures in a more profound manner.


Journal Entry #3

I have experienced a number of cultural shocks in my year and a half at Duke thus far. When I initially arrived, I believed I was well-equipped to integrate myself into the community due to my American background and family. However, what I failed to realise, was that even though my parents had American accents, I had grown up in a completely different world. I had no friends my own age upon arriving in the US; hence, I was not prepared for the cultural shifts and norms that awaited me. When pondering upon this prompt, many such examples came to mind. One instance in particular illustrates the extent to which I was ill exposed to American teenage and university culture.

My freshman dorm was populated with many people with the same names. Obviously, this proved difficult for people trying to get to know large numbers of new people, with no clue who each was referring to, without the added problem of having new friends with the same names. When attempting to direct a friend to one person with the name X, I referenced a racial descriptor commonly used in England. Upon using said description, my friend told me this was inappropriate in American culture, implying that I was being racially insensitive. I was immediately taken aback, as of course that was the last thing I was trying to be. To me, this was a normal way to refer to a person, as was the case in the environment in which I had been brought up. In fact, a few weeks later, my friend from home from the same race as X used the same descriptor in a social media caption to refer to him and his friends. Days later, there was another reference to the same descriptive word in another home friend’s social media. I pointed these both out to the original American friend, explicitly demonstrating that this was deemed appropriate in England, and that I had not been aware of the taboo nature of the term in the US. She understood where I was coming from following the examples, and I’m sure she has long forgotten the situation. For me, however, it has remained somewhat prominent in my recollections as I think about the many differences between living in the two countries.

It is very easy to evaluate others based on your own moral and social standpoint. Such social norms have been embedded into us through growing up in our respective societies. What I have learned is that we should attempt to understand why it is other people act the way they do before judging them. They are also a product of their communities. It is not fair to immediately call somebody out negatively without first taking into account why it is they are acting in the way they are. Perhaps we too are acting in an inappropriate manner along the lines of their cultural upbringings. If more people understood the importance of this, perhaps we would have more respect for and harmony between other cultures.

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.

Intercultural Journal #1

There is no ‘one culture’ present in my household, nor in my life. Growing up straddling two global cities across continents, with parents from opposite ends of the world bringing their own unique perspectives on life and child-rearing, I have never seen myself completely encapsulated by one culture. I see parts of myself in many. The main motivation for me joining the Global Fellows Program was to be able to share this unique intercultural perspective with my peers, and simultaneously learn more about their roots. I have already caught a glimpse of this from training sessions, where each Global Fellow shared their own special angles on questions such as ‘what does “ramen” mean to you’. I am excited to connect with and learn beside the other Fellows throughout the year, bettering myself along the way.

Success to me would be to improve my current cultural developmental orientation, ‘minimisation’, to either ‘acceptance’ or ‘adaptation’. My background naturally leads me towards a ‘minimisation’ focus, which means that you see people as the same and don’t believe culture is a differentiating factor between individuals. Due to my self-incorporation of many different cultures, this ‘minimisation’ is essentially innate. A strong goal of mine is to break down this mindset, and see people as products of their culture.

This semester, I have been paired with three different Duke grad students from Japan and China. We meet individually once a week in-person and over zoom to practice English and introduce American culture. It has been an amazing experience thus far, and I enjoy learning more about their backgrounds and culture as well. Overall, I am excited for the upcoming year, and I am sure that we will emerge from this fellowship program even more educated and globally-oriented than we already are.

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