A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Author: Jay Esemudje

Spring Journal Entry #2

  1. Honesty
  2. Communication
  3. Accountability
  4. Respect
  5. Fairness

These are the five values that I’ve realized I value the most in my relationships. Starting off with honesty, it goes without saying that a solid relationship cannot exist with a foundation of lies and deceit. Honesty and trust are vital to the longevity of a connection and as a result, the moment I begin to doubt the security in a relationship, that relationship is doomed. In my opinion, second-guessing locations and motives are a recipe for disaster. Communication goes hand in hand with honesty and accountability: Let me know when I’ve overstepped and I’ll refrain from doing so again. An open flow of communication allows all parties involved to feel heard and appreciated and often, people simply want to be heard out. Furthermore, taking accountability for mistakes and making efforts to rectify them builds trust and confidence between people and maintains mutual respect. 

In Nigerian culture, most of these values are held in high regard by the general public. But by a loud minority, they’ve been slightly warped. You MUST respect your elders…but don’t expect them to treat you the same. It’s not necessarily a two-way street. You’re expected to be accountable for your actions… but allow your elders to dodge responsibility, with the excuse of  “ they’re from a different time”. Always be honest…until you’re in a position of power as we watch our leaders brazenly embezzle millions of Naira. It really sucks to watch the individuals tasked with lifting our nation out of a rut suck the life out of it.

Within different cultural contexts, I do my best to keep my values consistent. However, the saying when in Rome do as the Romans do is always at the forefront of my mind. In environments where brutal honesty is frowned upon, I would be shooting myself in the foot by remaining direct and confrontational. Modes of communication may vary from place to place and it’s wise to adapt to the situation I may find myself in. Paying attention to the values that are prioritized in new spaces may just provide one with a new perspective.

Spring Journal Entry #1


According to my TKI-conflict profile, one of the conflict-handling modes I use less is the Competing approach. Frankly, I believe this is fairly accurate. The Competing mode entails the enforcement of unpopular rules and discipline. As to why I’m less inclined to utilize this mode, I suspect it, in part, stems from the conditions under which I was raised. Nigerian society places a lot of emphasis on the respect of the opinions and ideas of older individuals, even in situations that do not warrant such. We’re often taught to cater to the egos of those that came before us, a ridiculous premise if I’m being entirely honest. As a result, Nigerian kids are taught to listen and avoid rocking the boat. The last thing we want to do is what would be perceived as “unpopular”. I’ve actively worked to dismantle this viewpoint but it often sneaks into the decisions I make. I wish to protect the feelings of others, often at the expense of my comfort. I suppose I must concede that I do underutilize the Competing mode. 


I believe the Competing approach is essential when quick decision-making is crucial. This can vary from times of crisis within a family to internal disputes within a firm. It’s occasionally necessary to put one’s foot down on certain subjects, especially when you’re certain in your stance. Furthermore, if elements of the Competing mode are not used, people may attempt to take advantage of your passive behavior. This is where I find myself struggling quite a bit. As I said earlier, the thought of being the cause of someone else’s discomfort makes me cringe. Hence, I find myself bending over backward to appease people who don’t have the same commitment to me, overanalyzing the comments and cracks I make. Regardless, I’m making efforts to insulate myself from my need to protect others before myself.


Interculturally speaking, the Competing mode allows one to defend their opinions about their heritage, within reason of course. It gives one the tools to discourage others from trampling the aspects of your customs they may not understand or appreciate. Moreover, when making decisions that affect multiple peoples, it’s of the utmost importance to speak up and contribute to the discussion. Those decisions will have lasting effects and the regret generated by not taking a stand will linger. To conclude, the Competing mode is a valuable tool in the arsenal of any individual, useful within day-to-day life and on larger, more formal scales. It’s one I hope to master to the best of my ability.

Journal Entry #2

When asked to consider what aspects of my identity I consider the least, I’m thrown a bit. Frankly, I think it goes without saying that we tend to think more about the facets of ourselves that we aren’t quite allowed to forget about. As a Black man in America,  I have to be hyper-conscious of the way I carry myself. It’s disappointing that the biases people hold toward me purely based on my skin color have very real consequences, but they do. I do have to acknowledge that over my time in the United States, this realization has presented an interesting contrast with the parts of me I was more concerned with back home. Nigeria is a homogenous country and its demographics are vastly different from the States’. Growing up, I was much more aware of the presence of my vitiligo. Compounded with a lack of education on the subject within the general population, I was subject to stares and rude questions. It really puts into perspective how easily our physical appearances affect our interactions within society.


On the topic of components of my identity I don’t consider as often, my gender comes to mind. I’m fairly comfortable in my identity as a cisgender man and as such, I’m afforded certain privileges that trans or non-gender conforming individuals are not. We as a society need to do a much better job at ensuring all individuals regardless of how they choose to identify are accommodated to the fullest extent. The laws that are being passed to prevent trans kids from having access to life-saving healthcare are examples of what we need to not do. We need to realize that there are people whose experiences are wildly different from ours and thus, we cannot expect to fully understand all identities. And that’s alright. We just need to remember to respect them.

Journal Entry #1

To me, culture is the lens through which we view the world. It directly influences the way we build relationships and the ways we interact with the world around us. To be put succinctly, culture is a concept that is intricately tied to one’s sense of self. My Nigerian culture is a vast landscape of vibrant colors and mind-boggling flavors. From the Argungu Fishing Festival celebrated between February and March every year to celebrate the fishing season in Kebbi State to the mouth-watering jollof rice that is prepared at all functions and events without fail, my culture is one of celebration and thankfulness. There’s an emphasis on reveling in the blessings one may be fortunate to receive and making efforts to not take them for granted. There’s a Yoruba proverb that goes “Ọpẹ́ olóore, àdáàdátán ni” which means the gratitude to one’s benefactor should know no end. Clearly, Nigerians are a thankful people. Despite all these positives, it’s undeniable that there are questionable rules written into the unspoken constitution that is our culture: The blind disrespect for elders at the expense of the youths, a persistent longing for times bygone, and consequently, a reluctance to accept change. There’s the fanatic adherence to religious bigotry by the majority of the older population and quite a few of the younger individuals as well. It goes without saying that the culture we hold dear is not one that preaches gratitude alone, but one that subliminally pushes divisiveness amongst its people and this is something that we, Nigerians, need to work to change.

I’ve lived in the United States for about a year now, attending Duke University. I’ve definitely experienced quite a bit of culture shock during my time here. To begin with, the food is…definitely different. I’ve had to adjust to that for sure. Interaction-wise, small talk and such seems to be a requirement, and wearing headphones indicates that you do not wish to be disturbed (Honestly, a valid premise). These are all things I’ve had to pick up over the course of the past year and when I think about it, I realize how much I’ve changed. I’m definitely a lot more open to having casual conversations than I was previously and I really do enjoy it! I’ve learned to filter the things I say occasionally as some things aren’t acceptable here until a certain level of camaraderie has been established, which I suppose I understand. Nigerians are a very direct people but I’ve learned it’s extremely important to adapt to situations other than the ones you’re used to. As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I suppose that is the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far: be willing to adapt. This doesn’t necessarily mean compromising one’s morals but tailoring one’s approach to situations can be infinitely helpful. I hope to learn much more over the course of the Global Fellows Program and the rest of my experience in the US.

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