A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Category: GraceL

Journal Entry #4

The five values that are most important to me are honesty, kindness, gratitude, respect, and courage.   I chose these values because I believe that they are critical for success in all aspects of life – from personal happiness, to success in relationships, to success in your career.  Honesty is the absolute foundation for everything.  You must first be honest with yourself before you can let others get to know you.  Honestly enables us to perceive the world around us with clarity and objectivity and this ultimately allows us to make things better – ourselves, our relationships, and our lives.  Kindness is about treating others the way you wish to be treated yourself.  It’s about doing what’s right, not necessarily popular.  It’s about going to sleep at night with the knowledge that your intentions were pure.  It’s about making sure others know that they are seen and not insignificant in this world.  Gratitude is about appreciating what you have and rejoicing in the story you are living, rather than the one you thought you might have been in.  It is about showing appreciation to others as well, not only for their words but for their actions as well.  Gratitude encourages the good both in ourselves and in others by positive reinforcement.  Respect is about acknowledging differences among different people, whether in regards to class, race, education, or something else, and still appreciating what those diverse sets of people have to offer.  It’s about being able to listen and learn from others, and adopting an attitude of us against the problem rather than a you against me situation.  And courage is the ability to do what’s right in the face of adversity and fear.  It’s about standing up for what you believe in even in difficult situations, and stepping outside your comfort zone to do just that. I chose these five values because I think that they make up the basis of a moral and ethical society in which everyone can have a chance to thrive.

I think that most people in the culture here in the United States think that they align with these values.  But one needs only to look at our political system to recognize that this is not the case. I think our society lends itself to a much more divisive culture, one of mine vs yours, and perceived right vs wrong.    I found that when I lived abroad, both in rural Bolivia and then again in Costa Rica, people were more likely to practice these values. There was less of a focus on color of skin and earning power.   Even during my three-week backpacking adventure through Iceland, I found that the general communities there aligned more with the core values that I resonate with more than they do here in the United States.  I really try to express these values similarly wherever I am.  And I try to surround myself with people who share my core values and hold on to the thoughts that if we band together, we can make a difference.  We can change the world, one community or neighborhood at a time.

Journal Entry #3


Compromising.  I feel as though I don’t use this mode as frequently as others because I often struggle to find a middle ground.  I often feel as though I am either ALL in, in which case that would be my competing, or I don’t really feel as though I have a horse in the race, in which case I would rather maximize group happiness and that would be my accommodating.  I don’t want to be so black and white, but finding the middle ground is hard for me because I feel like I either care about my own opinions A LOT and will push my ideas really hard, or not at all.  I don’t really feel like I underutilize this mode because I feel like my accommodating is my way of compromising – it is my way of saying that I do not feel as though I need to see my ideas through and I am happy to follow the group’s decision.  I don’t believe compromise is always 50/50, there are many numbers in between that still count as compromise.  There are definitely situations in which this mode might be useful to me and to others around me, but I feel like regardless of what the profile showed I feel comfortable compromising in my own way and collaborating with others in these situations.  This mode is definitely useful in intercultural settings in order to show my own culture, but let others show theirs as well.  Intercultural settings are always best when it is a mix of cultures, such as a mix of ideas in a compromise.  Sharing culture and creating this blend of heritage is an amazing way to be proud of where you came from, but learn from the others around you as well.

Journal Entry #2

One of the main aspects of my social identity that feels especially meaningful to me in my gender.  Being the only girl with two older brothers really exposed me to some of the harsh realities of being a woman in this world.  I used to watch my brothers be able to do things, but when it came time for me to be able to participate it was always different because I am a girl.  I am not blaming this on my parents – they were simply protecting me and teaching me the ways of the world.  However, the world itself and society puts these barriers on women and tells them that they cannot always do all that men do.  If anything, I am grateful that my parents and family taught me how to push past those boundaries and do more than is expected of me.

One of the aspects of my social identity that is not as meaningful to me is my sexual orientation.  As a heterosexual woman, I have never really had a deep awakening in terms of my sexual orientation.  In our society, it is still normalized to be heterosexual, and so I never had any real experience that adds meaning to my sexual orientation.

Different cultures place value on different social identities, so when integrating into a different culture it is important to understand their values and how they might differ from my own.  For example, in Israel, a large part of the country’s social identity rested on religion.  In the United States, being Jewish is definitely part of my identity, but it is not something I think about all the time. It surfaces really only around the holidays, when I am often celebrating something different than my friends.  Otherwise, I really don’t think about it much.  But when I spent the summer in Israel, I was acutely aware of being Jewish all the time.  Their work calendar is based on observing the Sabbath, so every decision I made whether to travel or simply go to the market, reminded me of being Jewish.  Visiting some landmark places, like Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall, felt more meaningful as a Jew.  Israel is the country of my heritage, and I couldn’t help but by feeling more connected to my religion there.

I think recognizing differences is the key step when ensuring that people with different social identities are welcomed and valued.  I believe it is often easier to try and pretend as though we are all the same and as though those differences do not exist, but in reality, acknowledging those differences is much more important to making others feel valued instead of ignoring them.  I think by sharing traditions and participating in differing cultural customs with friends helps show others that even though this is not your tradition or custom, it is worth your time to partake.  I also think asking questions shows a curiosity and a willingness to learn and accept.  Knowledge is power. It is ignorance that can often lead to hatred and suspicion. I think engaging others by participation and questioning is an important step to show acceptance.

Journal Entry #1

Culture can mean different things to different people.  It can incorporate religion, tradition, and heritage.  For me, it is a way of connecting family, community and society.  It integrates many diverse entities such as the arts, clothing, buildings, laws, and moral norms of a civilization. In my mind, my culture is Judaism. One could argue that Judaism is simply a religion, but as a self-proclaimed atheist, I rarely think of the religious aspects of Judaism, but rather the traditions that have connected my family. My culture includes sitting around the Passover table with my entire extended family, chanting the songs in the Scottish tunes of my zaide, or grandfather, now long dead. My culture is helping my mom cut and chop the apples for the charoset, stealing the bits of rind that have apple still clung to them. My culture is watching my cousin become a bat mitzvah last weekend, not so much because it symbolizes her transition to adulthood according to the laws of Judaism, but because it is a chance for my whole family to come together to celebrate this milestone event, as they did for my two older brothers, myself, and my two other cousins thus far. Culture is the traditions that connect me not only to my family, but to other Jewish people near and far, not because I believe that God told me to do things, but because the things that we do feel like home to me. Whether it’s finally getting to place that little scrap of paper in the cracks of the Wailing Wall this past summer with other students I just met, or singing the four questions at our Seder table, my culture binds me to my heritage. Because you can’t truly know where you’re going without understanding where you came from.

I have been fortunate enough to have had lots of exposure to various cultures.  At the end of my junior year of high school, I traveled to rural Bolivia and was able to stay in two different home stays over the course of my time there.  Over my gap year, I was able to experience life in Costa Rica, Morocco, and Iceland, and this past summer I spent three months living in Israel.  All these experiences have broadened my understanding of the world and allowed me to grow as a global citizen.  Growing up, everyone around me was Jewish – it was the norm.  However, after beginning to travel, I realized that this was not always the case.  I was so fortunate to be able to grow up in a place where antisemitism was not a reality, however I realize that this had inadvertently caused me to grow up in a bubble.  When living in Bolivia, in a house without a roof, I was able to get exposure to a different way of thinking that was much different from the western way of thinking I had been taught.  I was able to learn the importance of respecting other cultures and trying to embrace theirs as opposed to trying to impose my own.  While the way they did things was much different from the way I did it, it did not make one way better or worse.  I continued to learn throughout my other travels as well.  In Morocco, I was able to learn the difference between a tourist and a traveler.  A tourist is someone who goes to a different country to simply see it but does not make any effort to try to understand the culture, whereas a traveler goes to a country to try to integrate into the culture and truly understand what life there looks like.  I now try to be an open-minded traveler in my day-to-day life.  I have learned that in differences there is no right way or wrong way, and that each person’s individual unique background allows them to bring a different perspective.  I hope to only continue to grow as a global citizen as I travel more in the future.

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