A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Category: LaurelH

Core Values and Cultural Adaptability

My core values:

  • Love
  • Community
  • Integrity
  • Dedication
  • Inclusivity

I consider myself a valued-oriented, emotion-driven person in human-to-human situations. What I mean by emotion-driven is that when there exist intra- and interpersonal matters to deal with, I generally base my decisions on what I feel is best for the people involved. This does not come at the expense of logical decision-making; however, I firmly believe that logic and human interest are intertwined. I believe there exist solutions that can benefit everyone, or at least close to everyone involved. Love, community, and inclusivity are most strongly visible in this decision-making framework. Love manifests itself in the care I strive to demonstrate to each individual. Community speaks to the importance I place on collective decision-making, which feeds directly into inclusivity: every individual should be involved in solution-making, as every individual will be affected by the decision.

Integrity and dedication are two other values that I hold close to my heart. The dictionary definition of integrity, as defined by Oxford Languages, is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” The reason I choose the term integrity, over morality, is because I believe integrity involves one’s broader societal context and community. Integrity pertains to how one acts regarding those around them. It also involves honesty, even when it negatively affects you.

To me, dedication is also a collective value. Not only does it means dedication to your work, it refers to dedication to those around you: your family/chosen family, your teams, your project partners, your co-workers, and more. I believe that in order for our society to work, we have to demonstrate dedication and loyalty (within reason) to those we hold close.

I believe myself to me a more collectivist person than many Americans. This is not to say that I think Americans cannot have collectivist value systems; however, I do believe American culture is inherently individualist. American culture is strongly based in self-actualization, which often lends itself to individual pursuits – sometimes at the expense of others. I base myself strongly in the success of the whole, and what I can do for other people. I think that this worldview is based in my time spent abroad – largely in México from ages 8 to 11. In these formative years, I was immersed in a culture rooted in interpersonal warmth, outgoingness, and sharing. In many other cultural contexts, I focus on demonstrating my values of community, integrity, and dedication. I prioritize showing my care and consideration for others, and I strive to continue adapting this to the cultural environment I find myself in. This means adaptability. If I am in a culture that is less interpersonally oriented, I want to adapt my actions to their comfort level. I want my value systems to be constantly evolving, dependent on my culture contexts, without giving up on the values I believe to be imperative. I also want to expand my values, because I believe every culture has strong values that run deep. In my time abroad, I seek to incorporate new schools of thought into my worldview.

Fighting Competition: Grappling with Conflict Styles

I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly confrontational person. I participated in debate in high school – I believe that this experience trained me in how to handle conflict in a controlled, supervised setting. This setting, although highly constructive, could not be farther from real life. I prefer to handle conflict through accommodation and compromise – listening to the other side, and sacrificing what I can in order to bring our dispute to a close. Recently, I’ve been grappling with the notion that I don’t always have to sacrifice when conflict arises. There exist ways for me to ensure that my beliefs, needs, and desires are met, while still keeping the peace. These ways fall under the umbrella of what I would like to call constructive competition.

Constructive competition. What an idea. This was an idea originally introduced to me by my speech and debate coach in tenth grade. As a student officer, I was tasked with helping build team programming and run practices. Our officer team was almost always in agreement, generally agreeing with any idea put forth by one of our members. Our coach called us out on that, asserting that we needed to speak up when we disagreed. Even if it ended in a yelling match, he argued that our conflicts would bring us more closely together as an officer team and result in better ideas and programs for our team as a whole.

I’ve shied away from competition in conflict settings because I’ve always put myself into the role of peacemaker. For a long time, I considered competition to be antithetical to peace. For a long time, I would have preferred to smooth ruffled feathers and make concessions on my end, because I knew that I would be able to roll with it. However, I’ve come to realize that sometimes, what I concede isn’t the right thing to give up. Sometimes, what I am advocating for is more important. Of course, importance is subjective, but there are situations when the lines between objectivity and subjectivity are blurred.

Being a peacemaker does not mean conceding whatever is needed. Being a peacemaker means seeing the lay of the land and recognizing what can and should be sacrificed and what must be protected at all costs. This means that I must be competitive in my handling of conflict – competitive in the sense that I vocalize my perceptions and ideas, to ensure that important matters do not get brushed under. My process of handling conflict is constantly evolving, and this singular short post cannot do justice to all possible methods employable. As always, I am open to dialogue and reconstructing my worldview, to become the best global citizen I can be.

Age and Youth in Intercultural Contexts

*Trigger warning: reference to gun violence, murder*

Upon taking the time to reflect, I realized that my age influences my life – in ways that I wouldn’t have expected. Living in the United States for high school, from 2017-2021, I witnessed many youth-led or youth-involved social movements. March for Our Lives came about during my freshman year, following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Conversations about mental health, including within my own high school, skyrocketed. When COVID-19 hit, youth urged one another and their families to stay home and stay safe. When George Floyd was senselessly murdered, young people joined their voices with the Black Lives Matter movement. Before moving any further, I believe it is important to acknowledge that youth did not necessarily start all of these movements, but often played a role in supporting and amplifying them. I also do not want to diminish the youth who did establish and lead these movements. Ultimately, I want to acknowledge the important role that each of these movements played during my high school years. They inspired me, because I saw myself in the young changemakers participating. For a long time, I believed that because I was in high school, I couldn’t enact actual change. I thought that college was when the doing began. The youth in these social movements showed me that my age could be power. That I could use my youth and energy to fuel movements for what I was passionate about. Yesterday, at a Social Innovation Around the World panel hosted by Duke-UNICEF, social entrepreneurs recommended that if anyone wanted to start an entrepreneurial venture, or to innovate and create something, or to establish a start-up, the key was to start young. Youth can be power. It is a source of boundless energy, of resilience, of strength, and of innocence. Innocence in particular is important. We see the world without jaded eyes. We can see other options, other possibilities, other hopes that people have otherwise abandoned. I am grateful for my age as a source of inspiration and motivation.

In different social contexts, age is an important factor for understanding how to conduct yourself with others. During my time in Mexico and France, age was never extremely explicitly discussed; however, it was understood that you should respect adults. Particularly in an educational context throughout my life, respect was and has always been given to teachers. I believe this was instilled in me throughout my time abroad. Returning to high school in the United States, I was struck by the number of people that I witnessed speaking confrontationally to teachers. That being said, I recognize the importance of challenging authority when something being said is incorrect. Moreover, sometimes when students lash out, it can be because of motivating factors totally external to student-teacher dynamics. However, there were still multiple cases that I witnessed, either of direct confrontation or of backtalk, when students were doing so just to appear “cool.” I think this can come as a shock to various cultures, such more collectivist cultures in East Asia that place a high value on respect for older generations and their wisdom.

It is precisely these cultural differences in values and global perspectives which influence how others’ social identities are perceived. We must be conscious of how each culture approaches values and identities – certain cultures appreciate different elements of identity more and less than others. To build intercultural spaces that welcome, acknowledge, and value all social identities, we must begin by trying as hard as we possibly can to learn about each culture and individual’s background. By understanding the forces that have shaped people’s identities, we ourselves can better understand how to interact with, appreciate, and respect them. We must take it upon ourselves to learn. These processes start with us.

What defines your culture(s)?

I had never previously thought extensively about my cultural identity in terms of labels, or names, or titles. I simply knew that I had lived the greatest experience of life, as a resident of Querétaro, México and Clermont-Ferrand, France throughout my youth. My father works for the tire company, Michelin, which holds its world headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand. For his work, my family moved to Clermont-Ferrand when I was in 6th grade. We lived there for three years, in which I attended a French school with various other students – not only from France, but also from Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Serbia, Spain, and more. I was both immersed in French culture and learning about other European cultures, and I am forever grateful for this expansive, enriching experience. Prior to France, my family lived in Querétaro, México for my father’s work as well. I lived there from 2nd through 5th grade, attending a Mexican-American school alongside students from México, South Korea, and Spain.

Living abroad at such a young age truly influenced my worldview, my personality, and what I want to do with my life. In México, since I was around 10 years old, I was still a child. When we are children, we view the world through a much more innocent, arguably clear perspective. I was able to enjoy the beauty of the country and the kindness of Mexican people without any adult worries. I credit this childhood experience for infusing me with an excitement and love for other cultures. This was the root of my passion for pursuing area studies in college. I am currently majoring in International Comparative Studies, with a concentration of China and East Asia. I believe that it is imperative to learn about a culture, its history, its current traditions, its language (or languages), and how it has evolved, in order to be a more ethical presence in said culture’s country or countries.

While living in France, I began to gain a political consciousness. I was present when the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting occurred, and I saw how the country responded. I also saw how French people of European roots could be discriminatory toward French people of Middle Eastern roots. As I grew older, I understood how French politics and policy supported and even amplified this discrimination. During my time there, I also had the privilege of visiting the United Nations in Geneva. I listened to a tour guide speak about the treaty ending the 1991 Gulf War, and I realized that building intercultural understanding and ending international conflicts was a career that was feasible, realistic, and even likely for me to pursue. I credit my time in France for inspiring me to pursue a major in Public Policy, exploring how to create policy that is beneficial for all demographics.

Today, as a student at Duke University who spent her four high school years in Greenville, South Carolina, I am reflecting on my culture – or cultures. I do not identify with a particular single culture, but rather a combination of different aspects of the cultures of each place that I have had the honor of living. For me, I identify my cultures through the personality traits that I gained from each place. I have adopted the vibrant, outgoing, celebratory aspects of Mexican culture. I have adopted the thoughtfulness and dedication of the French. I have adopted the go-getting initiative of people of the United States. Now, this is not to say that French people cannot be celebratory, that Mexican people cannot be go-getters, or that American people cannot be dedicated. They can. They are. Every culture exhibits a vast array of incredible characteristics that overlap and intertwine in incredible ways. I find myself at this intersection. I do not know how to put a label to my culture(s), but I do know that I do not need to. I’m in the middle of an exploration of who I am and how the world influences me.

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