The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Global Leadership Program in Montreal: Embrace the Ambiguity

18S RGLP Montreal

The Spring 2018 RGLP cohort spent a weekend in Montreal as part of the program's culminating experience.

18S RGLP Montreal

Program participants dine together at a local Brazilian restaurant in Montreal.

18S RGLP Montreal

Students learn from Seeing Voices Montreal (SVM) about the unique deaf experience in Montreal due to the mix of English, French, ASL, and LSQ (Langue des Signes Québécoise).

18S RGLP Montreal

The agenda for the RGLP culminating experience is purposely ambiguous in order to mirror the nuances of intercultural communication.

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Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together 25 student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston, Montreal, or New York City, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. The Spring 2018 cohort spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

We boarded a bus to Montreal, unaware of what to expect. The skeleton of an itinerary gave no details for the trip to ensue. We were told to “embrace the ambiguity” and go into the weekend with open minds.

We began the adventure by eating dinner at a local Brazilian restaurant in Montreal. The restaurant featured a wide variety of meats from the chicken to beef to pork to even chicken heart. This gave our group a chance to bond in a setting outside of our weekly sessions. During the fifth week of the program, we participated in a session on Capoeira, a Brazilian style of dance that has a heavy martial arts influence. The restaurant choice was a nice reminder of our experience learning a few moves of Capoeira and songs in Portuguese.

On Saturday morning, Seeing Voices Montreal (SVM) gave a presentation about the deaf community in Montreal. SVM hosts educational programs and shares resources for members of the deaf community. We were taught the alphabet and a few basic phrases in American Sign Language (ASL). We discussed a few of the perceived differences between members of the hearing and deaf communities. It was interesting to learn about the experiences of the deaf community in Montreal because of the mix of English, French, ASL, and LSQ (Langue des Signes Québécoise).

To push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we ate lunch completely in the dark. Onoir restaurant features a pitch black dining experience to give dinners the experience of being blind, like the entire wait staff.

Initially, I fumbled to find my water glass and silverware. I tried to put butter on my bread but was unable to spread it. Everyone started laughing about the difficulty of finding silverware on the table. After salads, the tone of the meal began to shift. As we began to eat our entrees, some people fell silent while others used their lack of sight as a reason to overcompensate by talking more. The conversation at my table shifted to surprisingly personal subjects. If we were able to see each other, the conversation topics would have been completely different. Some people clearly felt uncomfortable by not being able to see the other students during the meal. For me, it became oddly comforting to be in the dark by the end of the meal.

Next, we were split into teams, given a map and a public transportation pass, and thrown into a scavenger hunt across the city. Our group ran around the entire city from Chinatown to Greektown, the Museum of Fine Arts, and even to the Olympic Village. By traveling around the city together, I was able to learn about the members of my team and their experiences on campus. We discussed current events and the perceived impact on the people in the neighborhoods we visited.

In an earlier session, we talked about the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) which provides a framework for discussing the levels of intercultural awareness. Through RGLP, we pushed ourselves from monocultural to intercultural mindsets. With the mix of French and English, Montreal felt like the perfect city for discussing intercultural communication to me. The wide array of sessions throughout the term all culminating in exploring a new city by learning about the various cultural groups.

The culminating experience for RGLP is shrouded in mystery. By embracing the ambiguity, I was able to bond with the other members of my cohort and explore a new city. By not knowing the schedule in advance, I was forced to jump right in instead of focusing on details. RGLP has provided an opportunity for me to further the “high” of study abroad by learning about the frameworks for intercultural communication and competency. I was able to reflect on my experiences over the past few terms and further develop my identity.

-Written by Celeste Kearney ’19, Spring 2018 RGLP Participant and Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Communications

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