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

Jaq Hager '21 RGLP Reflection

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I joined the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program seeking tools for adaptation, cross-cultural communication, and a deeper understanding of my own cultural identity. I never imagined the program would open quite as many doors for me as it did! We learned how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, how to be vulnerable in front of a large group, how to approach certain situations, and how best to be a global leader.

During my sophomore and junior year of high school, my mom and I spent every other weekend tutoring a family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in English at their apartment. This family consisted of six refugees: single mother Safia and her five children. After each lesson, we’d spend time catching up as best we could, and sharing our cultures with each other. For instance, Safia once made us a traditional meal of fufu and often shared photos and videos with us from her life back home. In return, we put on an easter egg hunt in their apartment and I introduced the kids to common forms of entertainment in America such as hopscotch and snapchat filters.

However, it wasn’t all fun and games. The first few sessions were extremely frustrating as we didn’t know a bit of Kiswahili or French, and they knew not a single word of English. Communicating with others is exceedingly difficult when you come from vastly different corners of the world, don’t yet have the foundation of a personal relationship, and are unable to chat in a shared language. Our progress was painfully slow at first since we had to begin by teaching them how to write their names, how to tell time, and what common phrases mean. After time, though, our relationship grew stronger and their English abilities soared. I recall feeling elated at the impact we were having and proud of their headway, however I could never shake the sense of discomfort I felt every time I entered that apartment. Stepping into the bustling room made me feel uneasy because I was admittedly too focused on our differences and too cognizant of any blunders I made.

This experience, along with many others, motivated me to participate in RGLP so that I could become more comfortable in situations such as these and improve my ability to communicate across cultures. Throughout RGLP, we were introduced to various leaders in the community and world who taught us adaptability, ambiguity tolerance, how to communicate respectively with others, vulnerability, and countless other skills. As a leader, we learned how critical it is to factor in an array of opinions and values when making decisions for a group. Global citizens should always put themselves in others’ shoes and practice empathy when interacting with everyone.

Written by Jaq Hager, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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