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

Julia Luo '23 RGLP Reflection: Vibe Checks and Adaptability

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According to Urban Dictionary, a vibe check “is a process by which a group or individual obtains a subjective assessment of the mental and emotional state of another person, place or thing...grounded in a belief in patchouli, sage, or karma and sometimes veggie burgers.”

As a staunch believer in karma, I vibe check constantly. When choosing a coffee shop on Yelp, going on a first date, or traveling alone to a new country, I pride myself on my perception: the ability to accurately assess vibes. 

Growing up with immigrant parents, my childhood was defined by a hyperawareness of difference. With every passing glance, snicker, and face of shock, I became more perceptive of my behaviors and identity in the context of my environment. Somewhere along the way, I learned what was deemed acceptable and what raised eyebrows, what received praise, and what prompted gossip.

Adaptability starts with simple awareness: being attentive to diversity and differences in belief patterns, communication styles, and cultural norms. I owe it to the origins of my vibe check for my openness to new opportunities; if not for the flexibility of my perception, I wouldn’t have started a conversation with the bus driver about local politics, tagged along with a group of backpackers that barely spoke English, or accepted a stranger’s invitation for dinner with her family.

Adaptability couples humility with curiosity. It’s recognizing the shortfalls of a long-held paradigm in a new environment and respecting those differences with a desire to learn. In cultural contexts, it means deferring judgment: remaining inquisitive and unassuming—perceiving, then adjusting. 

In our ever-increasingly interconnected world, ambiguity and discomfort are inevitable. Addressing the most pressing political, economic, and ecological issues of our time will require a generation of global leaders equipped with intercultural competencies of adaptability, curiosity, and empathy. 

Written by Julia Luo, a member of the Spring 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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