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

Lona Girardin '23 RGLP Reflection: Welcoming Cross-cultural Experiences

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I was born in France and grew up on the island of Maui, meaning that I was exposed to a bicultural way of life from a young age. My own culture and the ways in which I define it has largely been informed by my family, our language, and our traditions. I remember being a child and never knowing what to say when people asked me where I was from, as I got older I realized the experiences I was given as a child were truly a blessing. When I think of globalism and being a global leader, I don’t imagine someone who has no challenges to inter-cultural experiences or global collaboration, but rather, someone who recognizes differences and barriers while still working to create productive outcomes. The toolkit for doing so includes countless factors ranging from intercultural awareness and empathy, to open-mindedness and open conversations. Rather than thinking about challenges to globalism, I much rather think about the potential that can come out of these experiences. Cross-cultural experiences allow us to be exposed to people, experiences, cultures, practices, and languages different from our own which facilitates open-mindedness and might help us tolerate ambiguity. The process of progressing as a global leader is long-term and requires consistent work; it is not a linear journey with a set destination. Our entire lives can be spent working towards becoming better, more tolerant, versions of ourselves in order to create safer, more open, spaces in which all people can feel welcomed. Being adaptable in these kinds of cross-cultural experiences includes maybe feeling uncomfortable, recognizing it, and choosing to proceed and improve. This skill is extremely important in a professional context as well. As nations work and do business with one another more than ever before, these experiences have become increasingly common. Welcoming cross-cultural experiences with open arms is more than just a one-time occurrence, I’ve come to learn that it’s a lifelong process that helps create more tolerant, open-minded individuals which ultimately improves our world as a whole. 

Written by Lona Girardin, a member of the Spring 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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