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

Mia Leko '22 RGLP Reflection: Cross-cultural Experiences

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Cross-cultural experiences broaden our view of what ‘normal’ is. By being too closed off into one’s own culture, ethnocentrism takes over. Having cross-cultural experiences, especially at a young age, teaches people about different customs, languages, foods, ideas, religions, etc. The list of understandings that a person gains through having a simple conversation with someone outside their culture is endless. It’s an awesome and easy way to learn about the world without actually traveling the world. This is why programs like study abroad are so important. It’s easy to learn about a culture by sitting in a classroom and having someone teach about a specific country. However, it’s a whole another experience to be able to travel to that place and get to talk to people from that culture.

Cross-cultural experiences teach us to better tolerate ambiguity because as you realize that your culture isn’t the ‘normal’ culture, you realize that there is no set standard for what is right and what is wrong. You become more open and more aware of differences from you and others. Being ambiguous requires practice. It is not natural to be a judgement free person because that’s what we do as soon as we meet someone, we recognize their differences. However, tolerating ambiguity teaches us to value these differences and to learn from them.

This idea of cross-cultural differences and tolerating ambiguity are relevant in the workplace because you never know who you might end up working with. It might happen to be a group of people with very similar culture. However, it might be a group of people from all around the world. And if it’s the latter, it’s important to have experienced differences and have learned how to communicate and work in a diverse team effectively.

Written by Mia Leko, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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