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

MLDP Recap: "Developing a Global Mindset" with Christianne Wohlforth

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Equipped with several decks of cards and 30 minutes of time, Christianne Wohlforth lead us recently in an activity that recreated the feelings associated with first time cross-cultural immersion. It was an eye-opening experience that served to illustrate points she would later emphasize in her formal presentation on cultural awareness.

Wohlforth is the director of the Montgomery Fellows Program at Dartmouth College and directed our session on "Developing a Global Mindset." The goal of her activity was to help us understand this global mindset and how it can enhance our effectiveness in cross-cultural settings. We discussed how our personal values, life experiences, and social baggage can affect our experience when we are exposed to new cultures and cultural norms. We also discussed the intercultural sensitivity continuum, a spectrum that marks the various stages of one's sensitivity to other cultures.

This material was especially beneficial when I analyzed my own personal baggage and sensitivity to unfamiliar cultures. In particular, Wohlforth's presentation made me think of my experience transitioning to Dartmouth from my small, accelerated, public high school in Inglewood, California. I lived in a predominantly middle class, African American neighborhood where I was comfortably immersed in familiar cultural practices. After high school graduation, I found myself leaving everything and everyone I knew behind as I flew across the country to Hanover. In doing so, I was exposed to various nationalities and challenging social customs. It was difficult for the first few years for me accept this new place and its culture. Only when I enrolled in an exchange term for several months did I truly begin to appreciate the people and resources available to me at Dartmouth.

I learned during Wohlforth's presentation that people adjust to new cultures at different rates, and we each have different levels of cultural sensitivity that shape our experience. Her presentation solidified what I realized during my time away from Dartmouth. We must "recognize that being effective in different cultural context begins with being really aware of yourself." Moving forward, I will surely keep this information in mind as I continue to encounter new cultures, people, and places in the next stage of my adult life.

--Janelle Ross '14, MLDP Spring 2014 Participant

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