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

Themistoklis Haris ’21 RGLP Reflection:Embracing Cultural Differences

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Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together 25 student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston, Montreal, or New York City, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. The Spring 2019 cohort spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

An awareness of cultural identity and ideology is relatively hard to develop or maintain unless someone forcefully places themselves in environments where cultural differences motivate thought and reflection on one’s personal biases, experiences, or privilege. I personally thought that the greatest take-away I have had from RGLP was cultivating this exact type of mindset: culture and identity is fluid and differences can only be embraced by being celebrated and vice-versa.

We live in a world which is constantly changing and constantly homogenizing by the drastic forward leaps in communication and transportation technology. Cultural boundaries start to become vaguely defined and leaders need to develop cross-cultural communication skills in order to better serve the international community. In one of the sessions during RGLP, this point was very elaborately stressed and really provoked lots of thinking about how active I am personally in putting my cultural identity into perspective throughout my everyday life and in the social spaces and workplaces I find myself in. For example, primarily due to my culture and the way I was raised, I typically tend to communicate more directly and unambiguously. Thus, I have been recently trying more intentionally to read into people’s facial or body expressions as forms of indirect communication from their part.

Another thing that I was really inspired to think about through RGLP is that it’s OK for someone to embrace and even adopt to some extent cultural elements that are not completely their own. During the Capoeira session, I noticed in myself, but also in other participants, an element of discomfort of expressing ourselves as freely and in an uninhibited way as the instructor suggested. However, after getting more used to it, I found a certain freedom to intentionally modifying a certain part of my identity for some amount of time and trying out someone else’s point of view. The pinnacle of applying this idea was the Montreal trip, which was really didactic and very fun.

-Written by Themistoklis Haris ’21, Spring 2019 RGLP Participant

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.

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