Jeffrey Li ’21 RGLP Reflection: “Keeping an Open Mind and Adapting in Uncomfortable Situations”

Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston or Montreal, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. 

Fall 2019 participants were asked to write a blog post, reflecting on the topics and lessons learned throughout the program. Below are reflections from the Fall 2019 cohort who spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

With any new cultural experience, there will be moments when you have no idea how to act or what to say. As such, adaptability is a crucial skill that will help global leaders know how to act appropriately in uncomfortable and new cultural situations. From my experiences in RGLP, I gained a better understanding of “being comfortable with being uncomfortable” and how this cultural competency applies to being a global leader. 

In one session led by Dr. Gama Perruci, the cohort was asked to imagine themselves as tourists in an island nation. The natives of the island performed a welcome ceremony for the tourists and were then asked to interpret the actions of the natives. The vast majority of the cohort believed that the indigenous society was patriarchal and hierarchical after witnessing the welcome ceremony. However, Dr. Perruci informed us that this society actually held values that directly contradicted a patriarchal and hierarchical society. This example shows why it is so important for global leaders to not only hold an open mind when experiencing a new culture, but also be able to adapt to situations that are uncomfortable. 

As a child of Chinese immigrants, I would consistently visit my extended family every summer growing up. Obviously Chinese culture is very different from American culture, so there would be times when I would be extremely uncomfortable interacting with my family. Before I delve into greater detail, I have to preface that my own experiences do not reflect all of Chinese culture. From my experiences in Chinese culture with my family, they would constantly make comments regarding my personal life and try to be involved with every aspect of it. When I complained to my parents, they told me that this was their way of showing affection. Essentially, if they did not care and love me so much, they could care less about my personal life. After their explanation, I realized that I had to keep an open view and learned how to adapt in uncomfortable cultural situations. Adapting in uncomfortable situations will always be a work in progress, and with the skills I learned from RGLP, I know that I will be better prepared in the future. 

-Written by Jeffrey Li ’21, Fall 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.