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

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Selina Noor '22 RGLP Reflection: Culture as a Gateway to Identity

As a first generation American-born citizen, I’ve had the privilege to grow up in an environment where my cross-cultural experiences have shaped me and influenced my perspectives on the things that define me. It’s possible to say that a child raised to enjoy quintessentially Bangladeshi dishes like murgi bhuna, listen to Bruce Springsteen on Sunday night drives, wake up at five in the morning to start prayer during Eid al-Adha, and scream her lungs out while watching her hometown football team, the Kansas City Chiefs, score a touchdown has a diverse outlook on the atmosphere around her. I’ve been blessed to be able to incorporate my two cultures into my daily life such that my identity would be incomplete without them. The perspectives I’ve gained while learning about what it means to be a Bangladeshi American with multicultural interests have enabled me to appreciate others’ diverse backgrounds and try to learn more about the connections different cultures share. RGLP helped me understand how realizing that such connections exist is vital to leadership through a global lens.

Sasha Kokoshinskiy '22 RGLP Reflection: A Dual Identity Amongst Dueling Cultures

Growing up, I was always fascinated observing Russia and America engage in a power struggle within the world. As someone who grew up with an American upbringing in a Russian household, I could not understand why these two cultures were always exchanging various undiplomatic tit-for-tats. If the Russian and American parts of me were able to peacefully coexist, why was that not mirrored in the real world?

I came to later learn the various reasons as to why this conflict continued to take place (political tensions post-Cold War, etc.), but I still could not come to understand the lack of cultural appreciation and understanding that people continued to have, from both the East and the West. Just as there were times where people in Russia were inconsiderate of my American culture, there were equally as many times where Americans were inconsiderate of my Russian culture. 

Whether it was making rash, stereotypical comments, not being willing to recognize a certain custom I have, or being ignorant of my dual identity, I have questioned (far too many times) whether or not I would ever feel comfortable being a “Russian-American” in my day-to-day life.

Sam Zhang '22 RGLP Reflection: "Immersing Yourself in Unknown Situations"

It often seems to me that people in the 21st Century are both closer and farther apart. People nowadays are more aware of societies and cultures detached from their own, both geographically and culturally. However, there’s also a certain comprehension that can only be achieved through immersing yourself in unknown situations and places. It’s true that through pictures, one can discover and recognize foreign cultures. However, pictures are only a snapshot in time. The element of interaction is what I’ve discovered to be the most important – through unscripted conversations with strangers, you genuinely understand the ideas that drive them and how they, in return, respond to your unconscious habits and beliefs.

Life does not always go according to plan, and it’s important to accept that reality. However, I don’t believe that a conversation gone astray should be written off as a loss. That’s where the concept of the culture shock comes into play. Certainly, every person responds to strange situations differently.

Sam O'Brien '22 RGLP Reflection: "Recognizing One's Cultural Biases"

I decided to apply for this RGLP because I thought it would allow me the opportunity to eliminate culture shock when immersed in a foreign environment. Exposure of this nature would be beneficial both to my personal and career goals. Initially, I thought that the means to accomplish this goal would be to amend the way I was thinking about foreign cultural practices. In reality, RGLP showed me that the most significant obstacle in my path to international understanding was the way I viewed my own culture.

 

Nate Pucci '22 RGLP Reflection: "Facilitating Dialogue Across Difference by Building Trust"

When reflecting upon comedy and its role in facilitating cross-cultural conversations, Sadhana shared that humor depends ultimately on trust; jokes can serve to challenge our comfort zones and engage us in meaningful conversations as long they are made in good faith. Comedians fill a unique position in society as they are expected to push the boundary and direct attention to issues in a way that does not attack any single group of people but invites us all to think and reflect more deeply upon our own experiences.

In our politically correct and filtered campus environment, I sometimes feel pressure to refrain from conversations out of fear of ridicule. As a white male who has been blessed with a privileged upbringing, I fear that others may be quick to dismiss my perspective or assume my beliefs before I even speak. I’m the first one to admit that my demographic is overrepresented in the media, on boards of companies, and in positions of power throughout our society. But, as an individual, I am constantly seeking new perspectives and challenging my own understanding of the world.

Mia Iqbal '21 RGLP Reflection: "Intercultural Communication in Today's Interconnected World"

RGLP has broadened my perspective on culture and the role it plays in not just academic and professional settings, but the world in general. Our world today is extremely interconnected thanks to the development of technology. We can easily communicate with someone from across the world or travel to another continent in a short amount of time, and although this unquestionably has many benefits, conflicts are bound to arise when there is a lack of intercultural understanding. As demonstrated during one of the RGLP presentations, having the ability to see things from multiple perspectives is an incredibly important skill to possess. A cultural phenomenon could be viewed as sexist or disrespectful from an outsider’s perspective but can have a completely different and positive meaning behind it. This is where the importance of asking questions and giving the benefit of the doubt come into play. RGLP has taught me that we all have inherent biases, but it is important in this day and age to be mindful of the biases that we have and to not let them cloud our judgment and logic. It is okay to not know things and to ask others for insight.

Matt Beroza '22 RGLP Reflection: "A Global Mindset Centered on Compassion and Understanding"

The Rockefeller Global Leadership Program is unique in the fact that most, if not all, leadership programs around the country in various universities fail to address the cultural differences that could inhibit true effective leadership, yet this program’s main objective is to educate and train participants to identify and work with these differences in order to become a more effective leader. I, as a participant, can attest to the mission of the program and its value in helping me become a more open-minded and collaborative leader. Specifically, I wish to address how the program through a visit by three refugees helped me have a more global mindset, centered on compassion and understanding.

Leeza Poselski '21 RGLP Reflection: "Themes of Migration"

For our sixth RGLP session, Becky Field, who photographs cultural diversity in New Hampshire, came to show us her photo projects and speak to us about immigration to New Hampshire. We were joined by three very special guests: Martin Toe, Mmunga Masimango, and Emelyne Niyoyandemye. They were African immigrants who had arrived in the United States either as refugees or to seek asylum.

While Becky’s photographs were beautiful and joyful, the stories of these three immigrants were full of difficulty and strife. I would like to highlight some of the themes of migration which Martin, Mmunga, and Emelyne divulged in their powerful stories.

Martin’s story was about boundaries. In his home country, his parents had met at the boundary of war. His journey was across the boundary of state lines, as he was pushed from refugee camp to refugee camp. And when he finally, unbelievably, was pulled from the lottery to come to the U.S., he faced the boundaries of racism and expectations.

Kristina Strommer '22 RGLP Reflection: "Adaptability"

Adaptability is one of the most challenging aspects of intercultural interactions. This is reflected through personal experiences, such as the challenges of experiencing culture shock, as well as through theory, for example as seen in the idea that we must use accommodation practices when communicating with people of other cultures (see: Communication Accommodation Theory [Giles, 1971]). However, there are several tactics that one can use to be more adaptable in intercultural encounters.

To begin: What is adaptability? In essence, adaptability is one’s ability to tolerate ambiguity and modify actions (and perhaps beliefs) in accordance with the surrounding environment and culture. This requires several things.

Julia Bonzanini '22 RGLP Reflection: "Expanding Notions of My Brazilian Identity"

Surprisingly, the experience that took me the most out of my comfort zone was the Capoeira workshop. As someone who was born and grew up in Brazil, it would make sense that I would be comfortable in engaging in such a major aspect of Brazilian culture. However, because of the vast extension of the country, the culture and environment that I’ve grown up in was very different from that in which Fuá grew up in. I’d only ever seen Capoeira from a distance, or on TV, and the only thing i was familiar with during the workshop was the language. That made me feel very out of place: I was out of my comfort zone just as the other students in the session, due to the very physical and involved nature of the exercise, but I was also confronting my personal identity—how Brazilian am I if I am not familiar with such a vital part of the country’s culture? Is everyone else in the room expecting me to be good at this? Watching for my reactions? As the session went on and I became more comfortable and connected with the activities, I understood that I had a unique opportunity to get to know the traditions of my own country better, even from so far away.

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