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

Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

Jonathan Hu '23 RGLP Reflection: Cross-cultural Communication in a Global Context

The advent of globalization has brought about rapid development and opportunities for intercultural exchange at an unprecedented rate. The coronavirus pandemic had also further catalyzed collaboration across borders through online platforms such as Zoom and Slack, changing the way we interact with our friends and family on a daily basis. However, increased opportunities in global interaction has also increased friction between groups of people due to a lack of cross-cultural understanding and improper contextualization of the diverse communities that inhabit our world. Globalization alone has not brought acceptance of various cultural practices, differing opinions, and misinterpreted social constructs even in the 21st century. Unfortunately, the pandemic has actually reinforced stereotypes about certain ethnic groups and created a hostile environment under which genuine discussion cannot be facilitated. RGLP allows for the creation of an open-minded forum to discuss current events, such as COVID-19 and rising violence against members of the Asian-American community.

Ethan Hong '23 RGLP Reflection: It's an Asian, It's an American, It's Ethan Hong

I am 20 years old. I am a 20-year-old male. I am a 20-year-old male from California. I am an agnostic, upper-middle-class, second-generation, 20-year-old Asian American who was raised in Irvine, California. There’s a nearly infinite number of descriptors and experiences which have shaped me, and by extension, my culture and beliefs. To summarize them all in a single sentence would be a disservice to my uniqueness and the same holds true for all people.

 Being the son of first-generation Chinese and Thai immigrants, my culture exists in a state of limbo. Both my parents imparted traditional lessons to me from their respective cultures, yet they have also formed a progressive mindset after living in the U.S. for many decades. Having shared no common languages aside from English, my mom and dad raised my brother and me in a unilingual household where we were mostly encouraged to form our own opinions and identity. As a result, my friends also had a large influence over my culture, the majority of which were second or third-generation Asian immigrants. 

Emily Henrich '22 RGLP Reflection: Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Most people structure their social and work lives to intentionally avoid ambiguity. In the age of information, with millions of Google search results at the tip of our fingers, a lack of clear and direct information may make some leaders uneasy. However, tolerance for ambiguity is crucial to a person’s ability to operate effectively in an uncertain and rapidly changing environment. The best leaders can maintain internal consistency, even as external circumstances are ambiguous or rapidly changing.

Lona Girardin '23 RGLP Reflection: Welcoming Cross-cultural Experiences

I was born in France and grew up on the island of Maui, meaning that I was exposed to a bicultural way of life from a young age. My own culture and the ways in which I define it has largely been informed by my family, our language, and our traditions. I remember being a child and never knowing what to say when people asked me where I was from, as I got older I realized the experiences I was given as a child were truly a blessing. When I think of globalism and being a global leader, I don’t imagine someone who has no challenges to inter-cultural experiences or global collaboration, but rather, someone who recognizes differences and barriers while still working to create productive outcomes. The toolkit for doing so includes countless factors ranging from intercultural awareness and empathy, to open-mindedness and open conversations. Rather than thinking about challenges to globalism, I much rather think about the potential that can come out of these experiences. Cross-cultural experiences allow us to be exposed to people, experiences, cultures, practices, and languages different from our own which facilitates open-mindedness and might help us tolerate ambiguity.

Diana D'Souza '23 RGLP Reflection: Bridging Intercultural Awareness from America to Taiwan

I had my first international travel experience during a two-week high school class trip to Taiwan. After a sixteen-hour flight, we explored eleven major cities, each strikingly different from my hometown in central Jersey. Although we did frequent some tourist attractions (making pineapple cakes, bargaining at night markets, paddling at Sun Moon Lake), there were several cultural barriers that brought me out of my comfort zone. Most obviously, there was the language barrier; I had been studying Chinese since freshman year of high school, but I was still uncomfortable with the language. This was dangerous, indeed, especially in the night markets, where sellers could pick out accents and price gouge non-natives. My friends and I adapted by emptying our wallets beforehand, showing the vendor we had no money, and they’d usually agree to sell at a lower price.

Katie Casson '23 RGLP Reflection: The Importance of Leaving the Comfort Zone

Unlike what seems like many of my peers, the culture shock of going to college on the east coast terrified and challenged me but I have never once regretted the transition and I am excited to keep pushing myself into such situations. I am from a small town in Colorado and grew up in a rather intense religious bubble that became stifling and downright harmful to my young queer self. I had grown accustomed to this little bubble and although in many ways I did not quite fit in, I was comfortable and considered colleges close to my home. Deciding to go to school outside of this town and travel half-way across the country into a comparatively liberal, diverse, and more open campus environment was a really tricky adjustment. I said (and continue to say) ignorant or miseducated statements every day and have learned to ask questions and accept gentle guidance as I re-learn much of what I was taught growing up. When I first got to college these were more major such as the idea that as a queer person I am deserving of rights and respect and everyone around me despite religious, political, or cultural backgrounds is deserving of the same.

Max Feingold '22 RGLP Reflection: Tools for Dialogue Across Difference

My time with the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program opened my eyes to many aspects about myself and the world that I did not know. I talked to people with different experiences from mine and heard stories about people whose lives seemed unimaginable to me. However, my biggest takeaways were the tools I have acquired for navigating differences in culture, language, country, race, or anything that may make dialogue uncomfortable or more difficult. From all of our discussions and lectures, the three main tools that I identified for aiding dialogue across difference were adaptability, understanding of oneself, and understanding of the other.

Victor Wu '22 RGLP Reflection: Dialogue Across Difference

In this increasingly globalized world, we will inevitably encounter people with different cultures or worldviews than our own. Building platforms for dialogue across difference will be essential for success in the workplace or in interpersonal relationships. Through a series of discussions, presentations, and simulations, RGLP provided me with a variety of tools to navigate the complex and interconnected world in which we live today.

I learned how to approach new or uncomfortable situations with a higher degree of self-reflection and awareness. In particular, I learned to take a moment and consider my own cultural biases when meeting someone from a different background, instead of simply going by my first impression. Rather than rushing to a judgment based on my own cultural preconceptions, giving people the benefit of the doubt can be much more beneficial for everyone involved.

Wilson Murane '22 RGLP Reflection: Learning to Improvise

For as long as I can remember, it’s been a personal mission of mine to be prepared for any and all situations. Growing up, I hated improvisation more than anything, rather preferring to spend an ungodly amount of time researching, practicing, or preparing in any way possible, to an unhealthy degree. For the longest time, my mindset was, “never walk into a situation blind.” In general, I tended to dislike unknowns. And in hindsight, this likely stemmed from fear of making a mistake, of being wrong, of not being the faultless brainchild my ego likes to think I am.

Over time, and certainly with the help of RGLP, I’ve learned to tolerate ambiguity. No matter how much I may dislike it, there are experiences in life that can only be dealt with as they come. In reality, the best way to learn is to be thrown in the deep end and forced to find a way to swim.

Ricky Juan-Ramos '22 RGLP Reflection: Dealing with Discomfort

My experience with Rockefeller Global Leadership Program has been stellar. I learned a lot, more than I thought I would, especially about myself and what my identity means in the context of navigating the world. Growing up in such a diverse community, a child of immigrants, I always assumed I had strong grasp on intercultural communication and being open-minded. Being in this program however, showed me things I never considered about my value system and how the skills I use in my daily life are a result of my upbringing. Even within families, those things vary so much, and I think it’s a crucial practice more people should really experience, in the context of growth and in being a more compassionate, functional global citizen.

In today’s globalized society, to have empathy and critical thinking skills when interacting with others, especially when it’s uncomfortable, is invaluable. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in one’s life and forget that other people have such variety of experiences, but it’s necessary because every interaction, whether we mean to or not, can be the catalyst for something. Might as well make it positive.


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