During most of the month of July, I had the pleasure of serving as a Fellow for the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication. Throughout SIIC, I built new relationships, deepened my understanding of myself and others, and I learned a great deal of practical skills that will be useful in building bridges across cultures and across differences. This came through participating in workshops as well as living the experience alongside representatives of 39 countries, many cultures, and across a variety of languages. This time was shared with many others. I am thankful for each person who made this experience truly amazing.
As a fellow, I arrived July sixth greeted by the beautiful, nature filled campus of Reed college and welcomed by smiling, yet unfamiliar faces. These faces would turn into friendships that would transform my life. During our first meeting as a cohort, I sat alongside other Fellows uncertain about how much closer we’d become, how we’d work together to provide an experience for participants, and how we’d find lifelong friendships. There was one thing I knew for certain; sitting with people, from all walks of life, who share a common purpose is deeply inspiring as well as comforting.
As the days passed, we learned from long-time professionals and experts who helped us understand the process of Personal Leadership, which was developed by Barbara F. Schaetti Gordon C. Watanabe and Sheila J. Ramsey. Personal Leadership, or PL, is a practice we used to deepen self-awareness. We were prompted to use PL throughout our time as Fellows, which proved to be extremely helpful and has continued to be since I’ve returned home. I am better aware of how I respond and react to others, which has allowed me to become more open to understanding why others do what they do.
I learned some deeply important lessons beyond what I took away from the seminars, workshops, interpersonal interactions, and experience overall. I learned to live as a multicultural individual who embraces all aspects of my identity. I learned to allow myself to be all of who I am regardless of the environment. I have a deeper sense of purpose and direction for my life. Finally, I have learned that if we are to ever make change, we needn’t focus on the loud voices so intensely, but rather focus on the quiet listeners seeking to make sense of a scary, uncertain world by extending an invitation to a difficult conversation. We must be willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of understanding one another. We must listen patiently to those who have differing opinions and prompt them to do the same as we share of ourselves.