Sharon: ISEP Service Learning Program in Barcelona (October 2020)

I am grateful that I got the opportunity to participate in ISEP’s Virtual Service-Learning Program in Barcelona to earn invaluable skills beyond the lecture theatres. I was placed in the communication department with the Islamic Relief, overseen by two supervisors, Ahlam and Kinda. One of my main tasks included creating my fundraising for my chosen charity with a specific target. My challenge was running at least 5km every day for 20 days to raise around $2000NZD for at least two orphans.

My key takeaway from this experience was learning how to plan properly. To create an efficient fundraiser, I had to research and plan with lots of detail. Being able to plan systematically has taught me a lot, such as being able to identify any mistakes, then fix it quickly and to retrace the successful ideas and use them again. This skill would be beneficial in the future as many employers’ value this skill.

The best part of the experience is leaving the NGO knowing I did something to help them and that I’ve left a part of me with the NGO. Knowing I contributed to helping orphans get their necessities is a heart-warming feeling. The most challenging part was finding an efficient way to fundraise despite COVID-19. COVID-19 limited some of the fundraising ideas I had, and I knew I had to overcome this by being more creative. Therefore, after researching and thinking about my strengths, I was able to establish my very own challenge to encourage people to donate.

One of my goals was to be more aware of my communication style and the seminar hosted by Maria helped me to achieve this. I have personally, professionally and cross-culturally learned my preferred style of communication. Being born and growing up in a country where we choose to express ourselves explicitly didn’t change the fact that I was taught to express myself implicitly from my parents because of cultural difference. After attending the seminar, it was eye-opening to learn there are different types of communication styles that I’ve never heard of. I am extremely grateful to have attended the seminar because I can distinguish between different communication styles between different cultures. Professionally, I can change my communication style to suit whoever I am talking to. This would be an invaluable skill to have in the business industry because one of my key jobs will be to communicate and negotiate with people from different backgrounds so being able to read their body language will benefit me greatly. Cross-culturally, I have learned that despite growing up in a country where explicit communication dominates, my culture outweighs this, and this has taught me that the culture where one is from determines how one chooses to communicate.

To future students participating in ISEP, I advise you to listen attentively to the seminars and take notes as they are very useful in developing your professional skills. Getting to know other students and what they are doing in the program is also a good way to learn more about the differences in culture as well. Lastly and most importantly, enjoy and make the most of every moment in the program as your time with the program will go very quickly.

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