Like many fellow students, I’ve missed out on studying abroad due to the pandemic. That being said, understanding how to be a global citizen is still vital, and participating in AFS Global Competency will help develop the knowledge and skills for when the world starts moving again. Before applying, I read many excellent recommendations from AFS Intercultural Programs, and I’m so thrilled the 360 International Team facilitated this opportunity. Thank you to everyone!
The AFS Global Competence Certificate is an 18 module video-based learning program that develops intercultural competencies and helps students deal with cultural adjustments, such as self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and bridging across differences, to name a few. All key educational goals are essential to navigate today’s diverse world, whether you are preparing for a semester abroad, a global internship, or want to stand out in the job market where diversity and cultural intelligence are essential. An online discussion board complimented these videos with both past and current students from the program, as well as live discussions facilitated by Rosie, a fantastic lecturer from Massey who made sure us students from all over the world were included in sharing our thoughts and opinions with the group.
One of the more compelling modules (in my opinion!) was learning about stereotypes versus generalisations – while stereotypes are harmful and often damaging simplified descriptions of people from different cultures, generalisations help us prepare for an appropriate first encounter. For example, individuals from individualistic cultures and collectivistic cultures often value different things. They have very distinct social frameworks, similar to how conflict in hierarchical cultures differs from egalitarian cultures. It was also interesting to learn about different common communication styles between cultures. High context communicators read between the lines, are non-verbal and direct, and may need to build trust to communicate directly. Low context communicators express straightforwardly, explicitly conveying a message and pay attention to words rather than environment or context. Everyone has that friend who is very blunt but has a large heart, just as everyone has that friend who dislikes conflict and prefers to speak in metaphors to keep the harmony. Whether you are a fan of tough love or reading in between the lines, this module will shed some light on why we communicate the way we do. There is a connection between individualism and low context styles, and collectivism and high context styles – while this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, I think it’s a fantastic thing to keep in mind when travelling or working with people from different cultures to inform your behaviour. The module concluded with practical tips for low context communicators to adapt to high context communications styles and vice versa, which effectively brings theoretical concepts into the real world for tangible situations.
The bottom line: don’t let travel bans stop your career! This program will help strengthen your soft skills like team collaboration, tolerance and creativity, and independence because it’s up to you to manage your time before the following discussion group. Taking part in this virtual program will also help strengthen adaptability and cultural awareness, all of which are pursued by employers but can best be learned beyond the traditional classroom setting.