Fiza: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate (October 2020)

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic this year, I was given the opportunity to undertake an exciting virtual programme with the help of the 360 international team. The programme was titled, “Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate” and ran for 9 weeks, starting from mid October to mid December. I was required to attend three live sessions with the programme coordinators and students from other countries who were also participating in this programme. As for the programme itself, it was divided into 9 modules, each comprising specific activities such as written reflections, videos, articles and also assignments that had to be completed before the end of the programme.

I truly enjoyed the programme because of various reasons. Firstly, due to its flexible nature, I could complete the modules at my own pace while also studying my courses at university. However, at the same time, my advice to future students would be to manage their time effectively and not leave the completion of the modules to the last minute. It would be a good idea to do small portions of the modules throughout the week so that you can finish the programme by the due date. At times when you feel stressed or find something confusing, your first action should be to contact your coordinator as they are very responsive to emails and will do their best to assist you.

Secondly, this programme taught me many crucial skills related to intercultural communication and inclusive leadership. I was exposed to many new and complex concepts such as emotional agility, empathy, critical race theory, cultural humility, Galtung’s triangle of violence, six personal leadership practices, privilege and many more. An example of a situation where I developed one of these skills was when I had to complete an assignment on the six personal leadership practices. This assignment required me to write a short report on a critical incident that I had encountered in my life. After assessing this incident by walking through the six practices, my view of the situation had changed drastically and I was able to find a way to manage conflict of ideas while working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Such a skill will be extremely beneficial for not just my future career but also nearly in any sphere of life. This is because, in a globalised world, it is nearly impossible to not have critical incidents at some point of your life when working with a diversity of people. However, this skill has taught me how I can find a middle ground with my colleagues or fellows during such tense situations without sacrificing my own goals and visions entirely.

Lastly, I truly enjoyed being part of engaging conversations with other students in the programme during the live sessions. It helped me to not only expand my network, but also gave me insight into how other students from different parts of the world were trying to be inclusive leaders in their own communities. By listening to their ideas and also voicing my own learnings, I believe that I was able to become a more confident individual, and feel as though I belonged to a global community. For this reason, I would encourage more students to partake in such a programme because it will definitely provide them with unique perspectives and a sense of global citizenship.

Sophie: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate (October 2020)

The Global Inclusive Leadership programme by Diversity Abroad. The first time I read that title, I scrolled right past. It might as well have been called Innovative Synergies in Entrepreneurship or some other jargon-filled horror. But COVID-19 gave me too much free time, so I scrolled back and read some more. I decided to sign up once I saw that it was going through theories of leadership and diversity. ‘Theory’ indicated depth and I was intrigued. I decided to give it a shot and apply. I got in.

Nine weeks of online modules on topics ranging from theories of leadership to Critical Race Theory. Three one-hour online sessions. A few written and video assignments here and there. Seemed manageable. Little did I know, this was not going to be an exercise in empty words and jargon – it had substance, and substance takes time and emotional introspection. The first week I discovered that I am a contrarian leader. All the features of my leadership style that I thought were unique quirks fell neatly into this unfamiliar category. My propensity to put off decisions until the last minute was not born from indecisiveness, but a desire to have fuller information and make decisions based on my most recent emotional position. My contradictory views reflected a rejection of binary thinking and embracing complexity. It validated and enlightened my knowledge of my own leadership style and taught me how to leverage the abilities I have because of my contrarian style.

Then leadership interacted with identity. This was the point where I feared repetitive narratives. There were ideas I’d already heard time and time again, but there were also fresh, rigorous ideas. I learnt the history behind some popular buzzwords, for example, cultural humility and cultural competency. It challenged my view that words such as these are inherently empty and almost meaningless. They have a rich history, sometimes a long history. Cultural humility originated in healthcare and is a process that challenges the popularity of cultural competence. It says that, in order to work and live well in diverse situations, you must adopt the right attitude towards difference, not merely have knowledge of the substance of different cultures. If you merely focus on cultural competence, then you may be unintentionally upholding harmful attitudes even as you think you are being inclusive. For example, you may impose your ideas of what a culture believes or values onto a situation without being open to learn from the situation in the moment, or being aware that individuals within cultures may not conform strictly to the norms within their communities. This idea spurred a variety of movements in healthcare and the workers rights movement.

If you are conflicted about whether a virtual programme is worth your time, particularly one to do with leadership and/or inclusiveness, I would strongly recommend giving it a go. Many people seem to think that leadership and inclusiveness are common sense – are things that come naturally that don’t need to be studied. I’m convinced now more than ever that that perception is wrong. If you think inclusiveness comes naturally, you are probably the exact person who needs to take the course and interrogate their assumptions. I sure needed to.

Shisla: U21 Global Citizenship Course (October 2020)

The programme I took was the Global Citizenship programme, which took me about 9 hours in total to complete. Most of this was done through asynchronous activities, and we had 2 1-hour sessions where we met with other participants from around the world. Despite the short amount of time, this programme was incredibly enjoyable and very insightful. The asynchronous activities included thought-provoking material and activities, where I got to know more about myself and the world around me. The two live sessions included a zoom call with over 2000 participants from all around the world. In breakout rooms, we would discuss our Goals, what the course has taught us and how we are going to work towards achieving our goal.

The interesting part for me was finding out about why people choose specific goals, what they have been doing about it, and what they will continue to do. This made me feel that although the world is so large, many people go through the same thing, have the same goals, etc.

The biggest challenge of the programme, for me, was to ‘create’ the time to participate in the live sessions – although this was also hardly a challenge. Because the program was only 2-3 hours a week and could be done in your own time, I personally did not feel that it was a strain, and felt very comfortable balancing it with my other commitments. However, the live sessions were a given time and date, that did not suit me. The good thing about this was that it was not mandatory to participate in both, however it was something that I really wanted to do. Hence, I managed to extend my lunch break at work to participate, and it flowed fine! I suppose another thing that I should mention, which wasn’t necessarily a challenge for me; is the cross-cultural aspect of the live session. I got put in a breakout room of about 10 people, all from different backgrounds. Because I have done a course on communication styles, I found it interesting to ‘read’ the way in which other participants communicated. However, I am mentioning this because I saw that some people found challenging to adapt to other’s communication styles: some cultures tend to be quite shy, while others are quite loud, and if the conversation is not managed appropriately there is risk that a couple of people will be dominating.

Some of the skills I developed through this experience were critical thinking, cross-cultural collaboration, and intercultural communication. Having heard of experiences I would have never learned of throughout my business degree, my mind was opened to how many simultaneous things are happening throughout the world, and how insignificant I am. This may sound gloomy, but it is definitely necessary for a student that immerses themselves in their own life so intensely without sometimes seeking an external communal purpose. It makes you think that what you do in your life is not just for you, it is for all of those around you. And I believe that this is a very special feeling; to feel apart of something bigger than you can even imagine. This made me motivated to work harder throughout my studies and pursue better opportunities, not only to benefit myself, but also to assist in developing the wider world.

Lisa: U21 Global Citizenship Course (October 2020)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

― Margaret Mead.

2020 and its entourage of lockdowns, restrictions and other treats has undoubtedly made us all feel a bit helpless. With the “I’m going to change the world” passion that engulfed us at the beginning of the year slowly fading away, I decided to apply for the U21 Global Citizenship program. I had heard of the United Nations Sustainability goals, but only as a faraway concept with no real life application. Throughout the course, I quickly became aware that this is not the case.

I learned a lot through the different modules, but most eye-opening to me was how many other people were in the same position as me. Students from all around the world, from different backgrounds and walks of life and holding various different beliefs and values all wanted to play a part in leaving the world in a better place when we found it. It instilled in me a new confidence that despite all the lunacy going on in the world, hope is still found where we need it the most: in collaboration to solve our common problems. We might hold different opinions and viewpoints, but one skill that I learned from the course is that it’s okay to admit when you’re wrong and to have the courage to pick up a different viewpoint when learning new information. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulty that lies in swallowing you pride but rather want to stress the greater good that comes out of it, something you that will become very evident in taking this course.

In terms of advice that I would give to anyone interested in taking this course, I just want to say: Go for it, but do so with an open mind. Sure, you can go through the different modules focused on what you believe and ignore the comments of other people, but that isn’t going to get you very far. It’s in learning to work with others that we can make a change, and this course is the perfect place to get started on that. Learn to engulf yourself in the different goals and find one specific goal that speaks to you the most and then use your newly found passion and drive to make it a reality.