Hi, there readers!
My name is Linden and I studied abroad with CISabroad in Thailand last Spring. In this blog post, however, I won’t be talking about my INCREDIBLE time in Thailand. Instead, I’ll share where the experience has brought me since then.
As a CISabroad Alumni Ambassador, I was lucky enough to be sponsored by CISabroad to attend the Diversity Abroad Conference Global Student Leadership Summit this March in Boston.
This year’s conference focused on equity and opportunity through inclusive global education. The leadership summit took this a step further by having the students reflect on their own identities and how they were challenged during their time abroad. We then used these reflections in workshops geared towards helping us develop our leadership identities and think about how we can use our stories to make an impact on our campuses, our communities, and beyond.
For all those study and intern abroad alumni who didn’t get to go to this summit but want some help thinking about their identities in relation to their time abroad, here are my 5 BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS from the Global Student Leadership Summit this year:
1.Reflect, reflect, reflect
Study abroad is an exceptional experience because the physical part of it ends, but the mental part doesn’t. You will leave your host country and return home, but the memories, challenges, and triumphs stay with you. These will continue to manifest in different ways throughout your life and new experiences you have. Reflecting on your experience abroad can help you understand them in different ways as well as show you different parts of your time you may not have seen before.
In the first part of the conference, we used the Social Identity wheel above to talk about our identities and how we experienced them differently when we were abroad. It’s really useful to take a step outside of your personal experience and think about how all these different aspects of who you are affect your lived experience, especially in a new context like a foreign country or when you return home after being abroad.
Learn more about using the social identity wheel as a learning activity and download a worksheet.
2. Make authentic connections
It can be overwhelming when getting settled into your host community when there are so many new things to take in. In your time abroad among the sensory overload, work hard to make pure connections with people. Take time to understand someone who is different than you, this is how real communication begins. Take this beyond your study abroad experience with classmates, teachers, and recruiters. Always see the human in someone first, and go from there.
3. Define your core values, but give yourself room to let them change
Core values are essential beliefs that can help a person dictate between right and wrong, its an expression of who you are and what is important to you. Clearly defining your core values is important when making major life decisions. Knowing and understanding these values is what will make sure that you are on the right path for you. Of course, no one stays the same forever. Based on new experiences, you and your core values may change. Welcome these changes and remember that core values are something that evolves as you do.
Here are my notes from doing the core values exercise at the conference. My top 5 core values ended up being: Ingenuity, Determination, Awareness, Compassion, and Growth.
I encourage you to take a stab at this exercise. What fulfills you?
4. Share your own identity story (and listen to others!)
Talking about your own identity and how it has been challenged or reaffirmed throughout your life can be intimidating. However, sharing your story can help to break down stigmas as well as inspire others to share their own. The sharing of stories can help to create a dialogue where then both parties learn. Being vulnerable is the hard thing to do sometimes, but it is also a brave thing to do.
5. Use adversity as your teacher
When I was in abroad I definitely struggled with my mental health and my identity as a neurodiverse individual. It wasn’t picture perfect as I had hoped it would be. Now, a year out from that experience I don’t look bad on the difficult times I had when I was abroad, I think about how resilient I was in the face of the unknown. Resilience would never have been something I had learned had I not faced adversity. Adversity is a hard teacher, but it is able to teach you skills to help you throughout your lifetime.
I could talk about the Global Student Leadership Summit for days, but I will leave you with these tidbits of advice to hopefully bring you where you want to be in your professional and personal life. TTYL!
While I was at the conference, I did a takeover of the CISabroad Instagram account. If you missed it, check out the highlights here.