Due to the pandemic, we as a society have adapted to communicating more online through applications like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, etc. Using these applications with peers was certainly a challenge but to now do that with a cross-cultural team, brought a whole new experience. There have definitely been some challenges that are involved in maintaining effective communication that our team has had to endure. So to be able to have this initial struggle experience and come with ideas to combat that is an amazing experience that is going to help me in the future.
The first challenge that came rather quickly was the language barrier and just starting our chemistry as a team. I noticed that phrases and slang in English do not always translate well to other countries. An example is when one of my group members said this project was going to be a “piece of cake” and some of my group members from Brazil and Colombia were confused as to why we mentioned cake as if we were hungry. But to combat this we just always make sure to build a comfortable enough environment for our group to ask questions and make sure we are all on the same page. This was a challenge at first given that this program is through zoom, and through personal experience, it’s always was a bit awkward to not been able to convey a personable and warm feeling that can be displayed through body language. Luckily using a texting application like WhatsApp helped eliminate some of that initial tension as we were able to send memes and plan accordingly with our group. Another challenge that we have come across is time management. Coming from different time zones, it was a struggle at first to meet up because at first, we didn’t take into consideration of the time zone. Our way to solve this was to refer to the meeting as a time base for our meeting proposals. An example is by saying “let’s meet an hour before our class meeting” instead of “let’s meet at 9 AM EST”. We also noticed we got faster results on meeting times when we did it this way and were able to plan a meeting faster.
Relating this to international business, I have learned that in order to have the most effective and fun experience with your cross-cultural team, it requires team chemistry. The way to gain this is by getting to know more about your peers in a group and learn about their experiences and personality. I was under the impression that incorporating international business was all about achievements and company production. But I realized that this is more of a US mindset that we have set while other countries prioritize the human connection that comes with connecting with others. Another aspect I did not consider was how many wonderful people you will meet when considering international business. With each meeting, I get to learn more and more about the 20 or so people within this organization, and what felt like a group has felt more like a big family. It feels good to know that if I travel to Brazil or Colombia, I can have friends to call.