Looking back on this experience, I am so grateful that I got to participate in this culturally-immersive and educational program. I have learned more about collaborating cross-culturally in the past four weeks that I had my entire life before Plus3 Global Projects. This was a great opportunity to form new relationships, gain consultation experience, and learn an abundance of international business knowledge. Though working via Zoom presented challenges, my group Students United still managed to communicate effectively and create a final presentation that all our team members are proud of. I gained valuable friendships and network connections that could be utilized in my future career, and I am happy that these relationships were still able to form in a virtual setting.
I believe that the most important lesson I learned from this program is that adaptation is everything. From our first meeting with Senior Concierge to the final pitch, my understanding of what was necessary for this project evolved from complete confusion to a fully-developed analysis and consultation presentation. I am not used to beginning projects without a strict outline of what is required and how I must fulfill these requirements to attain a good grade, which is why the beginning of this program stressed me out a little. I needed to adapt to the scenario in order to assess where to start. When Marcia first spoke to the class, a million questions raced through my mind. All I wanted was to be told specific instructions so that I could present a perfect project at the end of the program. Plot twist: there were no specific instructions. This scared me, but I realized that I would not succeed without adaptation to the requirements of the situation. Over the past four weeks, my team brainstormed, decided on ideas, and then had to start all over again when the idea did not fit what Marcia wanted. It was a process of trial and error, but my group constantly adapted to new information, which led us to complete a pretty great presentation, even if I am biased.
The knowledge I gained regarding cross-cultural communication during Plus3 Global Projects taught me another key lesson. This lesson is to be open to new and unfamiliar ideas and processes. As I mentioned in my earlier blog posts, I am not used to building team relationships when it comes to projects. The United States prioritizes tasks as a way to build trust between team members, so I always felt that the work should come first and then possibly friendships will form after. The relationship-building process within Students United was different, more personal. In South American countries, trust is more commonly developed through relationships, not tasks. My South American teammates were more open to conversation unrelated to the project than I was used to, so it took me some time to open up to building relationships. Even though this trust-building was new to me, I tried to be open to experiencing new ways of doing things. I believe this paid off and ended up improving our group’s final presentation. Because we bonded earlier in the program and felt more comfortable with each other, it allowed for a better flow of ideas when perfecting our pitch. I believe that our pitch was cohesive due to our trust in each other, because we all knew that when we handed off the presentation, the person after us would do a great job. After the winner was announced, though we were disappointed, we all expressed how proud of our team we were. We exchanged social medias and contact information because we like communicating with each other, which I believe was a direct result of taking this different approach to developing trust.
In addition to key lessons, this program also taught me transferrable skills that will help me in the future, whether this be in other study abroad programs or in my career. One of my weaknesses has always been listening. I can talk and talk for so long that it becomes annoying, but my listening skills were not as sharp as they should have been before Plus3. I would hear what was being said but sometimes it would take me much too long to deduce the meaning of what was said. In the business world, lack of listening skills can be detrimental to closing deals, proposing ideas, and forming network connections. This program has helped me overcome this issue, especially because it was solely facilitated through virtual platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp. With the limited amount of time to create a presentation for Senior Concierge, every bit of time counted. Some of the most important things that Marcia told us were short comments that could have easily been missed if we had not been paying close attention. I was forced to become a better listener out of necessity, because anything less than great listening skills would have been detrimental to my understanding of the project. Because the instructions were so vague, listening to everything very closely was the source of most of my ideas for the project. My team came up with most of our presentation topics by listening to Marcia and listening to each other’s interpretations of what the project should be. This came from deep understanding of context and true meaning behind face-value words. Especially with Zoom meeting glitches where audio connection is lost, context understanding is a key part of listening skills that allows you to follow a speech or lecture more closely. Before Plus3 Global Projects and a month full of Zoom meetings, I lacked in following verbal context clues, which caused me to always be a step behind in conversations. I believe that this experience has greatly improved this specific area and my listening skills in general, which I know will aid me in future professional settings.
This experience not only gave me skills that will help me succeed in the future, but also a great story to use in interviews for internships and post-graduate jobs. Employers love to ask questions like, “When was a time that you had to overcome a challenge?” They want to hear about an experience you have had where the path to success was not easy, in order to know if you will be prepared to overcome possible challenges of the job. I believe that using the story of completing this project for Senior Concierge is a perfect way to answer this question. I could easily discuss the challenges of the virtual setting, but more importantly, I can detail the process of starting with almost no basis for the presentation all the way to the final pitch. Employers will be impressed to hear that as a business student with no prior consultation experience, I worked in a group to create a business presentation and report. A very important point to emphasize is that half of my team members were from South American countries, because this cultural difference presented a challenge in itself. Overall, this experience abundantly answers the question and shows interviewers that I have a strong ability to overcome any challenge I face, even when I face multiple at a time.
As I end my final blog post, I am looking back on this entire experience. I made invaluable memories and friends that I will never forget, and I got a taste of working in a cross-cultural setting. The knowledge I gained through the completion of this project is so unique, and I am grateful for all the ways in which it will help me in the future. I believe that this experience also confirmed my suspicion that I would love to do another study abroad program (with actual travel next time), and even made me more confident in my chosen career path and location. Plus3 Global Projects helped me grow immensely as a student and a person, and I hope that my blog posts over the past few weeks have reflected that.