My experience in Connect Express was one of the most enriching and informative experiences. Even though it was obligatory to engage in it as per one of my university courses, I found myself enjoying it and learning from it. I must admit that the first session appeared boring and repetitive, since it was concerned with a topic we had previously discussed in the course; even the activity was the same. This session was about the aspects of our identities and how they are ranked in terms of importance and influence. However, the later sessions proved to be interesting and invigorating. The experience was different and special in many ways; although I participated in cultural exchange before, both formally and casually, the dialogs and discussions in this program were different on so many levels. First, the presence of a facilitator insured that boundaries of mutual respect, civility, propriety, and clear, calm, constructive communication were enforced at all times, regardless of opposing opinions and perspectives. Also, the presence of a facilitator insured that the discussions kept going back and forth for a sufficient time without dying out, since he asked broad questions, directed questions to particular individuals to expand on their statements, and addressed points that were not tackled. Moreover, the discussions in the program were balanced, with groups including people from different backgrounds and regions: Asia, the United States, and the Middle East; this created a multi-perspective space that wasn’t usually maintained in other dialogs I participated in. Additionally, the discussions were actual “discussions”, without shifting to small talk or meaningless chatting; this happened because the topics would be pre-chosen, and it was explained that we need to cover them before moving on to other matters.


Through these meaningful, well-structured discussions, I realized that I am a constructive communicator. I might be more of a listener, especially in this program, since I encountered three different cultures simultaneously and I wanted to notice how they interact, contrast, and compare. However, when I would realize a point I could add, which happened in almost all segments, I seize the opportunity immediately and talk expansively and concisely, reflecting, always, on my personal experiences, challenges, and reactions. I also believe I faired better in one-to-one communication instances; for example, when we were in the break-out rooms discussing essential questions that make a discussion constructive, I was able to explain and understand better, and I also achieved the full objective of the program by delving into cultural differences and customs, which I found astonishing, and answering questions about my culture and country that were pressing for my peer. It was also an amazing chance to make, hopefully, a long-term connection with a fantastic person. I also figured that I am very tolerant and able to agree and disagree calmly and respectfully; I felt like I was also capable of conveying points that aren’t familiar to those from other regions with minimal difficulty and in a way that made sense to them. This is due to my extensive interactions with so many different people over the years, sometimes in emotionally-charged contexts with barely any enforced rules, and the close acquaintances I still have contact and engage in discussions with. Mainly, I learned that I am a communicator that, though positive and constructive and has the ability to listen and eloquently speak, values their identity and unique outlook on life as a blind individual more than anything, and uses it to construct the majority of their points.


The program didn’t only teach me what type of communicator I am, but it also equipped me with the skills and knowledge necessary to foster constructive communication in my personal life, in my professional life, and in my community. The overarching skills imparted by this program were listening, asking questions, and paying attention to the biases of our inner voices and the aggressive or extravagant reactions resulting from topics that we find threatening to our identities or pre-conceived beliefs. These values surfaced in our discussion on the stereotypes others have about our cultures and countries and the truths debunking them; this discussion helped me see lots of the ideas that I find disturbing for my composure in discussions, and how I can better react when they are brought up. As for my personal life, I believe I can foster constructive communication by implementing the strategy of explorative questions to delve deeper into others’ assumptions and motives and reasons; I can see this manifesting in the discussions I have with my parents, where we sometimes jump to conclusions and hardly listen when it gets intense: I think winding down by asking questions and quietly listening until they convey their entire point without interrupting to make a statement, even if I am certain I know what they will eventually say, will be helpful in fostering constructive communication. As for my professional life, I believe the skill of stating things clearly without leaving room for misinterpretations and misunderstandings and inappropriate wording would be helpful. This was displayed in the discussion we had about volunteering, how it should be, what it means, and its benefits and rewards; this resembled a professional discussion. Lastly, as for my community, I believe it is dominated by sensitivity, emotive reactions, and baseless assumptions, which could be overridden by asking questions to allow people to release their emotions and these reactions through words and not in their behaviors and their attitudes in the discussions. To add on, I think it is important to set rules for discussions to insure that nobody oversteps the boundaries of respect. It would also be helpful to uncover hidden assumptions before ensuing any discussions. I think it would be greatly effective if a program like this was compulsory for everyone, especially university students, because it will uplift the standards of constructive communication in my community by raising awareness and knowledge; it practically teaches constructive communication, which is prized more than many campaigns, advice, and random, scattered statements.

Overall, I learned many things and skills in this program, enjoyed my time meaningfully, met interesting people, and actively practiced the art of dialog.