I want to start by thanking my facilitator for being so accessible with me as a visually impaired student. When everyone was introducing themselves, she gave me a really lovely introduction by asking each person to describe themselves so I could visualize them.

Connect Express brought people from different countries and backgrounds together, which is different from my typical encounters. I would not have otherwise encountered such a rich exchange of ideas and opinions as I did with this diverse group. Although I had anticipated a more engaging program, I must admit that altogether, I had a positive time. Imagine having a conversation about gender equity with a Tunisian girl who didn’t agree with me when I told her that I belief men are physically stronger than women (THAT IS A FACT), and she did not give me a valid reason for her disagreement. All what she was saying what can you do we cannot do? Actually, These exchanges forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and extended my perspective on the world.

The program’s emphasis on respectful conversations and active listening was another significant distinction.  When compared to casual/informal talks, where interruptions and fast answers are more usual, this promoted deeper understanding.  Unlike open-ended chats, the sessions’ predetermined themes and exercises shaped our discussions and enabled targeted learning.  For instance, the game in which we had to determine animals from their sounds evolved into an enjoyable method of practicing the active listening skill. It was so creative activity. Additionally, since these were our talks, the main topics we covered in these sessions were ones that we, the students, chose.

Connect Express helped me understand my communication style better.  My YouTube channel has given me the confidence to speak with foreigners and share my thoughts. But I also gained a greater capacity for tolerance for opposing ideas. While trying to convince my partner during the gender equity conversation, I became aware of the value of respectful conversation and attentive listening.

I learned how to argue with respect from the facilitator’s handling of a situation where someone rejected a topic I suggested to discuss in the following session. I will be able to communicate with others more effectively both personally and professionally if I practice active listening.  Selecting topics that both parties find interesting, such as the last session’s theme of money-making, can guarantee lively and fruitful debates/discussions.

Connect Express was not a life-changing program. but it gives the opportunity for most of us to make new friends. That is in addition to know different opinions, different cultures, and even exchanging our knowledge. Another important benefit I have noticed that because it is a mandatory program for most of us in our universities to attend, it gave a chance for those who have not communicated with people from different countries before; one of my friends called Seyera from US who told me that. Honestly, I had high expectations towards this program to be more engaging, but it is overall a good experience.