A new blog post actually means a new journey to enjoy, and today, it is so special to me, as I am wrapping one of the most interesting and fascinating experiences I have ever been to. In the  beginning of November, and as a requirement to be fulfilled for CORE2096 (an AUC core curriculum course), I joined the Soliya Connect Express program, a virtual, equitable, and discussion-driven program for students to learn about important skills while exchanging ideas with other international students.

Being in an intercultural environment, however, was not new to me; I really cannot deny the unforgettable experiences gained from MyFest. I was actually mulling over on what to write in this piece, and I guess I will recall some of the situations that resonated with me.

Cross cultural communication

One of the instrumental outcomes reinforced in this program was cross cultural communications and how it can influence people’s perspectives. This stage of the program involved: asking questions; responding to other’s observations; and adding insights to what is being mentioned by other participants. For instance, in the first meeting, the facilitator offered a list of items to be ordered from the less important to the more important. Such a list included: religion, family, and friends. While I respected all the people in my group including their cultures, beliefs, and rituals, it was horrendously shocking to me to find all the participants agreeing that “religion” is the least important of all. Encountering other people’s different ideologies than mine developed within my own self the idea of acceptance and a sense of unjudgmental decisions. Though I had it earlier, I did not think I could reach these high levels. Later in the program, when we spoke about identity, each of us had a certain point of view. Asking questions also about how each one perceived the meaning of identity allowed me to hone my debating and negotiation skills. That is, sharing my ideas thoughtfully without hurting others. Overall, I can tell that cross cultural communication will remain one of the components that I will count on from this program.

Community building

As I mentioned, the program core mission was to integrate students from different parts of the world. Therefore, I began to mingle with people, trying to make successful relationship with everyone. Evidently, when we were wrapping up, everyone, including myself, shared the desire of staying in touch with each other, so we dropped our social media links in the chat box of Zoom. Of course, this was one of the communities I wish to connect with again in the future.

A welcoming vibe

In Soliya, everyone was welcomed to jump in and share whichever relevant or irrelevant to the discussion, which motivated me to consider a training in facilitation. Our facilitator was not biased, and we had all the space to drive the conversation to wherever we wished. Honestly, I loved a part of this experience, but I also believe it can be better. What I loved is the freedom each participant had; however, there were multiple times in which silence rolled over the place. This, consequently,  disrupted my attention, reducing my excitement for the topic as well as the session. In the future, I think if I were to become a facilitator, I will apply some hands-on activities that keeps the conversations moving e.g. liberating structures, initiating questions, or proposing follow up observations.

Briefly, I wish that Soliya would have lasted for longer than a course of 4 weeks. This group as a whole, the discussion, and the vibes, were vitally important to make me happy and engaged throughout the whole experience.

I am, in fact, looking forward to embarking on similar journeys, and I will try to fix my mistakes. I believe that everyone is not infallible, and I wish I could be given the space to interact with new people.