THE DAY OF AN EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL EXPERIENCE

By Se Chhin, Cambodia

The same expression as other fellows, I did not expect to see how nice and friendly Americans are in Missoula, Montana in particular. For such the city in the modern society in the United State, I have observed that there is a spirit of living as a community which I do not think there is any place on earth alike.

As today at the Mansfield Center we had two main workshops including Intercultural Conflict Resolution and Negotiation and Leadership and Management. From the first session presented by Dr. Phyllis Ngai, I learned that culture differences have to be taken into account seriously, not only when dealing business and diplomacy but also in a day-to-day communication. A message or an action through different channels could be interpreted differently according to each culture. It is not about questioning why should I change, but not them? The question is how can you send your message clearly?

Apparently, yesterday when we were volunteering in the kitchen at the Poverello Center, the homeless center, and when we finished our tasks, a few of us gathered at a sink to clean our hands. As a Lao lady fellow was washing her hands on the flowing water in the sink, I cleaned my hands under hers. She looked at me and said I would hat you if you clean your hand like this. Once asked why, she smiled and said “it is not good.”. As she walked away, a Burmese fellow came and cleaned her hands under mine. So, what’s now!…. Today, I asked the Laos fellow to tell me about the cleaning hands and the answer I got was it is the culture and they don’t clean the hands, as I did, in Lao. From this lesson, I believe we need to try to accept as what it is and learn to understand about each other’s expectations.

Leadership and Management is a big top but I did learn something from the workshop by Ms. Jane Baker, Interim Dean, Missoula College. She guided us to look at a few points, including basic knowledge, charm, strength ability and enthusiasm, to define a great leader. A few different exercises with full of joy have led me to discover myself even more on who I am being a leader and the factors I should take into account when leading a team. I like her quote “You can be an excellent manager without becoming a good leader; but you cannot be an excellent leader without becoming a good manager.”

Last but not least, at the late of the day my home stay family took me and another fellow to see the rodeo. It was so great to be able to see the real American cowboy riding the horses and crazily jumping to the air as well as they rode and jumped off the horse to catch an animal. It is a very interesting traditional sport. I am glad to have a chance to see it. Many thanks to my coordinator, Susan Hay Patrick and my home stay family, Josh Vanek, for arranging and taking us there.

It was the day of an educational and cultural experience for me.

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