"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Becky - What will be your legacy?

We all have a heart, a brain, and more, but not all of us has a dream.

I have a dream. It incorporates diversity, identity, and equality. My dream is cross-cultural competence.

I also have a vision. I can see one table full of people from different cultures with diverse backgrounds. I see them eating in the cafeteria. I see them working in an office. I see them having a board meeting. There are cooperation, competition, and collaboration of talents and intelligence. There may be frown sometimes, but the second they discharge, they all have a huge smile on their face. That’s my dream community.

Moreover, I have always had a strong sense about the “differences” in Eastern and Western cultures. Having had the opportunities to experience both cultures, I clearly feel and emphasize that there’s no good or bad. They are simply different. How can we compare two things that are different? First of all, it’s called contrast rather than compare by simple definitions we all have learned. Second of all, why are we comparing or contrasting two cultures?

In a very broad categorization, there are Eastern and Western cultures. However, within each of them, every region, every country, every town, from the large to the very small, from a population down to an individual, they all present their own culture. I can say that I have my own culture consisting of my values, my beliefs, my language, and simply my own frequency. Indeed, we have been living in a multi-cultural environment since the minute we were born.

How many of us have seen the sight of children holding hands together? It looks like this: an Indian little girl is holding hands with a Canadian little boy whom is holding hands with a Chinese little girl whom is holding hands with an African little boy… It does not matter where they came from, where they are, what’s their gender, or what’s their cultural backgrounds. It’s merely about friendship and happiness. Children are not blocked by the barrier of physical differences seen through their eyes. Perhaps some would say that it is because of their “naivety.” However, I perceive this “naivety” as the true pure human feelings of equality. It is unprotected, unaltered, and untainted. My dream is having a child’s naivety.

Sadly, a lot of us are losing the ability to appreciate and to embrace the differences. Why in the grown-ups’ world, cross-cultural competence will become an issue, a global issue? In fact, having made this comment demonstrates how significant “differences” are when we look at anything. Yet most of the times we did not even think of trying to pick-out or analyze the differences. They just occur in our minds. Why?

What is an easy way to tackle the global issue cross-cultural competence? My answer is making friends. Thinking about my best friends and imagine them having different skin colours or religious beliefs, would our relationships change just because some physical factors changed? My answer is NO. By making friends, by sharing our common grounds and differences, and by communicating, I learned to accept and appreciate the uniqueness of all cultures. It takes only understanding to break the walls of unfamiliarity and differences. Just by having a smile when walking down the street, it bridges different cultures.

I see diversity. I feel diversity. I am a part of diversity. This is the concept I have in mind. A simple thought can be the driver for action. A good place to start any change is from inside the people. Indeed, that’s how the history is created.

I have been a member of China Care, a non-profit organization established to provide cultural education to young adopted Chinese children in Western world. All parents value the importance of understanding ones own origin. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to introduce and to play some of the games that I played in my childhood with these adopted Chinese children. What I get out of the three-hour activity time with these children is pure satisfaction, simple happiness, and genuine laughs and smiles. I am not only helping the children, but also helping myself at maintaining the ties with my culture after living in Canada for over five years. To these children, cultures might be a fusion, but at least they appreciate the best of both worlds. This experience is about sharing, bridging, learning, teaching, appreciating, embracing, and loving.

I am more than willing to continue my position with this organization even after I graduate. The satisfaction is beyond what words can express. I sincerely believe that this type of education is more rewarding, both externally and internally, than perhaps teaching MBA students about theoretical approach to cross-cultural competence. To me, what’s more significant is the self-value that I gain when I am giving. It is not about fame, money, nor other material rewards. I treasure self-development. As cross-cultural competence is a state of achievement for individuals, businesses, societies, and the globe to aim for.

Knowledge does not only come from academic institutions; in fact, we learn more when it is first-hand experience. In many cases such as engaging in team project, travelling, volunteering abroad, making friends are all a start toward understanding cultural diversity. The key to learning is an open mind; the key to acceptance is an open heart; the key to competence is an open soul.

Creative Analogy

I see the rubik as a simplified picture of cross-cultural competence. The cube is like our globe, for the only unreal fact that our globe is not square. Each colour represents a diverse culture. The “game” even reflects the history of culture migration for that the cube starts out as a colour-coordinated cube that illustrates how in the ancient time, there was almost no cultural integration. People of the same culture lived together from birth to death. The globe reflects simplicity at the time. As time goes on, whether due to natural or man-made factors, people started to move to different places with a dream of a better life. As the colour-coordinated pattern is disturbed more and more, we come to a conclusion such that it is almost impossible to “return” to the original state! For in the real world, cultural diversity is a state of no return. The tipping point has already been passed. Now the globe reflects complexity. There are countless combinations concerning the concentration and the geographic position of each culture. In the end we have a colour-mingled rubik, a cross-cultural world that is long-lasting.

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