Before landing in Ireland for my master’s, I attended one of the online sessions on the Global Leadership Programme at UCD Smurfit. As part of that session, a collaboration between University College Dublin and Howard University was briefly mentioned. I was intrigued but the odds of being selected were stacked against me because opportunities like this are rare and the competition was immense. Little did I know I would be selected for this initiative, and that moment was nothing short of euphoric.
This blog will highlight my key learnings from this unique experience as I got an opportunity not only to see the world through a different lens but also to experience another culture and collaborate with students from Howard.
HOWARD'S VISIT TO UCD : a cultural exchange like no other
The first part of this initiative involved a group of Howard University students visiting UCD. The itinerary was full of company visits, campus tours, and cultural experiences. As a UCD student ambassador, I had the opportunity to accompany Howard students and give them a tour of the campus. During our company visit, I was able to visit Microsoft and learn about their work in the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) space. We also visited ICON, an Irish multinational and the world’s leading clinical research organisation. During our visit at ICON, we were presented with a problem statement focused on diversity within clinical trials and we learned how the Design Thinking approach can be applied to address the problem statement. The visit to ICON was certainly a highlight as I got to work with a team of students with diverse perspectives.
Cultural and professional talks such as the UCD PMIA Africa business conference, KPMG’s sustainable future, and the Global Citizenship Seminar were some of the key highlights of the visit. Howard's students were impressed by the Irish business environment in areas such as corporate culture, taxation, and communication style, which is very different from the environment they are used to in the United States.
In addition to company tours, cultural experiences included traditional Irish music sessions and a visit to his Guinness Storehouse. Howard's students were excited to learn about Irish culture and sample traditional Irish food.
UCD's VISIT TO HOWARD: an unforgettable experience
The second part of the collaboration involved the UCD students and faculty visiting Howard University in Washington D.C. I had looked forward to the visit for days. However, I was also a bit daunted about what the visit had in store for me. All my doubts and preconceived notions came to rest once we landed in the U.S. and were warmly welcomed by the students and faculty at Howard.
The itinerary included visits to historical sites, cultural experiences, and a series of academic and professional workshops. Some of the key highlights were the golf clinic with Callaway, a leading golfing brand, where we learned how golf can be used as an efficient networking tool. The visit to KPMG, Washington D.C. was particularly insightful as we learned about their ESG initiatives in the country. We also got the opportunity to attend a lecture series by the CEO of Goldman Sachs.
We visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture to learn about the civil rights struggles and achievements. We also visited the White House, the US Capitol, Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian Museums to get a taste of American history and culture.
MY BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS EXPERIENCE
I was in a very unique position as not only was I learning and growing every day, but also I was able to understand many cultural similarities and differences between both countries. I found that both Ireland and the United States have a strong focus on education and have vibrant student communities. But even if I wasn't from both countries, I was able to understand the nuances of social norms and cultural values. Developing this quality of cultural competence can help one promote empathy and reduce any prejudice. Noticing differences in things ranging from humour to socializing activities was super interesting to me. One thing that truly stood out for me was how much the Howard students were encouraged to have a voice of their own.
Understanding and valuing diversity is crucial in today’s interconnected world. Globalisation is leading to a blurring of international borders and this heavily emphasizes the need to communicate effectively with people from diverse backgrounds, build stronger relationships, and navigate cultural differences with greater ease.
By immersing ourselves in these cultures, I developed an immense sense of empathy and a greater appreciation for the different nuances and complexities of different ways of life. Aspiring to be as close to becoming a global citizen is the need of the hour. Experiences like the Howard-UCD student engagement programme help us navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
To any student who’s wondering if they should give this opportunity a shot – go for it! Especially the international students at UCD Smurfit. I think it is an opportunity to broaden your horizons of learning and cultural understanding. Additionally, you never know the kind of meaning connections and opportunities, experiences like these hold for you! I’ll forever be grateful for this as this has been surely been the highlight of my master’s at Smurfit.
Ankit Pathak, MSc Management
Ankit Pathak, MSc Management at UCD Smurfit.