Cross-cultural Communication: Why You Should Acquire One by International Exposure

Muhammad Afi Ramadhan (@afiramadhan) – XLFL Batch 7 Medan

(Caption: representing the delegates to deliver appreciation speech at Temasek Foundation’s headquarters)

representing the delegates to deliver appreciation speech at Temasek Foundation’s headquarters

I was privileged to attend the inaugural STEP Youth Regional Affairs Dialogue 2019 from 2nd – 9th August 2019 in Singapore. Organized by Nanyang Technological University – University Scholars Programme (NTU-USP) and supported by Temasek Foundation, I was selected as one of 75 delegates from 18 Asian countries (including Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and South Korea) for a fully-funded eight days trip to NTU campus where I learned and appreciate Asia’s interwoven geopolitical structure through discussions on economics, politics and society, while fostering an understanding of governance and policies across Asia and build friendships through cross-cultural exchanges.

I led a sub-group of 5 members from different nationalities to form a final presentation under “Heritage” sub-topics as well as handling general matters and coordinating with main group coordinators. Our main group got the 3rd winner in the final presentation, while I got an honor to represent the delegates to deliver an appreciation speech at Temasek Foundation’s headquarters.

The delegates selection for this event was quite straightforward: I just needed to fill the application form, which included a 500-word personal statement, home university recommendation, then attach academic transcript and IELTS/TOEFL results (if any). I thought they would contact me for an interview session as written inside the form, but then several weeks later they confirmed via email that I was accepted to attend this event!

During the program, I was very happy because it was my first time attending an Asia-wide event, so I took this chance to engage with as many delegates as possible. For instance, I was having a very good conversation with friends from Bhutan, which is very far away from Indonesia (it is located near the Himalayas!). We exchanged stories about each other’s country, day-to-day living activities, and even political situations there which was very interesting because of the extreme differences. A lot of my friends also asked about Sharia law in my home province of Aceh, and I tried to communicate the real situation and my perspective to those who only heard the bad stigma of Aceh.

This was where cross-cultural communication skills played a very important role, especially in the future, when you would work in an international organization / multinational corporation, involving interaction with foreigners that would have a different cultural background with us. Mutual understanding is the key in this case, and trust me, all of us need to acquire this skill.

I was also really amazed to finally experience what it was like to learn in a world-class university like NTU. During the whole week of the program, we all had a chance to hear lectures from many acclaimed professors and experts, engaged in follow-up talks with them inside many beautifully designed campus buildings.

We were also divided into groups with a facilitator from NTU-USP faculty member (the same as what I experienced in XL Future Leaders), where we would discuss the lecture that we just attended, speak up our mind, and formulate the key issues to be brought in our final presentation at the end of the program. It was held inside the campus’  high-tech tutorial rooms equipped with 5+ monitor displays for 25 students, so we could easily showcase our work to all members of the group.

Doing the final presentation on behalf of my group

For the final presentation, we were challenged to imagine Asia in 2050 (utopia versus dystopia) in three different sectors: heritage, smart cities, and transportation. I utilized several thinking tools from XL Future Leaders, for instance PMI (Plus Minus Interesting), to decide which case study is better to reflect the deteriorating condition of heritage preservation in the region at the moment.

with fellow Indonesian delegates, including Tyas Amalia (FL-006) in white shirt

Interestingly, I also met XLFL alumni here! She was Tyas Amalia from FL-006 as a fellow Indonesian delegate. Yap, I had proven myself many times that in all event which I attended, there should always be at least one fellow XLFL students or alumni that I met =D

One of the main key takeaways that I learned in STEP Youth Regional Affairs Dialogue 2019 is to have cross-cultural communication skills, and one of the methods of acquiring one is to attend an international program, where you will meet people from different nationalities. Of course, there’s also some international program in Indonesia, but when you are attending them abroad, it would be a whole different story because you really need to adapt with your surroundings, as simple as using English every day instead of Bahasa Indonesia.

I really hope that by sharing my experiences here, I can inspire and encourage more fellow youths to gain as many international exposures as possible, then create impact back home, for the betterment of our surroundings, our Indonesia, and the world.

I couldn’t be more thankful to XL Future Leaders for making me who I am today. More, to learn and grow together while acquiring many soft-skills needed to survive in this competitive era, providing a chance to network with many like-minded students and alumni from all over Indonesia, plus preparing for my future endeavors.

#GreatLeadersStartsHere !


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