SOLES International Experience: How to Make it Your Own

A blog post from SOLES MA in Leadership Studies Ambassador, Molly Patrick

Where should I go for my SOLES International Experience trip? I immediately asked myself this question after I was accepted into the SOLES Masters in Leadership Studies program.  I have gained so much insight about myself and others from my previous travels abroad, and I knew the potential of an international experience during grad school would also be utterly life changing.  I started to feel a sneaky, slightly tingling, itchy, anxious feeling coming from the depths of my bowels. Since this was a requirement of the MA in Leadership Studies program, I wondered how in the world I would 1) be allowed to take that many days off from my full-time job, and 2) make it a truly worthwhile use of my precious graduate school time.  I was going to have to come up with something relatively quick, outside of the prescribed orchestrated trips offered, and something that my advisor would approve of academically.

In concepting this trip, I wanted to try and combine two important factors that have helped me navigate my personal and professional trajectory up until this point, connections and culture.  My specific interests include understanding and working with the intersection of culture and leadership development, as well as facilitation, coaching, and consulting. Naturally, I fell into a direct opportunity to create and facilitate an intercultural leadership identity workshop at one of the most prestigious Universities in Mexico City, Tecnológico de Monterrey (El Tec).

MA in Leadership Studies Ambassadors Andrea Madeleine Medina (on left) and Molly Patrick (on right)

Looking back, it was not an overnight extravaganza. I worked many long hours brainstorming, developing curriculum, planning, and practicing for my international leadership debut, with an exponential amount help from my accomplice and MALS cohort member Andrea Madeleine Medina. Being a native San Diegan, my geographical and cultural experiences have been highly in tune with the interconnectedness of Mexico and the United States. It only felt right to explore this element of my own identity further.

In addition, I took a major risk in calling upon my former colleague and now visiting professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Dr. Cris Bravo (another USD alum), to propose this workshop to be offered to his undergraduate students. Without hesitation, he obligingly accepted, and went out of his way to help us get the ball rolling.  I attribute this to the amazing community and connections USD has provided. I was thrilled to jump into furthering my cultural leadership development work internationally.

I, along with my co-facilitator Andrea Medina, ended up conducting a 2.5 hour workshop for 27 students in Mexico City at Tecnológico de Monterrey – Campus Santa Fe in late March 2018. The workshop focused on examining how our shared and differing cultures both in the U.S. and Mexico contribute to who we are and who we show up as in our leadership.  Using experiential learning, improvisational games, and immersive group activities, we were able to break down systems level cultural stereotypes, historical symbols, and values that inform how we understand our leadership roles and capacities.  

Workshop Group in Mexico City at Tecnológico de Monterrey

Creating the workshop is not an aspect of this international experience that I take lightly. In fact, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have encountered to date. Being at a place where you are ready and willing to take risks to achieve your dreams is key, and has been a major part of my own leadership journey in this program on so many different levels. I’m not going to lie, it was hard work researching and planning the trip, and especially in preparing for an opportunity like this. I can tell you it was well worth the life, leadership, and spiritual experience in creating an intensive workshop from scratch. There’s really nothing quite like creating and facilitating something that is truly your own.

In summary, this is YOUR international experience. Do not be afraid to make it what you want. Take risks, go out, and make it happen.

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