Thursday, June 30, 2016

Learning to Trust, Collaborate, and Communicate

Fern, Komal, Ishani, Aimee, Lynda, Bailey, and Camila.

I woke up this morning about 6:20 AM, I quickly got up and got ready. I met at Buxton's lounge at 7:15 AM with the rest of my classmates, we were given tic repellent socks because the area we would be at today is known to have tics. All of our group walked over to the Ratty at 7:30 AM to eat breakfast and get fueled for the day. At breakfast I sat with Bailey, Lynda, and Camila and we all talked about how great today's french toast was, it was really good. After eating breakfast we headed out the gates and around the Ratty onto Thayer Street where the two big charter buses where waiting for us and another group to mount on. It was 8 AM we were on and we were off.

We arrived to Bristol, also known as Haffenreffer park here in Rhode Island. The park was was a donation from the Haffenreffer family to Brown University and it is now used as a site where students of the BELL Institution at Brown spend the whole 2 weeks of their summer program, but historically it was owned by the Native Americans and they still today revisit this property where their ancestors once came together at that same spot. I really thought the location was perfect and so beautiful.

Today was the Challenge Course day, the day we have been thinking about lately where we were expected to go through a series of challenges in which we would have to work together in a group to solve a problem. It might sound very easy but we have just met these people how must we trust them and expect them to trust us? Or how are we suppose to work together?

The girls in the group I was in were Lauren, Sachi, Elaine, Lynda, Bailey, Jaqueline, Komal, Camille, Fern, Maddy, and Jennifer. We were led by Christine and Nicole throughout all the series of challenges. At first we all did exercises in which we would need to gain trust with each other so we did trust falls, pipe lining, and levitating. It gave us a chance to really gain trust with people who we had only known for about a week. There was personal conflicts that arose through thse warm up exercises. Then we had a break which allowed us to at lunch and relax before the "real thing".

The first challenge we came across was learning how to balance a ramp, and everyone was a part of this, everyone individually mattered in this exercise and I believe that w all became aware of that after reflecting over the strategies we used in order to complete this task. Another very interesting challenge was called islands. We all as a group had to work together by standing on one platform that is not so big, so we were all crammed together to stay on the ramp because of the fear of receiving a penalty. This was probably one of the most difficult task to complete. My reflection on that course was very different. The whole time I felt as if everyone who were on the back of the platform with me were never really a part of the challenge in the sense that everyone was panicking and not being mindful to allow others to speak.

I honestly felt the perspective of many different people all at once during these challenges. At time I felt as if we were all collaborating and communication to achieve our main girl, but at other times I felt as if I didn't have much of the contribution of others in the sense that no one in my group would take time ask everyone to suggest everyone to share their own ideas to the activities. After every challenge I think we all had the time to discuss of what we thought about that certain activity and that really helped us communicate our thoughts and feelings with each other without any doubts

We finished the challenge course around 4 PM and then we all as a giant group spoke our last thoughts and we made our way back to the campus. As soon as I arrived to Brown Lynda and I ate dinner. Then went to print and experiment with the printers at the sciences lab where we printed pictures for our leadership map assignment that is due tomorrow at 9 AM. All day I really workd on homework assignments.
As everyday passes I feel as if my leadership skills grow and expand in many directions that they had never been able to and to just have the time to do this challenge course, I grasped the idea that a leader will not always have to lead alone but rather team up together with a group of people. Like they say "If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. 

Challenge Day!

Today's schedule was a little different than my other class day because today was challenge day. It was a whole new experience that I really enjoyed. The day started off by getting up and ready by 7:15, to be able to go grab some tick socks. I like to say I looked very stylish with long, knee high socks over my jeans. After that we had a quick breakfast as a group and headed to the bus.

The view.
It was about a 30 minute bus drive there. As we arrived, we learned how to do tick checks, and got a shoes sprayed with tick repellent. Next, it was time for activities in preparation for the actual challenge course. We did many activities that helped us trust one another and a way to learn and work as a group. It made me get super close, and I truly do trust the girls in my class a lot more.

Before starting the actual challenge course, we ate lunch with a beautiful view to the ocean. It was amazing. Just before heading to the actual challenge course we did a little energizer to prepare ourselves for what was coming our way.

In total we did three courses. The first was Whale Watching. This game was about getting on a wooden board and trying to balance it. Christine said our group was very fast to accomplish this task, it really showed that working together was something we could do.

The harmless snake.
Next was Nature Cross, this one was a bit more challenging. It involved having to swing yourself from one platform to the next on a rope carrying a cup full of water. This one was especially hard for me because I was on the smaller, more packed platform and when it was my turn to go on, I needed more space to be able to jump and get on the rope, although I did spill most of the water on myself, I did manage to make it to the other side because of my group, because I was able to trust them to make sure they would get me on the other side safe.

The final course was Island Crossing. This one was probably the hardest because it involved fixing the wood in a way that it would form you a pathway to walk across the platforms. For this challenge, it took us a little longer to get an idea on how to do it, but we managed to do it and get it done. Although this was much more of a challenge, we all learned that we could collaborate and all carry the wood together to help each other out.

On the way back to the meet up place, we were able to see a harmless snake, pretty cool. Then, we had a final tick check, and I was clear, YAY! We headed back to the bus and returned to campus. Krystal and I decided to eat dinner early, and to our advantage, there was no one in line to get in. After finishing dinner, we just returned to the dorms and did some homework.

Today, was a great day because as a class we were able to collaborate with one another, this is great because now we can feel more open with our feelings when it comes to classroom discussions. 

Lean Away!

I was really excited to do the Challenge Course today because I heard people talk about the crazy outdoor tasks we do. However, I wasn't really excited about waking up earlier than usual. The Women and Leadership class met up in the Buxton Lounge at 7:15 AM to get our tick socks. They were these long socks that repelled ticks. It looked a little silly because we all had them pulled them over our pants. 
Komal, Lynda, Bailey, Ishani, Krystal
We went to the Ratty to eat breakfast before our bus ride. I thought we would ride school buses but instead, we rode fancier charter buses. They had nice air conditioning, but it was a little too cold for me at one point. 
Magic school bus
Our class wasn't the only one there. I think there were two other classes. All of us formed one huge circle and Heather, the Challenge Course leader, introduced herself along with all the RA's. We went over the site's heavy Wampanoag and Native history, safety, ticks and our goals for today when working with our teams, such as taking time to work together rather than working fast and solo to accomplish a goal. Bug spray, sunscreen and tick spray was applied on us after. Everyone was eager to start and we soon broke off into our groups. I was with Skenda and Nicole's group. Tina was there as well. 
The circle of life

We started off with some name games and energizers to wake ourselves up from our long, tiring nights and to just be more familiar with each other. One of the games had us pass a ball and say the person's name while throwing it. I was already familiar with this exercise before and I still found it to be fun and made it easier to remember names. Along with that, we experimented some challenge by choice by setting a goal to make the round faster by using different techniques. We finished passing the ball to everyone with a record of seven seconds.

Our group also attempted the human knot. We held different people's hands and tried to undo the giant mess which was the knot of arms everywhere restricting people. After a lot of tries, we ended up in two separate circles which was unusual.

Another fun thing we did was a leaning trust activity in which one person was a leaner and the other was a spotter. The leaner basically leans backwards and the spotter catches and supports them back up. My partner was Ishani and we tried to catch each other from farther distances, which was both scary and relieving. We also tried being "willows in the wind" by having one person in the middle leaning with spotters in the outer circle. 

The next thing we learned how to do was "levitate" someone into the air. Basically, there are people on each side and a person supporting the head of the person being lifted into the air. There's a very specific technique and stance with safely doing so. We levitated Camila into the air since she was the smallest. The commands we used for levitating someone or leaning were "Spotters ready? Ready. Leaning. Lean Away." This required a lot of communication and taking time to check up on everyone to make sure they were okay or comfortable. I had a lot of fun but at times it was scary lifting someone up out of the fear I'd drop them.
We soon had some lunch. There was a variety of sandwiches. I took the Ham and Swiss Cheese sandwich along with some chips and Dr. Pepper. I ate lunch with some women in my group and a bunch of random topics were discussed, such as politics and Spanish.

After lunch, we continued with our challenge course. My group and the other half of Women and Leadership faced each other off in a battle of Giants, Wizards, Elves. It was like Rock, Paper, Scissors but with people. I had a lot of fun with that because it had team collaboration and physical activity, which added to my excitement about our activities that seem so random.

While walking to the set up courses, we tried a challenge in which we paired up with someone and one person was blind and one person was the guider. I had my eyes closed while walking along a trail and my new friend Ananya guided me. We switched off. It was interesting how scary it was to walk with eyes closed but we did a good job describing the surroundings, giving warnings and giving assurance that everything was okay. 
The view from our walk
Thinking About Life ft. Tick Socks
Our first challenge out there was the Islands one. There were three small stands and all ten of us had to fit in the first one and find a solution to get everyone across to the second then third one by using two planks. One plank wasn't long enough so we had to combine them. Something I noticed was that people were talking over each other a lot and it became stressful because as a group we acted without much thought and strategy. We talked about this while we debriefed and everyone was definitely a little bummed out but we tried to do better in the next challenge.

The second challenge had us set goals for ourselves to walk on tight ropes connected to trees. This was one of my favorite ones because I found it easy to balance and I felt helpful when supporting people that walked on the rope. We accomplished our first goal of getting everyone across two ropes, but for our second goal, we couldn't finish it because of time. However, we found ways to effectively make strategies and give the most support by spotting.

Our third challenge was called the Spider Web. There were ropes set up that looked like a spider web and we had to use levitation to get as many people as we can through the holes in the web without touching the ropes or having two people go through at once. It was actually very difficult because we had to be super careful about carrying each other and using proper levitation techniques. Camila, Natalie and I were the ones that ended up being lifted and being lifted actually felt awesome. I wasn't scared and I trusted these ladies to get me through the other side carefully. I appreciated that everyone took each others feelings and thoughts into consideration rather than trying to accomplish a single person's goal.

For each activity we did, there was a lot of reflection and discussion about how we did and its application to team building and leadership. We even returned as the giant group to discuss. Today was really fun and probably one of my favorite challenges so far in my journey at Brown. 

Challenges and Teamwork

Today was a pretty easy morning, after throwing on some clothes I headed downstairs to meet with my group to prepare for the challenge course we'd be participating in later today. At the meet up in the lounge we were given socks to put on to protect us from ticks. You might expect that this extra protection would assure you of your safety, but the socks just made me more anxious. After putting on the tick socks over our jeans and regular socks the group headed over to breakfast together. Today I went with the french toast and tater tots,  both tasted very good and I took a banana for the road. 

The beautiful view of the water.
We finished breakfast and all of us gathered outside again to head over to our buses. Since our group was small but our buses were big we had a lot of extra seats open and it made the ride more comfortable. After a little over 30 minutes of driving we were in Massachusetts and at the site for the low ropes course. Stepping of the bus made me both excited and nervous for what was ahead of me. We then met up with a few more groups and formed a big circle where a leader told us what to expect and what precautions we should take while on site. One of the precautions included doing tick checks with a partner. After our introduction to the event we went off to prepare. 

Our preparations for today included bathroom stops, loads of bug spray, and coating our shoes with a tick repellent. After being assured I was coated in bug spray, I met back up with my group and we started our day with trust activities. We played three different games which all involved a lot of communication and teamwork. This allowed for us to all become more familiar with each other and begin to really trust each other as a team. All the games took a lot of repetition to learn from our mistakes to complete the challenges we were given. All of this practice created a great atmosphere between all the members of our group and allowed us to be successful when we got to the actual rope course. Before heading over to the course we sat down for lunch and ate sandwiches and chips.

We walked a for about 5 minutes until we reached the area for the challenges. The walk felt extra long with the added heat factor. We went to three different challenges and each took about 45 minutes including a debrief at the end of each. The first challenge involved balancing this large platform with our bodies, each round we were given a new challenge to try. The second challenge involved swinging from platform to platform  (which were crowded with team members) without spilling a cup of water. The third challenge involved moving between three platforms using two wooden planks. The debriefs after each challenge allowed us to express our feelings and thoughts about the course. This was also a great tool to get more familiar with our team. The whole day felt like a war with nature. Bugs were flying all around me and I was constantly shaking my clothes when somebody pointed out a bug being on me. The bug spray was obviously not very effective. After the games we headed back to eat some cookies and left over chips. We then did one last debrief with all of the other groups, and one last tick check. We then headed back to the buses and took a short ride back to the campus. I was still very full off of our lunch and all the snacks I ate so when I got back to campus I headed straight to my dorm to work on my leadership life map project. Getting home early allowed me to get done with everything and finish my reading reflection for the night.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dare to Be Diverse

The weather for today promised overcast skies and lower temperatures. Of course, the humidity in the atmosphere kept it from feeling anything less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

I grabbed breakfast and then headed on over to class. I wondered to myself if this is constant and utter enthrallment truly is what awaits everyone at Brown University; the open curriculum allows students to choose whatever they are passionate about, and the option of the pass-fail system fosters an incentive to take any class, regardless of how strong one is in the subject. The ability for me to attend this class not because it is mandated by law, but because I genuinely have an interest in the topic and love for the teaching style, makes me feel much more in control of, and satisfied by, my life.

Desks in circle formation always elude to something important.
The first portion of class consisted of exploring the construction of gender and its implications when paired with other identities. We wrote down what we thought of when we saw the words man, woman, masculine, and feminine on Post-Its before giving them to Tina. She then transcribed our answers onto poster paper and asked us to write down who we thought encapsulated those traits the most.

After we had finished she fed us questions that covered the identity and status of those we chose. As we raised, or did not raise, our hands we were able to notice trends in who we thought encapsulated what it meant to be a man or a woman.

We broke for a group lunch and then returned to explore a more personalized aspect of gender. We spoke about how we felt about our gender identities and about our experiences with gender/gender
Raindrops in Providence to accompany our hearts.
roles as we navigated childhood. Then, Tina had us write down five instances in which we felt alienated from how we identified, pair up with someone else, listen to them share what they had written, and then give them affirmations.

If this sounds intense, just wait for the workshop.

A half hour after the second session of class ended, everyone gathered together to participate in what was known as the Diversity Workshop. First, we filled out a sheet of paper that asked us about the different parts of our comprehensive identity and then shared what we had felt comfortable writing with two other people. The information was extremely personal and demanded a substantial amount of bravery and trust from everyone. Nothing we learned was to be spoken about to other people.

The next activity was equally powerful. Skenda read a statement aloud and we were to silently step into the middle of the circle if it applied to us. It was incredible to see how many people shared certain experiences and how few shared others. Our privilege and oppression was further highlighted within the group and added nuance in the way we viewed each other.

The workshop did end in melancholy and tear tracks that poetically matched the weather outside. It was scary to be vulnerable and guilt-wracking to feel relieved as we compared ourselves to others. We were reminded how we can easily ignored the circumstances of others. We were reminded of how
avidly we attempt to rationalize our own and others' experiences in favor of allowing them to speak for themselves.

Women and Leadership is not a place of simple discussion and intellectualization, I've found. Equal attention is devoted to the personal as is given to the political. I believe that because of this, with each passing day we all become closer and more appreciative of each other's unique beings.

People to See, Places to Be

So far, our cohort is going through overwhelming and emotional experiences in our time here at Brown taking the Women and Leadership course. Today's major highlights included the sensitive topics we covered about gender identity and diversity. 

After the daily routine of going to the Ratty before class and eating breakfast with my new friends, we went to class expecting to watch a film because it was listed in our course schedule. However, as a class, we decided on doing the film analysis on Friday and doing the discussions about gender today. We were given post-it notes and each one was categorized as Men, Women, Masculinity and Femininity. In each note, we wrote traits or words that came up to mind when we thought of these subjects. All our notes were collected and written on the posters. Meanwhile, we did some name games to warm up and get to know each other more since we got a new student from India named Mahima. The first one had us introduce ourselves with an adjective of the first letter of our name. The next one made us create a picture with random objects we pretended to be, like trees. I really like these name games because it helps me feel more comfortable and open with the people I'm with.
What is Masculinity and Femininity to you?
When the poster with the adjectives were ready, we all went back as a class and discussed the terms that were most commonly used to describe men and women. For men, strong and dominant were frequently used words. For women, weak and emotional were the most common adjectives. It was a little sad to see that society stereotypes these genders to be opposites, with women being associated with negative traits. However, a lot of us in the room agreed that women can still be strong and are equally capable of what a man can do in society. Gender identities and roles created by society are really big reasons for all these expectations and traits assigned to people based on their sexual organs or body.
Food tastes better when you eat with people you like.
After our really engaging and mind-blowing discussion, our class had a group lunch and we went to the Ratty together to eat and socialize with each other for a while. I was nearest to Tina's table, so I heard a lot of things about how she's into sociology and exploring deep questions about our society. We also got to know more about our classmates and their experiences with traveling and their places in society as women. 
The circle of life...and discussions
To continue into our afternoon class, we had more open partner, group and class discussions regarding how we identify with our gender. It was out of a lot of people's comfort zones including me to talk about their own experiences and thoughts, but it feels like we have all known each other for a long time. We all relate in terms of experiences and have our own unique qualities as well.

There was another activity that had all of us create two lines facing each other and talk about how we have felt alienated from our supposed gender identity and the reasons why. I got the chance to talk to people I wasn't really familiar with before such as Natalie, Amal and Camille, and share more intimate feelings with them, so it was really cool to get to know them and affirm each other about things we agree with and understand.

During our thirty minute break, I started going over tonight's readings outside with some friends until we returned back to start our diversity workshop.
Diverse group of women
It rained.
It started with us naming terms that define identities, then grouping up and filling out a sheet of paper that asked for different parts of identities, such as race, socioeconomic status and education. We shared our answers with our groups and found some common interests with each other. Then, we discussed as a class our feelings about this exercise. I definitely felt an intimate connection between the people in my class because everyone is so open and inviting with what you have to say. 

Our next activity about diversity had us step in whenever a statement read aloud applied to us. Some of these statements include things like if your family can afford college and if you or a family member is differently abled. We had to stay silent the whole time, but it was an emotional experience seeing how diverse everyone is and how everyone has different privileges over others, which comes into context with issues such as intersectionality. It was definitely an activity that sparked a lot of thoughts into our heads about all the different lives we have and the different struggles we are all going through. These activities are way deeper than they seem on the surface and they really make us aware about diversity in our world and its effects on our social statuses.

I ended my day getting Chipotle after and bonding with friends and doing our challenging assignments together. The friends I've made and the things I've learned in class will always stick to me when I return back to my home town. 

The Realization

After having a quick breakfast, as usual, I went to class. Today's class went a little different in a lot of good ways. The whole class period we had a group discussion, and it really made us think about stuff most of us have never thought about, it was a whole new experience. I love my class because I am able to say my feelings without being judged, it’s a truly safe space.

An activity during the Diversity Workshop.
We then had a group lunch, and it was nice being able to interact with different people that I hadn't gotten the chance to talk to before. I felt like we had a closer bond. Also, since there's a lot of people from The Bay Area, we were able to spend time talking about places to eat and visit that we really enjoyed, it made me feel a little closer to home.

After lunch, we continued the class with a deep discussion. It really just made me think of all these different perspectives I had never thought about, and it really made me feel comfortable in my own skin.

Walking in the rain.
After class, we had a quick Starbucks run, and then went to our Diversity Workshop. I personally really enjoyed the activities we did in the workshop because it really showed me that I have a lot of characteristics in common with people that I never thought I would have. An activity in particular that showed me I was less privileged than other people, personally, made me really think. I came to a realization that topics like this don't make me sad or upset for many reasons. The first reason, is my parents did so much to be where we are right now, they've worked so hard, so I really thank them for that. They wanted to better my life, so it encourages me to work harder to one day be able to become more privileged and be able to give back to people who are like me. It also gives me motivation to keep moving forward so one day when my kids can be privileged as well. After the long thought process, we ended the Diversity Workshop with a fun little game.

Just to my luck on my way to dinner it was raining really hard. Yet, I got to the dining hall, got my dinner to go, and ended my night doing some homework.

Diversity Acknowlegement

 Today I slept in about 30 minutes more than the usual and it made me feel just great. I got ready in a good mood and I headed to the Ratty for breakfast. As everyday goes by I think that my schedule is finally settling in and my assignments are not as crammed as they felt in the beginning. 

It has only been day 3 of class and everyone in there is just so trustworthy and we have already created great bonds throughout the activities we have performed. This entire campus has just entirely made everyone feel so great and welcoming whether your are a from here or from a different county everyone seems to be heart warming to everyone.

Something that Brown does that many schools have not yet done or still need to meet up to is that instead of labeling someone we ask for their preferred pronouns in other words we all name the pronouns we identify the most with. This creates an accepting and demonstration of support for anyone and everyone.

Every morning in class we usually go over with what the agenda of that day is going to look like but today was quite different. Since many of us had a sort of confusion over last night's reading, Tina decided to start the first half of class with an open discussion over the thoughts we had about the assignment. The topic was very complex and difficult to come up with amends that could possibly help solve the topic. So the first activity included us to get in pairs and write down ideas of what characteristics are used to describe or categorize women, men, feminism, and masculinity. We all wrote on post-it notes and it was just a great way to emerge everyone's personal thoughts. After that activity we were asked to write down the name of someone who we think represents these different gender roles. By performing this activity all the girls and I started realizing different things that we had never thought of before. A great confusion merged, and I say great confusion because in our heads, we started realizing the true meaning behind gender roles and although it clarified one sort of confusion it developed a new one but I say it in a positive way. 

Afterwards we all attended lunch as a group. I sat on the table with a couple of girls like Jaqueline who goes to boarding school in Connecticut, Sophia, Camille from Brooklyn, New York, Lynda Bailey, and Christina our TA. While we were eating lunch at the Ratty we were also drawing out Action Plan ideas in which w can start working on. It was nice to hear about all the different concerns everyone had use and in what unique ways thy had a plan to try and improve their communities and others around them.
Coffee for this mild cloudy day.

Lunch for the day.
Then we headed back for the second half of the class where we participated in more personal based activities. We all bonded and felt comfortable enough to share very intimate insecurities. I think we have all don a great job to be confidential and respecting each other enough to share enough.

Class was then over sooner than I thought and then we had a 30 minute break which was enough to go to Starbucks and get some light refreshments before we had to go to our diversity workshop. 

At this workshop we had chance to discuss the different types of privileges that everyone. Then we were given a worksheet in which we labeled and wrote down a few words to describe who we are and what makes us up. The idea of this was to identify our intersecting  identities and we realized that the identities we are mostly aware of are discussed in our daily lives because we feel more oppressed according to those fields or characteristics we identify with.

Before our workshop ended we had another activity that was said to be very emotional for several students because they would take the courage to stand up or step down for certain privileges we have or don't have. For me this activity wasn't so emotional as it was for others but instead it proved to me that there was eventually going to more privilege people than me out in the world no matter what and I am okay with that, but some tears of fellow classmates did fall out, but we ended with an activity to help us all cheer up and end the workshop in a positive way.

Today's class discussion and workshop opened my mind to many new things I did not know before that I now I am able to understand better in very different aspects and can most probably explain it to someone very efficiently. I learned today that it is okay to not know what gender you are, that there doesn't need to be correct answer.

Out of nowhere thunder started rolling and the rain pouring. I could see everyone on the streets running into the dry buildings to avoid getting wet. Bailey, Lynda, and I luckily had our umbrellas and so we made our way to the Ratty for dinner around 5:30 PM.

We then went to the Olney's lounge which was great to study in but just too quiet and so Bailey and I headed to the campus center lounge located in the main green to try and get our work done. Before 11 PM we will need to check in our dormitories and that means we are not able to leave the building whatsoever so we are trying to work together to gt our work done as soon as possible.

Bringing the Thunder

The classroom arrangement today.
Today I woke up and headed over to the Ratty. I quickly grabbed a banana and peach for breakfast since I decided to sleep in this morning so I could be wide awake in class. I ate my fruit and drank some juice on the way to class and made it right on time to get a good seat. The desks were arranged in a circle and I sat with a seat open for anybody I haven't yet met to sit with me. Soon class started and a girl named Fern sat with me and we had a great conversation about the topics discussed during class. Later the teacher moved us so we could get to meet someone new and I sat next to Sara, and after lunch we changed seats again and I sat next to Michaela. It was really nice not sitting next to the people I already knew and getting to know and hear new opinions from new people. In class we mostly discussed gender norms and the stereotypical definitions of gender. This was such an interesting topic because it made us all question the definitions man and woman gender wise. Hearing the different views and opinions was very interesting and honestly I think the class ended with many of us still questioning the construction of gender.

We then all headed over to lunch, today Tina decided our class would all have lunch together. This was very fun and provided the opportunity for us to discuss our action plans, what we talked about in class, and to overall familiarize ourselves with one another. Lunch was also fun because we discovered a whole new side to the Ratty that we have not been yet. I got a hot dog and fries which might not sound exciting, but it was much better than the other lunches served at the Ratty.

After lunch we all went back to class and got into pairs to share our thoughts on some of the topics we discussed earlier. After this we shared them back to the group. I'm slowly getting more familiar with everyone and sharing with the class is becoming much easier. Tina also gave us the information about tomorrow's challenge course that we will be taking part in. We then had a 30 minute break before our diversity workshop so I headed over to Starbucks with the girls.

The class playing "Honey I Love You" to lighten the mood.
Walking into the diversity workshop was very nerve-racking as we were told that it might get pretty emotional. I took a seat and soon enough we started laying out our ground rules for the workshop, discussed the different types of privilege, and then they told us what we should gain after coming out of the workshop. We were then handed worksheets and separated into groups of three to finish the worksheets and discuss them. The worksheet basically asked us questions that would help to describe our intersecting identities. This activity made me realize how much privilege I really do have. Although in many ways I am inferior to others it taught me to acknowledge my many privileges. It was really eye opening and discussing it with two people from really different backgrounds was nice as well. After this we played a game that asked us to step in a circle if we related to the following questions. It was a silent game so all you knew was who also related but never got the background stories behind it. In our discussion about the game I explained how comforted I felt to know that people have dealt with and understood the same things as me. There was not one time where I stepped into the circle and was alone. In the middle of the game we noticed the sound of thunder. Soon enough it was pouring rain. Luckily, I put my umbrella in my backpack this morning because I was not suited for this rain whatsoever. The first game got pretty serious and took an emotional toll on some so we played another game to the end the day in a lighter mood. The workshop was over and I took out my umbrella to head out to get dinner with Krystal and Lynda.

The rain from the classroom window.
Working with Krystal in the lounge.

Like yesterday, I grabbed dinner to go at The Ratty. I have a lot of work to do tonight including, an essay on the social construction of gender due tomorrow. I headed to a lounge that I've never been to before tonight with Krystal to get everything done. This new discovery is actually great, it's a much brighter and more comfy lounge than the one in my residence hall. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Listening, Networking and the Leadership Compass

I started my morning with breakfast at the beloved Ratty. Our reading assignments the night before had been so long and extensive that I was functioning on an unsatisfactory amount of sleep. I find it amazing how college students are able to balance it all: I am taking only one class and the intensity is so palpable.

I had a workshop in Salomon Hall in place of the usual first half of class, which was once again being lead by the lovely Kisa Takesue. Here, the Leadership Institute was told that effective listening skills are imperative to being an effective leader. We engaged in multiple exercises with a partner that
Some notes from the morning workshop.
required us to use techniques in order to convey understanding and facilitate clarification between two people. This was specifically applied to situations in which two people are discussing opposing view points, but can be utilized in every situation that integrates listening to another person. I was surprised by how civil the discussions were. Ms. Takesue pointed out that approaching another opinion with the intent of debating it can lead to a certain depersonalization and much more reactive opponents.

After lunch I went to the V-Dub with Lauren, Sara, Aimee, and Krystal. Of course, we discussed social issues (not just related to feminism) and remarked over how disappointing the current state of
Lauren's awesome waffle and chocolate ice cream from the V-Dub.
affairs is. Since Women and Leadership has begun, we've all bonded over our shared opinions and feelings, and I love spending time with them.

We entered the classroom at 1:00 PM per usual, and for the first third of the session reflected on the reading we had done the night before. I found that I agreed with almost all of what everyone had shared out, and was happy about the fact that everyone was open to critiquing the authors even if they were in alliance with some of their opinions.

Tina announced that we were going to have a networking event with some of Brown's female staff to practice important skills that we would need in the future, and to provide us with the opportunity to meet a group of female leaders.

We were led to The Underground Coffee Co., a coffee shop nestled beneath Student Services. There, a large and diverse group of women awaited our introductions. We were to introduce ourselves, converse, and then ask for any contact information if we wanted it.

I met so many amazing women during that time. I asked every single one of the women if they loved their jobs and what they loved most about them. They all responded that they adored their work and especially enjoyed collaborating with students.

A problem at my school is that student stratification is very prevalent, which I believe stunts any growth that the institution could experience. I was able to get the contact information of the Assistant Director of International Student and Visitor Experience, and the business card of the Assistant Dean for Student Life and Director of Accessibility services. I hope to ask for advice in integrating international and/or disabled students more into El Cerrito High School's student body, because I believe they not only deserve to be acknowledge and appreciated but also can provide important, unique perspectives on an array of things.

We had another workshop to attend half an hour after the networking ended. I walked to the designated room in the Center for Information Technology with Aimee, Lauren, and Sara. Christine and Skenda, my Residential Advisor, were going to lead a workshop on four different leadership styles. The North style favors assertiveness, initiative, and action and loves challenges. In opposition to this style, the South type favors a more emotionally-orientated, team-based, and morally sound form of leadership. The West type is dependable, logical, and will view all sides to a problem. Meanwhile, the East style of leadership is oriented towards the big picture, abstract creativity, and an open-mindedness on different ideas.

The activity officially began when we were told to stand relative to what we thought which leadership style(s) we utilized the most and then share out why. Posters on each wall had one of the four leadership forms, and according to our answer, we would situate ourselves in the proper area. I placed myself in the Northeast corner of the room because I believed I have a huge affinity for abstract concepts and tend to have the most creative ideas at the last moment (consciousness of time is not something that naturally occurs in the East type), but can also take the initiative and be assertive to get what I really want. A challenging and creative project is probably one of the best ways to engage me in a topic, as well.

We were then given situations in which a leadership style needed to be chosen. I noticed that people rarely ever chose the East as a suitable answer, and during the reflective period I was told that this was because it would be riskier for women to appear that radical; essentially, appearing unstructured and unconventional to that extent as a group of people already seen as unable to handle responsibility was a gamble.

I agreed and pointed out that the reason why people gravitated to the North most of the time was because it was a set of characteristics typically associated with men. That is, women often adopt the same traits because they have observed the correlation between them and power.

I realized by the end of the reflective period that I was more so the East than the North. I focus a lot on the future and love exploring new things (be it places, concepts, people, or activities), but get so caught up in making connections between everything that I become distracted and burn myself out.

We had one last activity: choose the one leadership style that applies to you the most and then create a skit that exaggerated the traits of that style. I ended up being alone by the East, before Christine had a few others that somewhat identified with the style go and help me.

The skits were absolutely hilarious. After they were completed, each group then had to explain how the process in making the skit was like. The process demonstrated the leadership styles just as much as the skits themselves!

I drew a greater understanding of myself after this activity. I wasn't afraid or offended by being the only one who more naturally gravitated to this particular style. The workshop demonstrated that a single method can typically become ineffective, and that we all had a strong sense of the other forms of leadership.

Listening, Strangers, and Styles

Today was so eventful that it felt like everything happened over a series of days instead in just one day.

With a few hours of sleep and a few bites of breakfast, I headed to the Solomon Hall for the effective listening worship with Ms. Kisa. The workshop was amazing! I learned about the necessity and importance of effective listening in leadership. Effective listening makes the path for collaboration, a sense of inclusion, and brings out the best potential of others. According to the workshop, there are a few key values of effective listening. Applying positive nonverbal communications, asking open-ended questions, summarizing discussions for clarity, and giving feedback. I also learned the difference between debating with someone and having a conversation with someone while disagreeing with them. The way Ms. Kisa presented the workshop helped me stay engaged and learn these valuable skills while having fun during practice discussions with people around me. I made another friend in the workshop. Her name is Ananya, a rising senior from New Delhi, India. It was wonderful talking to her about issues ranging from Bollywood to feminism to abortion. 

After the amazing workshop, I went to eat at Chipotle with my new friends, Jennifer, Camile, Ananya, and Ishaani. It was amazing seeing how everyone is attempting to help each other out and make connections. Jennifer is interested in working in the UN and Ananya has an uncle who works in the UN. Ananya promised to get Jennifer in contact with her uncle for an internship. It reminds me of how the ILC teaches its students to develop that important skill. 

At 1:00 PM, we went to our classroom in which Tina discussed the importance of social networking, how to make it a skill, and how to become comfortable with walking up to strangers and having a conversation with them. This skill didn't make me too anxious as I have gotten some practice developing this skill while attending the various milestones in the Ivy League Connection. Thank you so much ILC for pushing me out of my shyness and making me feel more comfortable talking to new people. 

After this prep, Tina led us to the Underground in the Information Center to meet some amazing women who work in Brown. I got the opportunity to meet the dean of Brown, several assistant deans, and other women changing the lives of many students while being in powerful positions. I used the skills I learned in my effective listening workshop to keep the conversation flowing and find out more information. It touched my heart when these important, inspiring women were not only interested in answering my questions, but also learning more about me.  After the meet and greet, they all left and as a class, we discussed how these women serve as symbols that people in power are also human and aren't the stereotypical image of a cold leader we may imagine them to have. 

After a half hour break began a workshop introducing the four different types of leadership styles. The workshop was lead my TA Christine and another Brown student, Skenda. Like everything else I have done in the past two days, this workshop was also fun, interactive, and an amazing learning experience about myself, my peers, and the society. In the workshop, we were introduced to four leadership styles: north, south, east, and west. The north style involves being assertive and decisive, loving challenges, and having an "I will do it" mindset. The south style is of a team player who is willing to listen to everyone and collaborate ideas. The east leadership style is of a visionary who looks at the big picture, loves to explore with new ideas, and is optimistic. On the other hand, the west style is focused on being practical, dependable, analyzing lots of data, and weighing all sides of an issue. We not only focused on the pros of these leadership styles, but we also analyzed their cons. I found out that although I consider myself assertive, I have more of a south leadership style as I like listening to everyone's ideas and not shutting them down. While doing the workshop, I realized that I  was relating to all the styles and it was very hard for me to choose in all the situations I had to decide to be on one specific side. 
A bit of how my class looks.
Casually caught Aimee taking photos.
The amazing and inspiring Christine and Skenda.
Time flew by very quickly and around 5:00 PM, the workshop ended. I asked Christine and Skenda about their experience at Brown, what their concentrations are, how was it transitioning from their high school to Brown, and any advice they would give me. Christine and Skenda were so amazing. They answered all my questions and further convinced me to apply to Brown and try my best in being as me as I could in the application. Skenda is a part of PLME, Brown's liberal medical education program which guarantees a spot in its medical school and enables a student to graduate as a doctor in eight years. A discouraging factor is that the acceptance rate of the program is about to two to three percent. However, I will definitely apply and give it my best shot. 

After being enthralled my Skenda and Christine's wonderful experiences and opinions about Brown, I headed to the  Ratty for dinner. I then went to the SciLi to start on my five readings. The rest of night consisted of reading, blogging, working on an essay due Thursday, and doing laundry in the middle of the night. I wonder what tomorrow awaits, until then I need to catch up on sleep. 

The Ways of Listening

After doing the usual: waking up, getting ready, and eating breakfast, class went a little differently. Instead of having our morning class, we had a listening workshop run by Ms. Kisa. The workshop was really interesting and had us all interacting. It really made me realize that, unintentionally, I am not focused on the conversation as much as I should be.

Looks can sometimes be deceiving.
After that was over, just like yesterday, we went to get lunch at the V Dub. Bailey, Krystal, and I were very happy because they had guacamole, sour cream, cheese, fries, and beans, so we had the brilliant idea of making a fry nacho snack. It looked really good, and it would have been pretty good if the guacamole would have tasted better. Other than that, the burger and beans were really good, and I enjoyed them.

Part of our skit in the NSEW workshop.
After lunch we headed back to class and discussed simple classwork and clarified any questions we had for 45 minutes. After that was done, it was time to do some networking. I was able to talk to so many people that really did inspire me. A person in particular who really inspired me was Hemly Ordonez, the vice president of digital strategy and mobilization at Fission Strategy. She really inspired me because she pursued a career in the STEM Field, which is a field I am really interested in. I was able to ask her how she felt being in classes were she was a minority, she stated it was hard at times because sometimes she'd be the only girl in the class, she stated the way she got through it was by having a support from other people, by having a way to explain her feelings to others. This really inspired me because it made me realize there is and always will be struggles, but knowing that people are by your side will help me get through it.

Once networking was over, we had a NSEW workshop. This workshop explained leadership, and it really made us think what kind of leaders we were as individuals. We did many activities in the workshop, from just explaining our points of view, to actual skits, it was really fun and I really enjoyed it.

After the workshop was over, we went to the V Dub and got dinner to go, I just grabbed some pasta and ice cream. I then came back to my dorm and continued my homework to get done early.

after a couple of hours, Krystal and I then decided to go get some Starbucks, and now I'm ending my day in my dorm hanging out with some new friends.