By Olivia Grace Wolfe, Global Competency Intern
Little known fact (that even Ansuyah doesn’t know yet) – I met Ansuyah Naiken before she even knew who I was. And here I am, almost two full years later, working as her intern! I was taking an Intro to International Politics course way back in 2012 and one of our requirements was to both volunteer in Indy with international refugees and attend community events that my professor, Dr. Su-Mei Ooi, informed us of. Coincidentally, one of these events was a Cultural Workshop held at the Glick Center at Crooked Creek where Ansuyah presented a workshop and discussion on “Understanding U.S. Cultural Norms.” In fact, I would credit that chance encounter for the reason why I am here today – at that workshop, Ansuyah handed out Intern information sheets and I immediately wanted to apply. What is even crazier to me is that I ended up working under Ansuyah as the Global Competency Intern! So a quick shout-out to Ansuyah and the marketing team for those great marketing materials that got me hooked.
So what have I been up to this past week working with Ansuyah? Well, that’s quite a long list because thankfully she keeps me busy! Most importantly, I helped prepare for the Cross-Cultural Workshop on India that was held last Friday, June 13th. I helped put together the folders with all the course materials for the workshop and then worked with Peter and my best-intern-bud Eboni on tent cards and name tags. That may sound just slightly less than exciting, but I can tell you I have rarely been so astounded by the cool things computer programs can do that I didn’t realize!! We worked with mailing lists to quickly and efficiently put all the participants’ names, job positions, and organizations on to the name tags and tent cards. Working with a rather meticulous Protocol Officer definitely makes me pay even more attention to detail than I normally would (and I consider myself very detail-oriented!).
The workshop itself was fantastic! I will tell one funny story on Peter though. He was teaching Eboni, Brad, and me how to correctly greet the participants when they arrived at The International Center, so he had me be the “guinea pig.” I walked through the doors where he greeted me and began telling me how to gather my materials and where the food was… when all of a sudden, an actual participant walked through the door half an hour early! All of us quickly switched gears, and Peter immediately began a real (not mock!) greeting and reception of the participant. So I guess we learned even more quickly than he expected, and the timing could not have been any better!
All in all, the workshop was extremely interesting and informative. It was especially interesting to see what information I already knew and what information I did not when it came to Indian culture and protocol. Their culture was more familiar to me than their protocol, as I know a good deal about gender differences and the hierarchy structure, but the extent of their indirect communication style was definitely new to me. My personal favorite moment in the workshop occurred when Ansuyah asked all the participants (plus all the interns) to stand up and start a quick conversation to demonstrate personal space. After doing this, she asked us to then step toe-to-toe with our partner and have a conversation in that manner. Needless to say, I definitely had some good coffee breath going on, but the participant to whom I spoke and I had a quite humorous and congenial conversation regardless, even though, of course, our natural tendency as Americans when speaking to each other that closely was to lean as far away as socially appropriate.
In the first week and a half of interning here, I have done some pretty cool things. I have worked on marketing materials, curriculums, found entertaining videos for teaching about cross-cultural communication difficulties, and entered workshop valuations into the system. Not to mention the fact that all the interns went to a Naturalization Ceremony last Thursday! There were so many different countries represented in that room! All of the people about to be naturalized were asked to stand up and state what country they were originally from. Though it was difficult to hear them all, I heard people state that they were from Somalia, Mexico, Canada, the Ivory Coast, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Egypt! Jeff presented the American flag to the eldest individual being naturalized that day and made a short speech, an experience that I found so intriguing that I promptly asked to present the flag. So, look for me at the Naturalization Ceremony next Thursday, June 26thbecause I will proudly be in the Courthouse ready to present the flag!
Hasta luego/Tschüss/Ciao/Au revoir/ Nameste!