Name: Josh Altow (JA)
Location: Lille, France
Days Spent Abroad: 60
Favourite Memory: last night with exchange friends from Germany and Spain!
Name: Jacqueline Hall (JH)
Location: Helsinki, Finland
School: Aalto University
Days Spent Abroad: 73 days
Favourite Memory: Skiing, dog sledding, and watching the northern lights in Northern Finland!
Name: Kathryn Brown (KB)
Location: Brussels, Belgium
School: Solvay School of Business
Days Spent Abroad: 45
Favourite Memory: Seeing the Grand Place in real life!
Name: Olivia Spencer (OS)
Location: Aarhus, Denmark
School: Aarhus University
Days Spent Abroad: 83 days and counting...
Favourite Memory: Road trip to Skagen Denmark!
Name: Danny Vasquez (DV)
Location: Madrid, Spain
School: Universidad Carlos III
Days Spent Abroad: 75
Favourite Memory: Going to Ibiza with new roommates and Queen's friends!
Q. Did you notice a difference in leadership styles between your host country and Canada?
"The Finnish government is quite fascinating. Their current Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, is the youngest in the world, and her female leadership has attracted international recognition. Diversity and inclusion are of top priority for her administration, and a lot of recent government reports outline the importance of achieving sustainable growth through a bioeconomy strategy. Innovation and technology, environmental conservation, and advanced social policy are a few key features of their government priorities."
"The way in which professors conduct themselves and lead the students is much more informal. You can address them by their first names, and the communication is very relaxed. I found them to be quite accommodating to different students’ needs. In the classroom, I found that the local students were less willing to take the lead, and if they did contribute, it was more humble and low-key - which is a stark contrast to what we are used to in North America."
"Overall, I did not notice much of a difference in leadership style between Belgium and Canada. The only difference I experienced was the power distance I had between the professors and myself. From what I observed, professors were slightly more informal when interacting with students. Contrary to our interactions with Smith superiors, we could call our Professors by their first names and email them in a more informal manner. Otherwise, I would say that the leadership style is structured much flatter than it is in Canada."
Q. How do you feel your new global perspective has impacted your leadership style?
"From being in Europe, my leadership style has been a lot more inclusive and open minded in dealing with all sorts of people. Cultural differences are a very real thing and they were very visible when working with students outside of North America. I've noticed keeping active communication as well as providing a clear set of goals is the best way to address this."
"Moving forward, I think my leadership style will become more open and aware to
each team-members perspective. Having travel abroad, I now realize that being closed minded is one of the worst qualities to have in a leadership setting. Had locals been closed off to myself, they would have never been able to hear my perspective on things that have been shaped by my experiences in Canada. Likewise, if I didn’t get to know and ask questions to my fellow exchange students from around the world, I would never have had the outlook I do now. Additionally, I think I will embrace and consider everyone’s perspectives regardless of if they are similar to my own. Challenging your own preconceived notions is the only way you can grow and learn!"
"After this experience, I have learned that I need to adopt a flexible leadership style. Of course, I tend to leverage my individual leadership strengths and skills that I am most comfortable with, however, being able to cater my style to different contexts and different groups of people is increasingly important. Being able to recognize your audience and adapt to different settings is critically important to build trust and credibility among new people."
"Exchange has taught me how to be more independent and not rely on others as much for reassurance. I think this will increase my confidence as a leader and allow me to make more independent decisions."
Q. Did you experience culture shock? If so, how did you adapt?
"Yes, I found that there was little communication among international group members, and that I had to step up in how to proceed with a project. I found that different exchange students from other countries had distinct leadership styles. I found it difficult to feel like we were progressing in our group assignment with the combination of exchange students. In order to adapt, one student and I took charge and started delegating parts and said these parts need to be done by a certain time. It was interesting to see the contrast compared to Queen's where everyone is proactive from the beginning of the meeting until the end. I found that I needed to bring that Queen's leadership and implement it in my own group in order to keep things moving forward."
"I did not experience any culture shock as Spanish is my first language which is the official language of Spain. When I visited other countries in Europe, I noticed that 90% of individuals who worked in customer service were very friendly and spoke great English. I had an issue with the time change at the very beginning, however this was easily combatted with a few cups of coffee!"
"In my opinion, culture shock while in another country is inevitable… so yes, there were definitely things that shocked me initially. The most prominent shock for myself was how relaxed the work culture and service was. Initially, having (in my opinion) slower service at a restaurant, stores not being open on Sunday/during their scheduled ours, and non-instantaneous responses frustrated me. In Canada, slow service is not accepted. However, in Belgium, people enjoy a greater work-life balance and are not in a rush. The way I dealt with my culture shock was accepting their outlook on life. By understanding their (from my perspective) more relaxed culture, I no longer took waiting personally, it was just the way things were!"
Q. What is your biggest takeaway from exchange?
"There are so many types of leadership. Every country had their own unique style of collaborating in a group. I could tell the difference for Spain, Germany, France and Canada. I think a takeaway is that culture and where you grow up deeply impacts how you work with others and the way you lead. My experience abroad will help shape how I deal with collaboration with international colleagues."
"This sounds incredibly cliche, however, I have to say it is so valuable to live in the moment! Given how busy and chaotic our lives are back home, it's hard not to plan or be extremely organized and forward looking. So one of the hardest things was just trying to enjoy the current activity or experience, without thinking about the next trip or deliverable. In light of the recent current events, I have realized that things can change so drastically at a moment’s notice. I have never been one to hold grudges or have any regrets, but it is a good reminder to make the most out of every experience, and be open minded. For me, I am quite risk-averse and am apprehensive about trying new things, however, I have learned how to not only be willing to try new things but embrace them with excitement. Lastly, exchange taught me how important it is to make decisions for yourself. To accomplish your goals and aspirations, you must take control of your life and how you want it to be run. Don’t wait for others to commit - go for it!"
"I discovered how much I love Denmark and cannot wait to come back and visit. Choosing to stay abroad during the outbreak made me more confident in my own decisions and explore my independence even further."