When you live in a different cultural environment, most people develop a bi-cultural identity. You learn how to be successful, what to do, and what not to do in that culture. This experience improves peoples’ skills of adaptability, interpersonal relations, cross-cultural communication, problem solving, and so much more. Most of the women EWI serves have these skills in great surplus. They have moved to the United States from countries and cultures spanning the globe. Their experiences have made them into the strong and talented women they are today.
By: Julie Polumbo
This weekend I had the privilege to train a small group of EWI alumnae. The workshop was titled “The International Edge: How to Set You and Your Business Apart.” We discussed how to articulate the skills you gain from international experiences.
As a trainer, you should always prepare yourself to go with the flow and get to know your audience.
You also have to incorporate ice breakers to warm up participants not only to you but also to the other participants. This wasn’t the case for me last weekend. I trained a group of 10 women entrepreneurs from countries ranging from Latvia to Guatemala to Lebanon. They are starting non-profit organizations and small businesses in their communities.
Most of the participants already knew each other really well and were close friends. There was no hesitation to join the conversation and answer questions or pose questions to the group. They were a facilitator’s dream and an absolute pleasure to train.
I had intended that we would spend most of our time defining skills to add to their resumes, but the conversation went in a completely different direction from the beginning. We shared personal stories about our cultural identities and when those identities were not accepted. Even though we come from very different life experiences, we connected based upon our shared experience of adapting to new cultural environments. My greatest lesson learned from this group of amazing women is how it’s not only important to adapt to new environments, but also to accept who you become in the process.
EWI alumnae are truly remarkable, powerful, and resilient women. I have no doubt they will continue to accomplish great things.