Monday, July 26, 2010
It find it difficult to fit all that I've felt, learned, seen, heard, and changed into one blog. However, I will do my best to make sure anyone reading my blog will comprehend all that happened to me during my stay at Brown University.
All I've learned since the first day I stepped onto campus and the last day I glanced back at Brown has formed a new character inside of me. Everything: the class, the people, the activities, are all part of my experience on the East Coast. There was no single moment or single person that defined my time and growth at Brown University; they all are interlaced within each other in an intricate manner. It was all the laughs we shared; it was all the mornings at the Ratty; it was all the times we found something new to learn in class; it was everything.
From the first moment I stepped into class and heard Kisa Takesue utter, "Well, good morning! How are you young ladies doing today?", I would be in a completely different setting for learning. Her enthusiasm and humor made the class fun and intriguing every single morning and afternoon (her laugh always made my day). The high level of intellect in the class made it that much more interesting to participate in. I would always wake up with a smile on my face, looking forward to go to head off to the Watson Institute, where our course would take place and I would have another day of learning about the amazing women leaders in our world. Each day would balance learning of women roles in the world as well as the leadership skills deemed necessary to have.
One of the first things we noticed in class (though we knew we would face this because of the course's title) was the lack of boys in our class. The majority of us have an equal number of boys and girls in our classes back home (only one girl in our class goes to an all-girls school) and so we found it rather awkward and a bit unfair to be surrounded by only girls. Only after the first day did we no longer notice this different set-up. Initially, I thought this setting would reinforce the idea that women and men must be separated to learn. However, it was only after a couple of classes and evening activities did I realize this structure of learning does not segregate genders, it empowers women to become leaders without the supremacy of males often felt at times. I don't mean to say men would have ruined learning in class because of their "machismo", I mean to say that the material we learned in class would not have been as relevant to them as it is to us. The lack of boys led us to build a stronger bond with each other and a better understanding of our similar struggles. Though I don't mean to be cliché, the class was all about women power.
In the first days of class, I kept asking myself: "Am I truly a leader? Can I mobilize a group of people towards a common cause? Can I act the way a leader is suppose to act?". These were the questions that kept popping into my head whenever someone mentioned we were leaders; and yet these were the questions I could I answer without hesitation after a week. It took me some time to first realize what kind of person and leader I was, then I realized afterward what my passions and strengths were.
I am a leader. I am not ideal definition of a leader (because no one is), but there is no definite way one can lead. The only way one can lead is to use one's own strengths instead of focusing on the weaknesses. I learned that pursing my passions will lead me to become a better leader rather than spreading myself thin with other interests. Who wants to look up to someone who is not passionate about their own work? Passion is key to any accomplishment. This is the best way to motivate people together.
I enjoyed that our class was based more on discussions and analytical thinking rather than lectures and tests about women's history in the world. I can't tell you how many debriefs and circles we shared in class and even after the clock struck 3:30; our class found themselves chatting in circles after-hours and we found this the best way to talk with each other since it gave everyone an equal presence in the group. The class allowed us to think for ourselves and, agreeing with Irene as she said in one of her blogs, we were not taught by what a textbook said. It was okay for us to each have our own opinions; however, we were presented with other perspectives as well. It was up to us to learn to be empathetic towards others.
One of the highlights of the Summer@Brown were the people and the students we met from all over the world. Of course, there were some people that were not as enthusiastic being there, but they don't matter. The friends I made were amazing and each one had a special talent. There was a champion jump-roper, a chef, a lifeguard and a swimming instructor among other things. Lina, from Massachusetts, and I shared a passion for immigrant justice. Though we both on the opposites of the United States, it goes to show that distance has no role in social justice. We often talked about the DREAM Act, something we feel needs to be passed. We each are doing this type of work through similar organizations at school. This was one of the many bonds I had during my stay.
I do agree that my experience was indeed life-changing. However, I think in order for my summer at Brown to become an integral part of my leadership style and thought-process, I must constantly reflect back on what I learned and utilize the skills I gained in class. There have been many times where I've attend a class or workshop specialized to teach a life-long skill and yet they do not find a good way to maintain the sustainability of the skills obtained. Women and Leadership, though, practically places these skills in our hands and shows us where to go. What a better way to hone our skills than through an Action Plan?
My Action Plan consists of holding workshops focused on college-readiness geared toward underclassmen in my school. Coming from experience, there were few workshops held about college when I was a freshman and it made my sophomore year confusing when it came to prepping for tests, financial aid, and classes. Though there are workshops held at school, I do not think they are I want to reach every student in the school and hopefully, be able to increase the percentage of students graduating and attending college with the collaborative work of other college-prep programs. I hope to do so with the newly acquired skills I learned.
My task now is to contribute to my community on what I learned on the east coast. I will continue to pursue my passions; I will continue to be an active and concerned member at my school; I will continue to lead others; I will continue to do the best that I possibly can.