By Yik Wei Choo (YES 2010, Malaysia, hosted with ACES in Ohio)
After waiting three months for the application results for the Iacocca Global Village for Future Leaders program, I received the good news that I was selected to the Global Village program and received YES alumni scholarship funding from Iacocca and the U.S. State Department The staff from the Iacocca Institute, American Council, US Embassy Kuala Lumpur, AFS Malaysia and AFS USA were extremely helpful in the entire process leading to my arrival at Lehigh University campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
I knew the five-week program, which took place from 25 June to 28 July, would be intensive and intriguing, as the curriculum is designed to prepare participants to thrive in a global community through imparting business acumens and leadership skills. Our program cohort consisted of 62 amazing individuals from 36 different countries. This makes the learning environment truly international and diverse.
I arrived at the campus on the same bus as my future roommate Natalia, who is from Russia. It is an experience to live in the same dorm with 62 people, sharing common space in the span of five weeks. My roommate is a music fanatic so she introduced me to iconic and legendary songs while I introduced Malaysian spices to her palate. We mentored and learned from each other culturally and academically through exchange of stories and discussions. The precious thing is the relationship we formed during Global Village will be an everlasting bond and remarkable friendship.
Throughout the program, I had the opportunity to enhance my business knowledge, intercultural communication skills and team work thanks to the Business Consultancy Project that I had to complete in a four weeks period with four other team members – Teodora from Serbia, Winfried from Mexico, Ziyi from China and Daniel from Spain. Learning to adapt and understand how different individuals work and are motivated was valuable to me as I aspire to lead multicultural teams in global companies. Our project team mentor was an asset to us and gave sound advice on how to best utilize our resources and time on the project.
How can I miss out mentioning the trips that are part of the Global Village program! I had a great time exploring Philadelphia’s rich history, New York’s bustling streets and the Google Headquarters as well as a round table discussion and sharing about my exchange experience with Ambassador Galt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) for Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington DC. I was truly humbled by the spirit of service of the volunteers at American Councils whom we met at a dinner in Washington. They, as all of the YES program volunteers, carry the vision of a peaceful world through exchange and this is also why I believe it is important to continue such programs that impact not only the exchange students, but the community they serve in the future.
Finally, the Global Village program will not have been complete without Cultural Nights. It was a hilarious first time attempt for some villagers to cook for a crowd but we made it through thanks to our moms’ recipes and each other. We shared our food and dance while donning our national attires. Personally, this is symbolic of the initiative we take to bridge the divide of our broken world and embrace diversity.
I cannot tell you how precious this experience is and I assure you this is not the end of the Global Village. You have to experience it yourself! I highly recommend all YES and FLEX program alumni to consider applying for the Global Village for this once in a life time experience.