Kelly: AFS Global Competence Certificate (July 2021)

大家好, kia ora koutou and hello! Earlier this semester, I had the amazing opportunity to complete the AFS Global Competence Certificate (GCC) virtual programme, which across 4 weeks explored a range of intercultural theories and models designed to equip us with the knowledge, skills, and understanding to interact effectively in a global and cross-cultural environment.

In an increasingly diverse and fast-changing world, I think it is incredibly important to understand and embrace the differences in our society in all their forms and develop global competencies to help us navigate them. A great aspect of the AFS GCC was how tailored the educational material was to help us explore the tools to engage in open and appropriate and effective day-to-day interactions with people from different cultures. The programme comprised of self-paced modules, forum discussions and four live sessions with the qualified facilitator and students from all over Aotearoa as well as some from overseas. Due to its flexible nature, I really appreciated how I could complete the modules at my own pace while also studying my courses at university.

In this Global Competence Certificate program journey, I was able to develop greater self-awareness to better understand my own identity. I loved getting exposed to so many new concepts such as the Kolb’s experimental learning cycle, empathy, cultural value dimesnsions, Hammer’s intercultural conflict styles, privilege, and many more. The content included a series of examples and case studies that broadened my perspective on how others may experience certain events differently than I do, and how to use practical strategies and methods to connect with people from other cultures and backgrounds. With the new information freshly in our minds, I really enjoyed the engaging korero about diversity, inclusivity, and leadership which challenged us to think about how we could transfer this newfound knowledge into real life. 🌏

From growing my self awareness, awareness of others, emotional intelligence, and building bridges to others, the modules guided me to understand the impact of differences within my team or communities. In particular, getting to know the concept of privilege and how it shapes our access to opportunities and the barriers we face in life, has widen my perspectives in examining glocal intercultural issues. The AFS GCC has really complemented my studies at the University of Auckland and personal aspirations of creating more equity in our society through collective social actions.

Overall, the programme has helped me to not only expand my network with other students from different parts of the world, but to really embrace our differences as our greatest strength and seek understanding as our greatest gift. Through mutual listening and sharing of our ideas, reflections and learning, I was able to become a more confident individual with a real sense of whanaungatanga (kinship) in the global commmunity. Having witnessed how empowered and passionate everyone was by the end of our last live session, I truly encourage more students to seize the opportunity to partake in such a programme, meet like-minded and inspiring friends to become global citizens together!

Global Competence Certificate (GCC) | AFS Intercultural Programs

Jessica: AFS NZ Global Competence Certificate (March 2021)

Like many fellow students, I’ve missed out on studying abroad due to the pandemic. That being said, understanding how to be a global citizen is still vital, and participating in AFS Global Competency will help develop the knowledge and skills for when the world starts moving again. Before applying, I read many excellent recommendations from AFS Intercultural Programs, and I’m so thrilled the 360 International Team facilitated this opportunity. Thank you to everyone!

The AFS Global Competence Certificate is an 18 module video-based learning program that develops intercultural competencies and helps students deal with cultural adjustments, such as self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and bridging across differences, to name a few. All key educational goals are essential to navigate today’s diverse world, whether you are preparing for a semester abroad, a global internship, or want to stand out in the job market where diversity and cultural intelligence are essential. An online discussion board complimented these videos with both past and current students from the program, as well as live discussions facilitated by Rosie, a fantastic lecturer from Massey who made sure us students from all over the world were included in sharing our thoughts and opinions with the group.

One of the more compelling modules (in my opinion!) was learning about stereotypes versus generalisations – while stereotypes are harmful and often damaging simplified descriptions of people from different cultures, generalisations help us prepare for an appropriate first encounter. For example, individuals from individualistic cultures and collectivistic cultures often value different things. They have very distinct social frameworks, similar to how conflict in hierarchical cultures differs from egalitarian cultures. It was also interesting to learn about different common communication styles between cultures. High context communicators read between the lines, are non-verbal and direct, and may need to build trust to communicate directly. Low context communicators express straightforwardly, explicitly conveying a message and pay attention to words rather than environment or context. Everyone has that friend who is very blunt but has a large heart, just as everyone has that friend who dislikes conflict and prefers to speak in metaphors to keep the harmony. Whether you are a fan of tough love or reading in between the lines, this module will shed some light on why we communicate the way we do. There is a connection between individualism and low context styles, and collectivism and high context styles – while this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, I think it’s a fantastic thing to keep in mind when travelling or working with people from different cultures to inform your behaviour. The module concluded with practical tips for low context communicators to adapt to high context communications styles and vice versa, which effectively brings theoretical concepts into the real world for tangible situations. 

The bottom line: don’t let travel bans stop your career! This program will help strengthen your soft skills like team collaboration, tolerance and creativity, and independence because it’s up to you to manage your time before the following discussion group. Taking part in this virtual program will also help strengthen adaptability and cultural awareness, all of which are pursued by employers but can best be learned beyond the traditional classroom setting. 

Marina: AFS NZ Global Competence Certificate – The 360 International Blog

Marina: AFS NZ Global Competence Certificate (March 2021)

The AFS: Global Competence Certificate was delivered in virtual modules that would prepare us for the online sessions, where we would discuss specific topics. Regarding the modules, we would watch videos or read texts, and then we would post our experiences/thoughts on forums, where we could interact with each other over the weeks, and the more effort you put into them, the more you get out of the discussions. I enjoyed the format of the discussions, which were often in breakout rooms on Zoom and every time with different people from the group, so that over time you got to know everyone. The discussions were exciting and engaging, and session by session, everyone would feel more comfortable expressing themselves. Also, I found that most of the topics resonated with me.

What I loved about the GCC was the possibility of getting in contact with people from other Universities across New Zealand who are undertaking different programmes. At university, we sometimes only interact with people from our programme and/or campus, and I found that this diversity enriched the discussions. There were also international students in the GCC, which brings different perspectives to the topics we discussed. A challenge that I faced was that as a non-native English speaker, I am usually self-conscious and shy about online discussions. After the GCC and primarily because of the virtual meetings where I had to participate, I feel more confident in situations where I need to interact virtually.

Being self-assured in online discussions is an important skill to develop since many things are performed online nowadays, and GCC was a good start for me to overcome this obstacle. A skill that I believe is essential and that the GCC programme helped me with is cultural competence. This skill is also one of the principles in the Code of Ethical Conduct for my profession. As a future health care provider, especially in a multicultural country such as New Zealand, it is essential that I learn how to improve this skill. Differently from what I thought initially, we can learn how to be culturally competent.

The GCC enhanced previous experiences I have had to reflect on them and improve my cultural competency. Another skill that I consider essential and that we touched on that a few times is active listening. The modules provided us with examples of what kind of listeners we might be, and although I always considered myself a good listener, I was surprised to realize that was not the case. From that moment on, I have been trying to apply what I learned in the modules and discussions to be a better listener. To any student who might be interested in virtual programmes, I would definitely encourage them. It is an excellent opportunity to get to know interesting people and to broaden your horizons and perspectives.

Global Competence Certificate (GCC) | AFS Intercultural Programs

Ashley: AFS NZ Global Competence Certificate (March 2021)

AFS Global Competence Certificate was an extremely valuable and constructive course that has given me knowledge in a wide range of areas that will be imperative for success within my future endeavors.

The course ran for three weeks, with two live zoom sessions per week. Although it was challenging fitting in two lectures a week, it was the correct amount of time, as there was a lot of content to go through, and I wouldn’t have wanted to cut any of it out. One of the brilliant aspects of AFS was that it gives you a chance to learn as you go and doesn’t require an exam at the end. You complete a variety of modules along the way without the pressure of knowing you have an exam at the end.

The live zoom sessions were very engaging as the professor facilitating the zoom would talk and teach and encourage fellow course members to participate. There was never any point within the live zoom where I was not captivated. The hour and a half went very quickly, often with things left to say. The zoom breakout rooms were used effectively to ensure you had smaller groups to discuss things further, and by the end of the course, you had engaged with all members. The programme was challenging in terms of time commitments with University and work; however, with tight time management, it all works out in the end. Through my overseas exchange, I learned a lot about being globally competent; however, AFS went one step further to make you more self-aware and equipped in handling different scenarios. You acquire skills in identifying stereotypes, gain vital information in terms of empathy and listening, and look into culture, communication, and conflict.

One of the main areas that I took away from the course was spiritual diversity, power, and privilege. The spiritual diversity module allowed me to understand how to deal with different situations where the spirituality in a workplace or other was different from your own and how to combat different scenarios that may arise. The power and privilege section ensured you were more conscious and informed about how your upbringing, status, education and opportunities allowed you to be where you are. Everyone’s start to life is hugely varied and can put you ahead before you even know it.

AFS provided many different strategies to combat life and ensure you are always aware of people’s feelings and situations. I would highly encourage students to enter into this virtual programme or another. It has allowed me to now feel resourceful in entering different workplaces and situations, knowing I have the capabilities to deal with whatever arises. Virtual programmes will enable you to gain knowledge and skill in contrasting areas from your study to enhance different thinking and reasoning ways.

Global Competence Certificate (GCC) | AFS Intercultural Programs