intercultural competence

Gap Experiences + Emotional Intelligence: An Unstoppable Force

Emotional intelligence (EQ), is being able to recognize, control, and express your emotions, and having the skills to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically and judiciously.

EQ is a major buzzword these days across the media and more often, education. You may have heard of “social and emotional learning” or even its cousin, intercultural competence (cue our philosophy).

But it’s not only educators who see the value of EQ, The business world has begun to recognize its significance for successful leadership and teamwork. In fact, leadership and employee development programs at many companies are centered around the idea of improving their employees’ EQ to improve company productivity levels.

Today’s companies are now looking for people’s “soft skills” or emotional intelligence on job interviews as a major component as to whether or not to hire a candidate. According to the World Economic Forum's report, "The Future of Jobs," emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 job skills by 2020.

Even Oprah extols the virtues of EQ, claiming there may be many people with higher IQs than her in the world, but her ability to feel what others are feeling and have compassion for what others are going through (her EQ) is what has led her to be truly successful in life.

In fact, when it comes to her own success, Oprah attributes high EQ as more important than high IQ.

So why not work on deepening your emotional intelligence even before you start college?

A gap year is a great way to experience the transformative learning that leads to a higher emotional intelligence level and ultimately a more successful life.

Data suggests that having a higher EQ equates not only to higher academic achievement, but also enhances school cultures’ as students with high EQs are more self aware, confident, empathetic and better at connecting with others.

Gap years have been reported to teach students three essential components of emotional intelligence: empathy, self-awareness, and how to build healthy relationships:

  1. Empathy: Students engaging with themselves, the Other, and the world, as they do on a gap year, provides them with the opportunity to see firsthand that all humans experience the same emotions, suffering and joys, helping them to gain compassion for difference and understanding for the Other’s position in the world.

  2. Self awareness: By being abroad and immersing oneself in another culture, students are able to see one’s own cultural makeup and to recognize that they are products of their own cultures. Their encounters in a different culture will force students to have heightened awareness about their own behavior and its impact.

  3. Relationship building: As students interact with people in a foreign country at a deeper level, their well-being depends on forming relationship within difference. This human relationship based learning experience helps them to learn how to connect with and build healthy relationships with people who are different than them.

    Hands down, one of the biggest perks of our jobs as gap year counselors is not the site visits (though we do love those), but we love witnessing our students return from their gap year with greater maturity, a sense of purpose and direction, and increased emotional intelligence.

Picture of brain. Emotional Intelligence and gap year experiences.

Presenting at the 2017 Global Education Conference

Did you know...

  • Only 1/3 of US states actually require teachers to complete diversity training

  • Fewer than 5% of teachers in the U.S. are fluent in a second language

  • And only 3% of education majors studied abroad in some capacity in 2016

While these statistics are pretty dismal, it only takes a few steps for educators to totally change their classroom dynamics and support their own intercultural competence development. 

A few weeks ago, I was honored to present at the 2017 Global Education Conference, a 4-day online event that focused on globally connected teaching and learning.

Some key takeaways:

  1. Understand that YOU, the educator, are the vital link to supporting intercultural learning in your classroom

  2. Be cognizant of your perception of your students and their abilities

  3. When it comes to discipline and behavior, take into account the whole context

  4. Capitalize on your classroom and community's existing diversity

  5. Seek out other voices and bring them to your classroom conversation and engagement

Check out out my session:

Intercultural Competence for Educators: What's In It For Me? 

Global Learning Nerds Unite!

Gap Year Counselor at international education conference. Intercultural learning specializing in professional development.

It's been a busy June! Earlier this month, me and 10,000 other passionate international educators from 100+ countries joined together at the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference in Downtown Los Angeles (my backyard!).

We talked shop: trends, innovative practices, how to deal with global conflicts, and where the future of meaningful travel is going.

This was my seventh conference and as usual, it fed my [nerdy] global soul!

Meetings over Turkish coffee, networking events across DTLA, thought-provoking professional development sessions, and inspiring training seminars… Add 45+ languages being spoken and you have a global mix of individuals working together to bring the world to young and old.

The best part? I attended workshops by Janet Bennett, Ph.D. and Darla Deardorff, Ph.D., two of the leading researchers in intercultural competence research. Personally, I think they are the biggest reason why meaningful travel is more popular than it’s ever been before.

They have legitimized HOW and WHY breaking out of your comfort zone is so essential to survive in our globalized world.

Intercultural what?

Intercultural competence is a pretty simple concept actually.

It’s about being curious, self-aware, and empathetic towards others. That’s it.

Sure, it seems fluffy on the outside but us travelers know that experiencing a different culture has a huge impact on our identities. Something that has often been indescribable until Drs. Bennett and Deardorff (and a few others!) established its presence and importance.

“We are not truly educated until we have stepped outside our respective countries.” - Isabel Wilkerson

(NAFSA 2017 Plenary Speaker, Pulitzer prize winning journalist, and best-selling author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration)