Megan is a junior and Global Business Leadership major from CSB/SJU in Minnesota, USA. In Spring 2022, she participated in FIE’s Leadership London program. Leadership London includes a suite of leadership-based courses, an internship with a London organization, and presenting at the Student Global Leadership Conference. Below is a reflection from her coursework on what its like to live and learn in London.
This semester I decided to participate in the London Leadership Program as part of my study abroad experience. At the beginning of this experience, I did not think that I would develop as a leader very much but as this experience is coming to an end that could not be further from the truth.
I have travelled my entire life and I have been to some amazing places, but the difference is that everything has been planned for me. In London I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted but I also had to take the initiative to plan everything that I wanted to do. I have spent so many hours planning trips, booking tickets, making dinner reservations, arranging airport transportation, etc. something that I have never had to do before. I have always been a person who enjoys her quiet alone time, but I have forced myself out of my comfort zone and explored this very loud and chaotic city. I learned that leadership is not always about leading a group of people and sometimes the hardest person to lead is yourself.
Pushing myself out of my comfort zone has been the hardest part about this study abroad experience but I have grown as a person by doing so. If you would have asked me three months ago if I could plan a weeklong spring break trip to three countries without my mother’s help, I would have told you that you were crazy, but I did and even though everything did not go as planned I made the most of it. I have also always been a planner and I get frustrated when things do not turn out as I originally planned them. London is not a city where everything is going to go exactly as you planned it whether that is a tube strike preventing you from being able to go to Windsor, or Storm Eunice forcing you to cancel your trip to Scotland the night before you were supposed to leave, this experience has been filled with some unexpected events.
I am almost finished with my Ethical Leadership course and one of my final things to do for the class was to attend the Student Global Leadership Conference. The conference was centered around the topic Leading by Example: Making a Social Impact. My Ethical Leadership course also talked a lot about this topic as well, so I was excited to go deeper into it with speakers. I found an article about the FATHER Framework, and I think it ties in well with what I learned through my coursework and during the conference. “The F-A-T-H-E-R Framework. Fairness, Accountability, Trust, Honesty, Equality, and Respect” (Moore). A lot of the speakers talked about their experiences as leaders and every presentation I listened to talked about at least one of these elements. The opening keynote speaker was an Animal Rights Party Representative, and she talked a lot about Trust because as voters we put a lot of trust into the people we vote for. The presentation about Social Equity talked a lot about Equality throughout their presentation. “The principle of equality is core to our global human survival and happiness” (Moore). The speakers emphasized the relationship between feeling comfortable and welcomed in a culture and how much social equity we contribute to that culture. If you do not make your followers feel like their voices matter and they are an important asset to the group, they will not contribute as much to the culture you are trying to build. My Ethical Leadership Faculty always emphasizes that all opinions are welcomed into our classroom and that we should Respect each other and listen to different opinions because it helps us grow. “You may not agree with other people’s feelings or wishes, but you need to respect that they have those feelings” (Moore). I learned a lot about different topics and gained some new perspectives from my Ethical Leadership classmates and it was one of my favorite classes I have ever taken because we all contributed our opinions and views in our discussions.
I have learned and grown a lot during my time in London both in and out of the classroom. I did not think this experience would have as big of an impact on me as it has. I have learned about leadership in the past, but I have not had as many opportunities to progress as a leader, this experience has given me the opportunities I needed to thrive as a leader. Leadership is not always about leading a group of people and most of the time the hardest person to lead is yourself. A quote that I like from Stephen Covey is “to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions” (Covey). I think this quote describes what studying abroad can help you achieve. Cultural perception is more than growing up in a culture and learning about other cultures through school. There is no greater experience than experiencing a different culture firsthand. After doing this experience my perception has greatly changed but it has made me a better person.