Starting university is like starting a new life, being a phase with few constraints, a euphoric and indulgent chapter, where you can bond with others and have fun. (Montgomery, 2010). When students leave home, they embark on a new journey, one that of self-reliance and self-discovery, which largely shapes up their outlook on life in the longer run (It’s Nacho, 2018), especially if they travel abroad to study. Being one of these students can be challenging and overwhelming, but it represents the best part of my life so far, as I start to set up my future. The aim of this essay is to analyse the changes that have occurred upon myself during the first semester and reflect on the skills and capabilities I have gained due to group presentation and report, together with the poster competition, as reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over and evaluate it. (Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1985, p.19).
To begin with, the first months of university focused mainly on teamwork, which can be defined as the process of working collaboratively with a group of people in order to achieve a goal, being a crucial part of a business. (BusinessDictionary.com, 2018). However, this represents one of the key employability requirements, because employers are definitely looking for staff who can work effectively and efficiently with others. (Gallagher, 2016). According to Bruce Tuckman (1965), there are a series of stages a team goes through: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
The first one represents the time of “orientation”, where people are brought together.
For this, we completed a set of tests to make sure that we choose the right persons to collaborate with, because “What is needed is not well-balanced individuals, but individuals who balance well with each other” as Dr. Meredith Belbin mentions.
Conforming to him, I assumed I was as a Coordinator: mature, confident, who can often be seen as manipulative. (Belbin, 2004) The other test showed my position on the team as well, that being The Driver: who is generally very ambitious and energetic and may appear impatient and impulsive. It is a strong motivator and will challenge others at crucial times. Although the actions of the driver may sometimes seem somewhat emotional, they do play a vital role in pushing the team forward to succeed. (123test.com, 2018). This description sums up my personality perfectly and made me aware of who I am. Taking this in consideration, I paired up with those having different profile: chairman, analyzer, executive, explorer and the team player. At first, this evaluation seemed irrelevant, but after moving to the next phases (storming and norming) I realized how useful it was, as we completed each other’s ideas entirely, listened carefully, took decisions together and supported one another. After completing a task, most of the groups disband simply because the reason for its members being together no longer exists. This was not our case. Luckily, we have become friends rather than just mates, thing that could have been noticed in our performance.
Gratitude to various meetings and rehearsals, our team managed to be outstanding through making eye-contact with public and between us, as in many cultures the eyes are considered to be the windows into the soul, revealing your true feelings (Gallagher, 2016), talking freely and using non-verbal communication. We used body-language for announcing each other when it is other’s turn to talk or when we are running out of time, not to interrupt the speech. These facts of well-communication were highlighted later in the received feedback and our grade. We ‘dressed for the occasion’ as well, to look professional and unitary. A research showed that workers who wear appropriate clothes achieve more and have an increased productivity. (Smith, 2018) Besides, we put the emphasis on catching the attention of the public and followed the basic considerations: background knowledge, interest in the subject area and their level of involvement. For this, we got them implicated by introducing ourselves, shortly mentioning the topic of discussion and asking a few questions to refresh the presentation. Including a substantial beginning and ending is significant, by reason of initial interest is high, but as the talk continues, it inevitably declines. Then, with the end in sight, attention levels typically pick up again. (Gallagher, 2016).
Moreover, through working together, we managed to develop ourselves individually, discovering what are our strengths and weaknesses by dividing our tasks. I was in charge of gathering all the information for the final version and designing the presentation likewise the poster. In this way, the passion for art and design has been updated to me and new horizons have been opened. For example, in the second semester, I plan to attend some Photoshop and Illustrator classes for improving my skills, because the visual content is usually as important as the information given to the audience. As Branthwaite (2002, p.177) tells us ‘images have a more direct connection to feelings and unconscious ideas’.
In addition to this, I could already feel the self-improvement regarding the decision-making process and responsibility, because editing a project requires you to conclude what is relevant to being preserved and what is more. Before, I have always found myself stuck in the third stage, that of evaluating the alternatives, but now making on the spot decisions has become my ability. We had this skill tested along with working under pressure when the poster competition was introduced to us. It came as a spontaneous assignment, which made us act rapidly an organize the time adequately. We had one week to set up everything, week in which we analyzed what university was offering at that moment, did a primary research by creating and interpreting a questionnaire for undergraduates and came up with a concept for enhancing their performance. The outcome was a prize-winning poster and an avalanche of praise, which united us even more and increased the esteem towards the strength of a team.
Also, I realized how necessary is to access and use computers. Having Microsoft Office knowledge is a vital skill for the business environment, principally Excel, for collecting numerical data and interpret the financial information. Managers need such input as profits, sales and production figures for making major decisions. To obtain and present it in a meaningful format represents a key managerial skill, requiring a certain level of numeracy (Gallagher, 2016), that we are trying to reach. Yet, PowerPoint is as decisive, because it helps to show the evidence assembled in a creative and engaging way if it is used right. Writing too much on a slide is counterproductive as it appears cluttered. Bullet points and short phrases are the suitable alternatives. The font should be at least 24, because reading a slide should not be like trying to read the bottom line of an optician’s chart! The colors are influential too as they express feelings. (Gallagher, 2016). Dark blues and creams are particularly effective, being associated with depth, precision, and intelligence. (Color-wheel-pro.com, 2018)
More, University made us aware of how to operate in the online climate. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn have been transformed from socializing websites into a way of “selling” ourselves. The profile picture is one of the first impressions an employer will have of someone. One employer surveyed mentioned rejecting a candidate for having a “very angry face” in their profile picture. Employers report considering it a red flag if they cannot find any trace of a candidate online, so different names than our own could be a disadvantage. In the era of internet connectivity and interactive communication that we live in, being off the grid can make a candidate appear to be out of date for not using the latest tools to market his or herself, so I actualized all my profiles. They also check to see if the information online corresponds to what the candidate has listed in their resume: work history, education, timeline, and interests. (Workopolis, 2018).
Furthermore, having in mind the “experimental learning cycle” belonging to Kolb, we have been going through the four stages: concrete experience-training sessions, seminars, reading, giving and listening to presentations; reflection- the stage where we gave our own initial thoughts via journal posts, theorizing- when you try to make sense of what happened and testing-writing the report and essay. From all of these, I have improved my independent learning skills. (Gallagher, 2016) As reported by Honey and Mumford Learning Style questionnaire, I determined myself as an Activists, the person who immerse itself fully in new experiences, enjoys here and now and it is open-minded, enthusiastic and flexible. (Gallagher, 2016). From the beginning, I took advantage of each opportunity arisen. I participated at Alumni events, from which I learned that the first step in being noticed is to ask questions, got involved in societies such as Vogue society, where we organized a fashion show from the scratch and QH Media, for which I wrote newspaper articles, improving my Academic English considerably. After getting used to university and strengthening my confidence, a new idea appeared in my mind, that of starting my own society, based on the new phenomena of micro-influencers on social media. A group of young people that express their interest in the aspects of life through images and video content on Instagram, a fast-rising platform. This can be a turning point, where passion becomes business by promoting ourselves and being a target for certain brands for collaborations, giving birth to our own brand.
Yet, we all belong to various backgrounds and countries, fact that pushed us to get out of the shell and communicate. The nature of international students’ experience may accentuate this development and provide us with a changed perspective on what it means to live, study and socialize with people from different cultures. This perspective could enable students to develop intercultural competencies that may contribute to their professional and personal future. (Montgomery, 2010) Nonetheless, this opened my appetite for discovering cultures and traveling the world high and low even on myself, overcoming the fear of the unknown. I intend to apply for a summer school in other European country and to take the third year overseas, more exactly in the U.S.A, for a better understanding of buyers’ behavior worldwide and the way marketing is practiced. I have not considered such things before actually starting to interact with other nationalities and noticing their contrasting way of thinking and performing.
To sum up, studying abroad resonates with figuring out your own person and self-development. For me, even on such a short period of time it shaped my character and made it possible to evolve from a child to a novice grown-up. University is like a rollercoaster: you accept the challenge, start with fear, go through breathtaking moments, and in the end, you are proud of your achievement. Overachieving my statute is my ambition and this experience represents the foundation of my future success. As the Swiss author, Pascal Mercier says “It is an error, a nonsensical act of violence, to concentrate on here and now with the conviction of thus grasping the essential. What matters is to move surely and calmly, with the appropriate humor and the appropriate melancholy in the temporally and spatially internal landscape that we are’. (Krogerus and Tschappeler, 2017). If you manage to understand your needs, to improve your weaknesses and take advantage of your strengths, halfway to a favorable outcome has already been covered.