Most college students prefer enjoying their study abroad time by exploring new cultures, eating the most delicious food possible and meeting authentic people. It is, of course, unconventional to see exchange students sleeping in front of their laptops worrying about what internships they are applying to, how to plan their capstone projects so they can graduate, or which essay is due tomorrow. Studying away is a time for us to enjoy the excursion from the college and going with the flow with other exchange students. This seems like the most natural thing to do, but we should be reminded that completely detaching ourselves from life-long learning could hurt one’s intellectual curiosity and abilities. Looking at this from a different angle, studying abroad is an opportunity for all of us to improve leadership in new environments.
I am currently enrolled at Yale-NUS College, the first liberal arts college of Singapore established by two spectacular institutions – National University of Singapore and Yale University. During my time here, I am taking a leadership course titled “Leadership Fundamentals” taught by Jonathan Marshall, adjunct professor of leadership at Singapore Management University (SMU).
Unlike other leadership development opportunities I have attended, Jonathan focuses on the link between psychology and leadership. A well-trained psychiatrist from Stanford, Jonathan’s main work on leadership is recognizing the link between ego and influence. He believes that the right amount of both of these characteristics create effective leaders. Expectedly, his interactive lectures and simulations are designed to teach students to have the right amount of ego depending on the situation.
Before taking this course on leadership, I have not approached leadership as Jonathan does. This unexpected opportunity actually proved that this is the other way around. Now that I am aware how group psychology is a decisive factor of group performance, it is easy to see that right science could actually make you the perfect fit for leading people around you.
Even if a student is studying abroad, a student committed to improvement and growth should not miss opportunities like this one. There might be tons of opportunities in a country that you have never been. We should be open to new opportunities and should seek them wherever we are. We should carry on with life-long learning in a semester that seems like a vacation to others. This attitude, I strongly believe, is one of the many other factors that makes the distinction between effective leaders and others.