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Leadership, Cultural Intelligence, and Networking – Takeaways from the International Student Leadership Forum 2018

Experience 

 This year’s International Student Leadership Forum held in Brisbane welcomed over 100 Queensland students from 40 countries over two days in October to address leadership, community and cross-cultural engagement. Considering that Queensland represents the third largest population of international students in Australia and international education is the state’s second largest service export after tourism, the conference location could not have been more appropriate.

In organising the event Study Queensland, the Queensland International Student Advisory Panel (QISAP), and the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) demonstrated how invested they are in their mission to deliver positive life-changing experiences to students in the Sunshine State. The forum’s agenda included an impressive roster of students and professionals who addressed conflict management styles, cultural intelligence, mental health, entrepreneurship, community building, and networking – key areas of knowledge for future leaders.

The forum included a visit to State Parliament, where students had the opportunity to meet and connect with MP’s and Ministers, which was a highlight. We learnt first-hand from the Honorable Kate Jones, the Minister for Innovation and Tourism, and Ministerial Champion for International Education, how enthusiastic she is about the future of international education. Unsurprisingly Study Queensland’s motto is: ‘start here, go anywhere’.

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Conflict Management Styles

QUT’sCorinne Loane and Samuel Pitman led the “Understanding Your Leadership Strengths and How to Make a Difference” session, exploring conflict management styles and how their subsequent impact in group situations.

Although leadership isn’t an easy concept to grasp, a general consensus among what it means to be a leader revolved around the idea of civil duty – that is, helping other people out. For some there is a misconception that leaders are by nature larger-than-life people, but often it’s everyday people like you and me - people who are trying to create positive change in the world. To exemplify that in a practical and ludic way, Corinne and Sam referred us to Reddit`s Human Being Bros feed.

When it comes to how leaders manage conflict within groups, Sam and Corinne used an analogous model of Thomas-Kilmann’s Conflict Management Modes to shed light on our peculiar ways of negotiating with other people. Are you a shark, owl, turtle, teddy bear, or fox? If you’re curious to know how you measure up click here.

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Cultural Intelligence

TheBanaam team conducted a workshop relying on an indigenous cultural framework to emphasise the importance of cross-cultural relationships in society. According to Banaam, a stepping stone to becoming culturally intelligent is to understand that culture is a hereditary, dynamic, and universal phenomenon. It is inherited by us, modified to keep up with our ever-changing environment, and spread in globalisation processes.

Kyle and Joshua Slabb, the two brothers behind Banaam, prompted students to think about how much of who they were was just the process of cultural transfer – emphasising the importance of interrogating our own cultural perspectives when immersing in new, culturally challenging environments. The Slabb brothers drew attention to the importance of understanding the principles, practices, and perceptions of our “new neighbors”, as cultural intelligence translates into our ability to interact effectively in a multicultural environment.

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The ISLF 2018 unveiled the common, fundamental characteristics bringing all of us together: a progressive curiosity fueled by an urge to thrive. Once we learn something, we want more information and facts to keep expanding on a previous knowledge base and, thus, become better equipped to tackle the challenges of our different (but similar) journeys and change society for the better.

Exchanging ideas with students from Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Sudan, Venezuela, Colombia, China, Kenya, Sweden, Japan, Italy, Canada, United States and Australia made me realise that our many varied paths are full of potential leaders, all walking side by side.  

*Frankie Barcellos is a Brazilian student currently studying for his Masters in Communications at Bond University.