Crossing cultures at CBS
Review of ISA’s International Education Week opening event: Crossing Cultures at CBS 11.11.13
Dear fellow CBS student,
How often do you think about the fact that Copenhagen Business School is a multicultural institution? I know that I tend to forget, even as I am a student in an international class. I guess I accept the study environment rather than reflect on it. What I am trying to say is that although I would always agree that my own class is highly diversified when it comes to culture and background I forget that this is true for CBS also when you look at the larger picture. The opening event of the International Student Association’s International Education Week 2013, “Crossing Cultures at CBS”, focused on making this crystal clear. The event had two speakers, special consultant at the CBS International Office, Candice L. Progler-Thomsen, and expatriate management and diversity consultant Heather Wallerson-Krog. A former full time international CBS student, now alumna, and proud American, Heather in the finest way represented the fact that the student body at CBS is culturally diverse. Candice, also American, showed that multiculturalism at CBS also exists outside the student body.
The event turned out to be rather intimate. 12 students including me, your writer, showed up on time. A few others dropped in a few minutes after 3PM. Still, we represented Denmark, Germany, Italy, Russia and China: another testimony of CBS’ cultural diversity. Or so I take it.
Candice opened the event. Being one of the main driving forces behind the CBS International Education Week (IEW) she explained the idea that the IEW is built on. What really struck me was that the IEW is not only about celebrating cultural diversity that is the reality at CBS, rather there is another important part of the IEW’s DNA, which is promoting what Candice calls Internationalization-at-home. The idea is that students from different cultures should feel encouraged to learn from and about each other’s cultures outside the classroom to everybody’s benefit. The reason why that is beneficial: cross-cultural understanding skills are always a sought-after quality in the workplace.
About 10 minutes into the event Candice gave the word to Heather. She prompted us (yes, all CBS students) to cherish the great opportunities studying in an international environment presents us with. The ability to make friends with people from all over the world and create a network that will enrich us as individuals and help us broaden our perspectives is only part of these opportunities. As Heather made clear, doing for example group work with fellow students of other nationalities helps us practice how to manage the pressure cooker that cultural differences can turn out to be. And that led us back to Candice’s point about intercultural awareness being a pivotal skill for the leaders of tomorrow. Heather emphasized it, before she moved on to tell the personal story of “The black girl who graduated from Georgetown University and settled down in Copenhagen”. Her story
conveyed her advice on how to cope, when the cultural differences seem too much to handle. And then we got to the second big piece of advice given at the event: that a mix of dialogue and desire for mutual understanding is the pillow that can soften even the hardest of cultural clashes, something I duly noted.
As a closing activity to highlight her point, Heather asked everybody at the event to pair up with a person they did not know and share one stereotype about the other person’s nationality. After sharing stereotypes each person then had to try to explain the perceived reason of the stereotype to the other. I learned a lot about the Russian perceptions of Danes and Denmark. Here is one: we think we know what it feels like when it is freezing outside. We do not. -30 degrees Celsius is not uncommon in Russia.
All in all I liked the event, and it was sad that so little people took the time to attend it. I enjoyed listening to both Candice and Heather who were enthusiastic about advocating greater intercultural awareness at CBS. I also liked the many personal examples Heather used to make her points shine through, and I gained a lot of new insight on how institutions like the International Office and the International Student Association promote and manage multiculturalism at CBS. 3 stars out of 5 possible.