Chelsea Segal, MPA ’19

Summer School for International Development Leaders hosted by Duke University and Indian Institute of Management Udaipur (IIMU).

Over the past 6 weeks, I participated in Summer School for International Development Leaders hosted by Duke University and Indian Institute of Management Udaipur (IIMU). Throughout the course, we spent half the time in development courses with Duke professors and management courses with IIMU professors. IIM is the top management school in the country, so we were learning from some of the best. We went into the field to conduct a needs assessment of a village on behalf of my assigned NGO, Mahan Seva Sansthan. We worked closely with our NGO to talk through our findings and create a project that our NGO can and wants to implement. I thoroughly enjoyed taking what I have learned at MIIS and in the summer program to put it into practice in the field. I felt like I had a propose and hopefully, it will have lasting effects on our village because our NGO plans to implement our project- a Cloth reusable sanitary pad project. I practiced working with an interpreter and understanding the limitations of working across different languages and to find a common ground.

I learned a lot from this experience and overall it was not an easy time. I was challenged in ways I could not have expected in working with my multi-cultural team. There was 4 of us- two Indians, one Chinese student and myself from the US. We struggled with communications, work styles, and the cultural differences. Not everyone’s voice mattered in the same way and that was challenging to navigate. Our collaborative work became very one-sided and I had to learn how to work in this setting. We got along outside of working in our group but the struggles of working in the team were draining.


However, through this process, I have come to realize a few things about working in a group. It is imperative to set expectations of each other from the beginning. I kept thinking about how my professors at MIIS have us do that and I think it could have prevented a lot of issues. In working in cross-cultural teams, we need to take time to understand cultural norms. Now that I have experience working in a difficult team, I can see how that can really affect the team members in a negative way. If you don’t take precautionary steps at the beginning, it can be challenging to go back and do it. Communication is vital for everyone to be on the same page and there needs to be the space to ensure that communication is happening. Everyone on the team should feel part of the team.

This was the most challenging experience I have had but I know that it was a good experience in practicing to work with difficult teammates in difficult situations. Not every group I will work in will be easy. There is no question that this experience I know will make me a better groupmate in the future.

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