Excitement and uncertainty jostled for supremacy as I walked into my first day of training as a junior facilitator.
As an American and freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, I couldn’t wait to engage with Singaporean students on the challenges of leadership. The differences between the students’ experiences and my own promised discovery, and the universal qualities of good leadership ensured a common goal. However I wondered how the program could go beyond advocacy, and implant the self-awareness and independence all leaders need. The answer became clear within my first day: this is a learn-by-doing program, and not just for the students.
After a brief round of introductions, and an overview of the Singaporean school system, I began to feel the ease and familiarity of a college lecture. Alas for my nerves, thankfully for my enthusiasm, this initiation was short-lived. As the day drew to a close, I found myself outlaying my ambitions in a mock fellowship interview. The students have to go through a similar interview to help them articulate their aspirations, and if I was to help them through it, I needed to experience it.
“Has a piece of writing ever inspired you to action?” Articulating my ambitions helped me express them more eloquently, and forced me to examine the desires and assumptions underlying them. When asked to describe myself in three words, I was confronted with the three words that I would most like to associate with myself, and those that most accurately depict me. I had to make the distinction between who I was and who I wanted to be, which is a crucial step in becoming the latter. Practicing interviews deepens our understanding of ourselves, and allows for complexity in the framework of an underlying narrative, exactly what colleges and employers are looking for.
As a college applicant, it’s crucial to be able to communicate the essence of your personality and aspirations in an interview; as a leader, it’s just as vital to be able to abandon yourself and empathize with others. Young Leaders of Tomorrow take this concept literally, and by the second day of our training, I was discarding my dress pants for the discomfort of an Indian kurta to role play a villager in the Indian micro finance crisis.