Pagoda Projects – Beyond Work Experience

Internships Advice

Employability & Soft Skills

What is Employability?

[Employability is] a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.”- Mantz Yorke

Employability refers to the attributes and skills of an individual that ultimately contribute to their success in the workplace. Often labeled as ‘transferable skills’ – employability also includes soft skills that are non-technical and useful in nearly every job. 

Hiring managers and employers consider soft skills to be some of the most highly sought-after competencies in the workplace, which is why it is so important to recognize and develop these skills!

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are usually personality-driven and have little to do with technical knowledge or training. These traits are typically very strongly correlated to your innate disposition, but can also be practiced and perfected after identifying areas of weakness or potential growth. 

That being said, the path towards developing soft skills is not a straight one. It is often affected by our past experiences, emotional states, and overall self-awareness. While soft skills can be learned, this process may involve the kind of self-awareness and inner work that takes months or even years to develop. 

On the other hand, ‘hard’ or technical skills are usually quite straightforward to master when given the appropriate education and training. Our inner emotional landscape and personality do not typically affect our ability to simply ‘do the work’ involved with acquiring technical skills. Simply put, ‘hard’ skills can be taught, experience and qualifications can be gained – but soft skills are “the difference between adequate candidates and ideal candidates.”

This discrepancy is why soft skills are becoming more highly sought after by employers. If a hiring manager has narrowed down their search to the last two potential candidates, they will value the candidate with the strongest soft skills.

What are the Top Employability Skills?

The most in-demand soft skills seem to change every year, especially with the rise of automation, technology, and artificial intelligence. Compounding the effect of tech on the workforce is the fact that higher education is increasingly necessary to enter the job market. This means that there are more candidates applying for jobs today that hold advanced degrees and certifications, and possibly even a few years of relevant work experience. When the competition is that fierce, we have to look towards our soft skills as another way to stand out professionally. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some soft skills that are currently in demand:

  • Creative Problem Solving: Employers value candidates who can think creatively and outside of the box to come up with solutions for some of the toughest problems. You can highlight this skill on your resume by listing specific situations where you had to use creativity to solve problems in the past. 
  • Communication: This is one of the most crucial skills in any industry. It’s not just about what we say and how we say it – communication also takes place nonverbally, visually, and through written mediums. As remote work becomes more commonplace, it’s important to know how to communicate effectively via email, chats, and video calls. Being a good, active listener is another aspect of communication that is vital in the workplace since communication is a two-way process.
  • Time Management: Knowing how to manage your time effectively is a valuable skill in the workplace, especially when balancing several projects and deadlines, or working remotely from home. There are many tools available that can help you manage your time, such as calendars and project management apps.
  • Emotional Intelligence:  According to a survey by Careerbuilder, 71% of employers say they value emotional intelligence over IQ. Some of these key traits include the ability to stay calm under pressure, peaceful conflict resolution, empathy, taking responsibility, and listening skills. Some ways that you can demonstrate emotional intelligence during an interview are through active listening, genuinely displaying your emotions, talking about your growth, and asking questions about the company culture.
  • Collaboration & Teamwork: Effective collaboration means genuinely listening to the input of others and working towards a common goal. Trust goes a long way towards fostering an effective team, as well as encouragement and enthusiasm.
  • Adaptability: Being able to ‘go with the flow’ and adapt quickly to change is seen as an important trait by employers, especially in today’s rapidly changing technological world. Often, unexpected hurdles may affect the workplace, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many offices had to quickly adapt to remote work and all the challenges that come along with it. Demonstrating your adaptability lets employers know that you can be trusted to accept change and thrive in a changing environment.
  • Leadership: Mastering the above employability skills will certainly attract the interest of prospective hiring managers. However, employers want to hire someone who is capable of taking on additional responsibilities and potentially growing into a leadership role in the future. During an interview, be sure to discuss any additional responsibilities or promotions you received in past roles to demonstrate your leadership potential.

Why are Employability and Soft Skills Important?

The importance of employability and soft skills extends beyond the job search. In the process of developing these skills, it is an inevitable result that your self-awareness will improve. Exploring the self and developing a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses can help you grow in all areas of life. Skills like adaptability and emotional intelligence help us deal with unexpected life events with more resilience and acceptance.

When it comes to securing employment, employability can make all the difference in a competitive job market. Today, a degree is simply not enough – and employers are increasingly looking for candidates who can demonstrate their soft skills in addition to the technical skills needed for that specific job.

Want to learn more about this topic? → Check out our upcoming webinar Employability & Soft Skills happening on April 1st, 2021 at 9:00 am (UK)!


  1. What is employability and why is it so important? 
  2. Soft Skills List
  3. 8 Soft Skills Employers are Looking for in 2021
  4. Emotional Intelligence: Career-Builder Survey
  5. The Importance of Showing Emotional Intelligence in Your Job Interview
Internships Advice


What is Communication?

The art of communication is the language of leadership – James Humes

Communication is the act of transferring information through a message from a sender to a receiver. When transferring information, the sender ‘encodes’ the message through an appropriate communication channel, and the recipient ‘decodes’ the message to understand its meaning. Ultimately, the desired goal of any communication process is shared understanding between the sender and recipient. 

Communicating even a single, clear message can be affected by a huge range of things, and misunderstandings can easily happen. This complexity is why good communication skills are considered so desirable by employers. Accurate, effective, and unambiguous communication is not always easy.

Being a good communicator means having the ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly in verbal, non-verbal, and written forms. This includes having public speaking or digital presentation skills, recognizing body language, and being able to express ideas to others. Effective communication defines organizational goals and helps coworkers and team members collaborate.

Categories of Communication

Verbal Communication

Among the many different ways in which we can communicate with each other, verbal communication is the most essential skill for our daily interactions. The words and intonation that we use can either help or hinder us when conveying our thoughts, ideas, emotions, and opinions to others. When our verbal communication skills are weak, the listener may not understand our message, leading to potential issues in the workplace. Before starting a conversation, consider the following tips to improve your verbal communication and reduce potential misunderstandings:

  • Be prepared with the information you intend to share
  • Carefully choose your words to match the context and recipient’s background knowledge
  • Speak clearly and at an appropriate pace
  • Check-in with the listener to ensure your message is received
Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is another important aspect of communication that closely ties into and enhances verbal communication. It is estimated that 70-80% of all communication is actually non-verbal! Some examples include body language, tone, facial expressions, and physical proximity. Non-verbal communication helps provide subtle feedback during interactions, convey information about emotions, and define the relationship between the speaker and recipient. While non-verbal communication is not as straightforward as verbal communication, there are a few nearly universal examples of how you can improve as a non-verbal communicator in the workplace:

  • Maintain regular eye-contact to help others feel heard
  • Use a positive tone of voice
  • Smile, nod your head, and display other engaged facial expressions while listening to others
  • Use positive hand gestures like waving or a thumbs-up to express friendliness
  • Express professionalism when meeting someone through a firm handshake
Written Communication

Good writing skills are important in the workplace for a variety of scenarios such as texts, emails, blogs, reports, etc. A well-written and error-free resume/CV and cover letter can also help your job applications stand out and look professional, giving you a competitive advantage. There are several essential components to effective written communication to keep in mind that will allow the reader to form a positive impression:

  • Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Remember your audience, and cater your language appropriately to this audience
  • Use appropriate formal or informal language depending on the medium of communication
  • For example, text or instant messages can be informal. Emails and reports should be more formal.
  • Use gender-neutral language to stay inclusive
  • Stay away from unnecessary jargon, cliches, regional colloquialisms, & buzzwords

Barriers to Communication

Despite our best efforts and preparation, attempts at communication can often fail due to certain barriers. These barriers can occur at any stage in the process of communication and may be hidden beneath the surface. The most common barriers can be categorized as follows: Language, Psychological, Physiological, Physical, Systematic, Attitudinal, & Cultural. How can we avoid or overcome these barriers? 

  • Through active listening, asking for clarification or checking for understanding, and reflecting on the conversation after it has finished.
  • Through educating ourselves on the barriers to communication
  • By learning more about our audience, and adjusting communication 

Although we couldn’t possibly cover every communication barrier here, feel free to check out our online course on Intercultural Fluency to improve your cultural understanding and intercultural communication skills.

Why Does Communication Matter?

Communication matters because people and relationships matter. Improving our communication skills can help us build stronger professional and personal relationships that are formed on a foundation of mutual understanding. Without this strong foundation, relationships can break down and have dire consequences in the workplace and at home. 

According to Weise, et al., communication is one of the most important skills that employers value in their employees, and will only become more important in the future as automation and AI disrupt the workforce:

“Advancements in machine learning and deep learning have sparked alarmist predictions of massive job obsolescence, ranging anywhere from 8 percent[1] to 47 percent[3] of the jobs in the U.S. workforce. McKinsey estimates that about half of the work currently associated with $15 trillion in wages globally will become automated.[3] Workers are going to have to prepare not only for a much longer work life, but for a more turbulent one, too. In a new learn-earn-learn cycle, workers will need to return to learning throughout their work lives. They’ll need to be flexible and agile, able to shift and grow over the course of their longer work lives. It’s also increasingly clear that the skills that cannot be easily automated—such as systems thinking, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication—will be the ones needed to succeed in the future. The World Economic Forum anticipates that “[m]any formerly purely technical occupations are expected to show a new demand for creative and interpersonal skills.”[4] (Weise, et al., pg. 6).

Effective communication in the workplace is vital for positive work culture and employee productivity. In a professional environment where open communication is discouraged or not encouraged enough, it can negatively affect the profitability and success of the business. According to a study by Adu-Oppong & Agyin-Birikorang (2014), effective communication in the workplace creates job satisfaction, reduces conflicts, increases productivity, fosters a friendly work environment, produces meaningful relationships, and properly utilizes important resources (p.209).

Developing our interpersonal and non-violent communication skills can also contribute to personal growth, self-compassion, empathy, and self-awareness. Through a commitment to honesty, empathy, and self-connection while communicating, we can learn more about ourselves and others.

Communication at Netflix: A Case Study

We can learn a lot about effective communication in the workplace from various successful companies and organizations. Take Netflix, for example. Communication is one of nine values that are strongly encouraged within the company as part of their organizational culture. They emphasize four specific principles of communication that are desired in their employees:

  1. You listen well, instead of reacting fast, so you can better understand.
  2. You are concise and articulate in speech and writing.
  3. You treat people with respect, independent of their status or disagreement with you.
  4. You maintain calm poise in stressful situations.

In addition to these principles, giving and receiving feedback is essential to the company, as it builds trust and ensures exceptional performance. During this continuous feedback process, qualities such as honesty, transparency, and selflessness are highly welcomed.

The skills that cannot be easily automated—such as systems thinking, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication—will be the ones needed to succeed in the future.

How to Communicate Effectively

Communication is considered effective when the message is successfully delivered and understood by the listener. To achieve this, the speaker can balance their speaking speed, tone, enunciation, volume, and content to match the specific scenario. It is important to keep in mind the seven ‘C’s of Communication’:

  1.  Clarity: Is your message clear and easy to understand?
  2. Concise: Keep your message brief and free from unnecessary filler words.
  3. Concrete: Have you supplied enough detail so your audience can understand?
  4. Correct: Are you using the correct language for the situation, and is it free from grammatical or spelling errors?
  5. Coherent: Your message should be logical and consistent.
  6. Complete: Does your message contain all the relevant information needed?
  7. Courteous: Keep a friendly and open tone, and avoid passive aggression or hidden insults.

Additionally, it helps to keep in mind potential barriers to effective communication – such as semantic or cultural barriers, organizational barriers, psychological barriers, and personal lack of communication skills.

For specific strategies on how to communicate effectively in the workplace, check out our Workplace Basics Skills course.

Sources & Additional Resources

  1. The Art of Communicating Effectively 
  2. Communication Skills 
  3. Robot-Ready: Human+ Skills For the Future of Work
  4. Business Communication Skills for Managers (Free 16-week online course)
  5. TEDx Talks: The Power of Nonverbal Communication
  6. Communication in the Workplace: Guidelines for Improving Effectiveness
  7. Nonviolent Communication Skills for Personal Development and Growth
  8. The 7 C’s of Communication
Internships Advice

My Pagoda Story – Rafael Andika, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda participant Rafael Andika, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!

Keep reading to see how Rafael gained an understanding of Chinese culture, language, and traditions through meetings with a cultural mentor, and learned valuable digital competency and cultural fluency skills.

My name is Rafael Andika. I’m a second-year Sport Management student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I’m originally from Indonesia, and I moved to Cardiff in September 2019. So far, it has been an amazing experience for me, despite what is currently happening. During this occasion, I’m going to take you through my time in completing the Pagoda Christmas Virtual programme.

So, I actually came across this programme through the university’s international team. I read all the details of the programme, the requirements, and did some research about the organisation. I thought it would be a great choice to enrol on the programme given the fact that it is going to be flexible and virtually delivered, and I didn’t have much to do during the Christmas break since I couldn’t go back home. In addition to that, I’ve been into self-development lately as I realise it’s paramount to grow as a person. This programme has provided me with that opportunity, and I thought it’s a win-win for me and Pagoda.

Inside the programme, I got access to four skills courses that I can decide which ones to complete. I’ve managed to complete two of them, which are the digital competency course and cultural fluency course. Personally, I found that the cultural course is very interesting because it gave me a different perspective about intercultural communication, how different cultures look around the world (especially in China, Mexico, and Vietnam), and the background theory of why certain things are happening in different countries. The additional resources such as Ted Talks have been really helpful and giving me extra ideas about cross-cultural life. Moreover, it has allowed me to talk about my own country’s culture and traditions which are quite relevant to most Asian countries, but totally different from the Western nations. I definitely can relate to most of the content provided on this course as I’m currently living the life of interacting with people who have different cultures, traditions and beliefs. So, I think it’s a massive thing to actually experience what’s being taught and put the advice of “adapting and changing your cultural glasses” into practice.

I also had the opportunity to have a call with a cultural mentor from China. From there, we shared our background stories, the traditions and culture in China, and also had the chance to learn a small bit of Mandarin. The main struggle that I experienced was definitely setting up a call schedule. The time difference between the UK and China is 8 hours, so we have to fit the call between our daily activities and commitments. Overall, it has been an enjoyable experience to meet new people from different countries.

The programme also offers pre-recorded events about self-development, industry workshops, and webinars from various sectors which has been very beneficial. One of the events that fascinated me was the fireside chat Q&A with a global sports brand, which is Hummel. It dove into how the company runs and adapts through challenges at this unprecedented time, as well as insights into their sustainable development as a brand. They shared what their challenges are as a minor sports brand compared to the bigger brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Puma in competing in the marketing sector of the products. It gave me a clear perception that the consumer is an important part of the business, hence knowing consumer profiles as well as adapting to consumer needs and demands will influence the growth of the business.

I’ve been into self-development lately as I realise it’s paramount to grow as a person. This programme has provided me with that opportunity.

To conclude, the Pagoda Christmas Virtual Programme experience has been amazing for me. I can gain access to a lot of courses and events which are useful for my personal growth. It has provided me with a chance to network with fellow students as well, which I think is very important for your career and wellbeing. I would definitely recommend any prospective students who would like to take the programme whenever it will become available. I believe there is no better investment other than investing your time for knowledge and skill development; you will need it in every step of your life.

Image of Christmas tree and ornamets
Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Marissa Kodikara, Cardiff University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Marissa Kodikara, from Cardiff University.

Keep reading to see how Marissa attained a newfound appreciation for her own culture through meetings with a cultural mentor from China, all while gaining valuable employability and workplace skills!

Throughout taking this programme I really felt that I was able to develop my personal and professional skillset, which surprised me over such a short amount of time. I thoroughly enjoyed how flexible everything was, and I found the programme to be accessible, just on my laptop, and fun. To me, the whole Pagoda team were so welcoming and encouraging about expanding everyone’s skillset, and I felt so involved from the beginning even without in-person communication. I genuinely feel that this programme, even though only 3 weeks, has opened my mind and made me more curious about the business world overall, and interactions with other cultures. Therefore, I will definitely be doing my best to keep in touch with many of the Pagoda team and people on the programme, as they all have such unique experiences that I would love to learn more about.

Live and Recorded Sessions

I really liked having access to so many webinars and extra videos, as this provided such ease for understanding. All the videos I got around to watching were incredibly engaging, and I’d have to say my favourite was actually the live webinar on ‘Managing Across Cultures’ – probably because it was a live event, which meant I was able to communicate with other people on the programme and the Pagoda team themselves. This session taught me so many things I would have never known otherwise, and it definitely widened my horizon to how important it is to understand another culture in terms of the workplace and more. The other pre-recorded webinars were also so interesting, and I think they will definitely help me later on when applying for internships and jobs!

Skills Workshops

These were incredibly useful in adding to my skillsets, and the workshops themselves were really concise but also provided really great information and advice. I also really enjoyed that we were given a digital certificate upon completion, which tied together the end of the workshop so perfectly. In particular, I thought the LinkedIn workshop was very useful because even though I had a page before, I was not sure how to amend it so that employers would be satisfied. The webinar in this workshop broke down easy steps for me to follow, and I hope that soon my LinkedIn page will be appreciated by many, thanks to Pagoda.

I genuinely feel that this programme, even though only 3 weeks, has opened my mind and made me more curious about the business world overall, and interactions with other cultures.

The self-reflection aspect of the employability workshop proved very interesting to me. What I really liked about this was that it did not just scratch the surface but had multiple personality tests to take, and then went on to make me think further about what this meant for me individually and how it applies to a working situation. This was incredibly useful, especially as I am not certain of the job I would want, so being able to see where I would fit (alongside the other workshops, which indicated what I could do in situations) was really intriguing.

Cultural Mentor

This was potentially my favourite part of the whole programme as it was so different from anything I have experienced before and probably not something I will always have the chance to do. I really appreciated the time that I got to spend talking to 江 as not only was this extra interaction during the COVID19 pandemic really nice, but it was so interesting to learn more about his life and China in general. It was also great to talk about the UK, as questions were asked which made me think and actually appreciate parts of UK culture I did not really recognise before.

remote internship
Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story- Natalia Wilkowska, DMU

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our remote programmes. This is Pagoda Participant Natalia Wilkowska, from DMU, who recently completed her Global Competencies programme!

Keep reading to see how Natalia balanced her busy Architectural Technology class schedule, part-time job, and the Global Competencies Programme during her time with Pagoda!

My name is Natalia and I’m studying Architectural Technology at De Montfort University in Leicester. I took part in the 4-week Pagoda Projects Global Competencies Programme, which gave me the opportunity to develop my skills through Pagoda’s digital skills courses. The courses focused on improving cultural fluency, employability and digital skills. There were many other programme components like weekly live events, as well as conversations with my cultural mentor. My cultural mentor and I had a chance to virtually meet each other and discuss a variety of topics. The programme was an innovative option to gain cultural knowledge and improve my employability skills. What’s more, it was fully digital! This meant that I could finish the programme while studying and working.

Due to the current situation, it has been easier for me to coordinate academic studies, extracurricular courses, part-time work and personal commitments, since all are taking place from home. As there is no need to travel and move about, that time can be used for different tasks. For example, I could spend that time on the skills courses – I could finish them all at once or save my progress and come back later.

Workplace view!


As a 3rd Year Architectural Technology student, my studies and dissertation are my priority. However, in taking part in the Global Citizenship Course and learning about Sustainable Development Goals at university, I was able to expand on knowledge directly related to my course.

The programme taught me how to develop time management skills. Thanks to the cultural mentor aspect, I also improved my communication skills.

In my spare time, I often talk to my family and friends in Poland where I come from. I also spend time with my flatmate who is also my best friend. I really enjoy exercising as well. Recently, I started attending online fitness classes which I think is a great way to keep balance.

During the Pagoda Global Competencies Programme, I needed to combine all of these activities. The programme itself taught me how to develop my time management skills. Thanks to the cultural mentor aspect, I improved my communication skills. The access to digital courses provided me not only with certificates, but also useful knowledge and interesting facts about various countries, people and habits that I previously didn’t know about. Furthermore, I enhanced my digital skills which are helpful for university and I developed my employability skills which are useful for the future. Overall, it was definitely an exciting experience!


All You Need to Know, Daily Life in Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam Basics, Vietnamese Food

Saigon’s Ultimate Must-Visit Restaurant Types

Oh, how we wish we could go back to the life of a nomad! The new experiences, the people, and most of all the food… Do you want to know exactly how to take full advantage of the different food experiences Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has to offer? Then look no further. In this week’s blog, we’re going to give you a run down of the four (4) most popular types of restaurants that this wonderful food metropolis has to offer.


Food Stalls

Street food is an ingrained part of Vietnamese cuisine, which is celebrated worldwide for its convenience, speed of service and its phenomenal flavours! Saigon is teeming with food vendors sprawled throughout the city: from wide open streets to narrow alleyways. There are usually only 1-2 sellers per vendor, but they are kept busy with long queues of hungry locals looking for a cheap and tasty on-the-go meal.

saigon foodWhy not try…

Banh Xeo Nga – This is one of our stops on the food tour, and are famous for their Vietnamese pancakes !

Banh Mi 37 – They do the best Perfect Pork Meatball Sandwich!


Family-Run Restaurants

Family-owned restaurants typically only offer one type of dish which has been popular with locals over the years and ultimately made the family restaurant a household name. Their speciality could be a specific recipe or technique which the family has perfected and passed down from generation to generation. The true strength of restaurants like these are their affordable yet distinctly delicious dishes.

You can’t miss out…

Bánh Cuốn Tây Hồ – Try their popular fish sauce!

Miến gà Kỳ Đồng – It doesn’t get more traditional than this!



Vietnamese “Pubs”

In Vietnamese drinking culture, there are some restaurants where people can both go out drinking to and eat dinner at the same time. Common dishes you can find at these establishments are shellfish, BBQ and hotpot. People tend to drink a lot of beer alongside the food and gather in hoards at weekends.

saigon pubsJoin the party at…

The D Saigon – A unique and cozy bar inside the oldest market of Saigon.



Traditional Restaurants

Popular with tourists for their cosy atmosphere and English-speaking staff, it’s also the transformative experience that these traditional restaurants offer which attracts potential diners. Dining in one of these restaurants can feel like you have stepped back into 19th century rural Vietnam. These restaurants offer an immersive experience with beautiful decoration, relaxing music and a range of authentic Vietnamese food and drink.

saigon food

A hidden gem…

Hue House – A rooftop restaurant that you wouldn’t even know is there!


Internships Advice, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Josie Davies, Cardiff University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Josie Davies, from Cardiff University.

Keep reading to see how Josie got to discover Mexico from her room while improving her digital skills and employability!

Before enrolling on the Cardiff Christmas Special Pagoda Programme, I had no idea what to expect. I have always enjoyed learning about different cultures and engaging with people from various walks of life so I thought I may benefit from enhancing my cultural knowledge. I was also attracted to the employability and digital competency aspect of the programme because at the time I was applying for placements and wanted advice on how to improve my applications.

skills courses

Cultural Mentor Experience

My expectations of this programme were exceeded, and I felt that I have learnt a lot about many countries, in particular Mexico, but also Vietnam and China. My cultural mentor meetings were the highlight of my experience on this programme because I had a great connection with Danny and got first-hand information about what it is like to live in Mexico.

I learnt some very interesting facts about New Year’s celebrations from Danny. Learning about celebrities in Mexico was also fascinating to me because I found it bizarre which celebrities from the UK were famous there. Unfortunately, I knew of very little Mexican celebrities which highlighted my lack of awareness of where people originate from. This inspired me to make sure I take time to learn where people come from and learn more about their background.

skills course

Online Skill Courses

The Digital Competency course has benefited me in so many ways, but particularly the LinkedIn workshop has helped be immensely. Before this skills course I was so unsure about how to use LinkedIn and was not entirely sure what it was good for. After completing the course, I was then able to go and set up my account and develop my profile in a way that is attractive to professionals in my field. Since this I have been constantly developing my connections and have been reaching out to professionals, all thanks to this course.

I would recommend this programme to anyone hoping to improve their employability, intercultural fluency, or digital skills as there are so many courses and webinars to help.

I am now more motivated than ever to develop a wide range of skills further and more specifically I am looking to improve my Spanish ability so that I can speak to a larger range of people, my cultural meetings with Danny have inspired me to do this.

Internship Experience, Participant Perspectives

My Pagoda Story – Alys Patterson, Cardiff Metropolitan University

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our Christmas Special Programme. This is Pagoda Participant Alys Patterson, from Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Keep reading to see how Alys enhanced her employability with our courses and broadened her horizons through her cultura mentor calls… All during her Christmas break!

I was very excited to learn mid-December that I had been accepted to take part in a 3-week virtual Christmas special programme. This opportunity provided me with a positive way of staying productive over the Christmas holidays and gave me valuable insights into numerous cultures. There were 3 main tasks involved in the programme that included an hour-long weekly chat with an assigned cultural mentor, completing at least 2 out of 4 online courses, and actively engaging with pre-recorded workshops.

Cultural Mentor Experience

I was lucky enough to be paired with Juliet Zhou originally from Shantou City in China, but currently studying in Beijing. Juliet was so lovely to get to know, and it was so interesting to talk about our goals and values. We learnt despite coming from different cultures, we shared a great deal in common.

Despite initially being afraid Juliet and I would have nothing in common, the experience made me realise that my fear was misguided. I learnt that when interacting with someone from a different culture, there are many possibilities you may find shared interests.

This programme has allowed me to expand my knowledge on multiple topics such as Asian Culture via my cultural mentor and improve my digitals skills. I am wholeheartedly sure that every aspect of this programme will positively impact my future, and I am so thankful for that.

Online Skill Courses

I managed to complete and thoroughly enjoy all four courses on Employability Skills, Digital Competency, Cultural Influences and Workplace Basics.

I learnt so much about effectively using LinkedIn and updated my CV and cover letter to a much more professional standard. I also completed a SWOT analysis to determine the target areas I would like to improve on.

Christmas Challenges

As this programme ran over the Christmas holidays, it was great to see the Pagoda Projects team provide Christmas themed activities. It felt like such a unique project to be a part of due to their hard work.

I often found myself working on a skills course and then having a fun little break to participate in some of the themed activities such as the Christmas decorations and jumper challenge and nabbing third place in the Christmas destinations quiz! I cannot help but applaud the team for taking the time to provide us with some entertainment over the festive period.


Internships Advice

My Pagoda Story: Ellen Jeffrey, Cardiff University 

In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our remote Global Competencies programme. This is Pagoda Participant Ellen Jeffery, from Cardiff University!

Keep reading to see how Ellen made a new connection and friend through her Cultural Mentor meetings, and became inspired to learn a new language.

If I am honest, I had no idea what to expect when I started the Global Competencies Programme, but it has been one of the best decisions I have made. Not only has it improved my employability skills, but has also helped me grow as a person and allowed me to be more culturally aware. I remember feeling quite nervous when joining the first zoom call- as I was uncertain as to what it would entail. But as soon as Aimee started talking and explaining more about the programme I instantly felt at ease and really felt part of the Pagoda team. After the call, I then went on to browse the Pagoda app which was full of interesting posts and polls about different cultures. There were also lots of interesting posts about tips on employability, and fun facts about other cultures which were interesting to read.

Personal Development Workshop

The picture here is from the personal development workshop that was in week 2. I think this was my favourite workshop, as it really helped me to understand how to be the best version of myself.

Working from home!


One of the key points I picked up from this workshop is that one of the best ways to not only make yourself more employable but to also give yourself even better opportunities in life, is simply by learning another language. This has motivated me to start to learn another language once the programme has finished. I am not too sure what I fancy learning yet, but Italian is definitely up there!



[The Cultural Mentor Programme] has been the most enriching, as hearing about another culture directly from someone who is living there now is amazing. We have had some wonderful mind-opening chats.

One of the highlights of the programme for me was the cultural mentor scheme. I was quite unsure how it was going to work at first and felt quite anxious about if it was going to be awkward at all. But this was the complete opposite for me! I remember my first zoom call with Veronica being nearly an hour and 15 minutes long- and each time we have one we have to make sure to stop ourselves after an hour otherwise we could chat all day (well, night time for me!). This scheme has been the most enriching, as hearing about another culture directly from someone who is living there now is amazing. We have had some wonderful mind-opening chats. My favourite was when we were discussing our dreams and aspirations. This chat really opened my eyes to the opportunities available to me- we both were able to help each other come up with a plan for our futures and it was amazing to hear her plans and goals. I hope to maintain my connection with Veronica after the programme as I could listen to her stories and experiences all day!

I would like to thank the Pagoda team for helping me make some amazing connections, improve my employability skills, and become a more well-rounded person!

Cultural Fluency Course