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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that just completed our remote Global Competencies programme. Today from De Montfort University (DMU), we have Jakub Nowicki. Keep reading to see how Jakub got to experience Asia right from his room, and how he gained employability skills along the way!
In early November, I received an email that I had been accepted into the Pagoda Projects Global Competencies programme. The program was to consist of a 4-week remote internship, which was to provide a positive outcome to the forced isolation through this latest scholarship opportunity. The team at Pagoda Projects were determined to ensure student experience remains high while we are all adapting to life throughout the pandemic.
Global Competencies Programme
Global Competencies can be divided into three large sections – weekly conversations with a foreign mentor (in my case I was paired with Oscar Liou from Taiwan), regular thematic webinars, and most importantly, expertly prepared courses enabling students to improve ‘work readiness’ for a post-pandemic business world. It sounds like a dream opportunity for every student, right? And IT WAS!
During the 4-week period, I managed to create a brilliant CV, prepare a template for my cover letter, and do a self-assessment about my skillset – my strong points and points needing more development.
To start with, huge respect to the Pagoda Projects team for preparing such amazing skill courses. The first one I started working on was aimed at Cultural Fluency. During the prepared lessons, I broadened my knowledge about Greater China, Mexico, and Vietnam. Additionally, I am convinced that I am now better prepared for international communication within the industry. Next on the list was the Employability course. Hands down it was my favorite, but it was also the one I spend the most time on. During the 4-week period, I managed to create a brilliant CV, prepare a template for my cover letter, and do a self-assessment about my skillset – my strong points and points needing more development.
The course also taught me about the importance of self-presentation and our digital profiles. I firmly believe that all that knowledge will have a huge impact on my employment in the nearest future. Last but not least, Digital Competency. I started with lessons about LinkedIn – its importance and benefits. With clear guidelines, I created and set up my first professional LinkedIn profile. In the next steps, I started learning about the basics of digital marketing and SEO skills. The course ended with a masterclass on presenting and public speaking. Long story short, all the courses were carefully and thoughtfully prepared. They were easy to understand and to follow, yet they provided a lot of valuable information.
Events and Webinars
Opportunities & Initiatives, Diversity & The Workplace, Environment & Innovation or Personal Development – those were the examples of Pagoda Events running during the time of my remote internship. All of them were extremely informative and really well prepared. I was able to ask both hosts and guests multiple questions and learn about topics that interest me.
Even though we were almost the same age, the way we look at world is completely unique. And what is even more shocking, we were getting along incredibly well despite all the differences.
During my internship, I was paired with a cultural mentor from Taiwan. His name is Oscar Liou and he is 24 years old. Every week we had an hour-long video chat discussing multiple topics about our cultures – Poland, UK, and Taiwan. It really shocked me how different our cultures were! Even though we were almost the same age, the way we look at world is completely unique. And what is even more shocking, we were getting along incredibly well despite all the differences. We elaborated on topics like Industries & Opportunities, Music & Arts, Dreams & Goals and Communication.
As you can see, we had a chance to talk about our cultures, our traditions and about our personal life. I really feel like I made a good friend during that period. We even experienced AN EARTHQUAKE during our last video call! I could hear and see it via WhatsApp and it was super intense. Fortunately, Oscar and his family were all safe! I managed to pick a few photos me and Oscar shared with each other.
I could not be happier to be able to experience such a great opportunity. First of all, I learned a lot about myself. Every week I was smarter and more knowledgeable. I expanded my knowledge on multiple topics such as Asian culture, employability and marketing. I also grew as a person. I gained new skills and opened myself to new experiences. And the best part of it was that I made a new friend along the way.
In the upcoming week, we’re featuring guest blogs from our very own Pagoda Participants. We want to highlight some students who have written about their experience in the Pagoda Projects Global Competencies programme. Here we have Jai Boucher, from Lancaster University, who finished up the Global Competencies programme just last week!
The Pagoda Projects programme has been valuable in better understanding the different types of places and cultures that exist in the world, how to best work in them, and what you can learn from them. The part I enjoyed most about the programme was the Cultural Fluency course. Other cultures around the world and how they differed from others wasn’t something that I had had much interest in or had given much thought. However, after learning about the different cultures that exist in the examples they showed us, that being Mexico, Vietnam and China, I can say that this course opened my eyes and sparked an interest in the topic.
Learning about Different Cultures
It was interesting learning some of the radical differences that come with each culture. An example of this for me is the idea of “Face” that exists in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. It was quite interesting to think about how I would be seen in and react to such a culture. It also made me reflect on my culture and how it has affected me. The other important part of this was also learning how to be less ignorant/stereotypical towards other cultures and how to be more accepting. The self-analysis and understanding of other cultures allowed me to grow on a more personal level.
The experience made me realise our environment has a much bigger role in our perspectives and peoples’ perspectives in general than I realised.
Having a Cultural Mentor
Another part of the Pagoda Projects I enjoyed was having a cultural mentor. Getting to know someone from a completely different country that I had never met before was quite enjoyable. We taught each other a lot about each other’s countries (hers being Mexico), what cultures are like there, how that had affected the way we see things etc. It was also interesting to talk about our goals and our values and how that was affected by our upbringing. The experience made me realise our environment has a much bigger role in our perspectives and peoples’ perspectives in general than I realised.
Building Self-Development Skills
Aside from cultural fluency, the other digital skill courses, digital competency and employability, were also a great help in my self-development. They taught me skills such as how to better use my LinkedIn, what employers are looking for, online tools and resources for further learning/development, or just general use. All the digital courses provided great links to videos such as those made from TED talks and others which provided a greater in-depth understanding of the topic. Overall, the Pagoda Project programme has taught me things that I will consider and use, in both my personal and professional life.
This Christmas, we’re on a mission to find all the ways to stay safe and cozy indoors. We asked the entire Pagoda family to name their favorite Christmas movies or TV episodes and put together our top picks (in no particular order!). Whether you’re at home with your family or quarantining away from home with some friends, we hope you plan to check these out this holiday season.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas, from the Pagoda Projects team!
Home Alone (or Home Alone 2)
You know we had to start this list off with a classic! Home Alone is the highly successful and beloved family comedy, and definitely one of our favorites! Follow eight-year-old troublemaker Kevin McCallister, as he tries to protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.
Watch: Available to stream on Disney+, also available to rent or buy on Youtube and Google Play https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099785/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0
In the mood for a good laugh? Elf is a Christmas comedy about a man raised by elves in the North Pole who sets out to find his real family in New York City. Buddy the elf is played by Will Ferrell, of Saturday Night Live fame.
Watch: Available to stream on Elf will be showing on TV this year in the UK – airing on Sky Cinema from 8th December, starting from 12 pm. Also available to stream on Now TV, or rent on Amazon Prime https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319343/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Don’t judge us, we love a cheesy rom-com! Love Actually features nine intertwined stories that examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love.
Watch: Available to stream on Netflix, Now TV, and to buy on Amazon Prime https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0314331/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. If you prefer an action thriller over cozy films this Christmas, you might want to check out Die Hard. But is it a “real Christmas movie”? Decide for yourself!
Watch: Available to stream on Now TV, or rent on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, or Youtube https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095016/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Nightmare Before Christmas
Any Tim Burton fans out here? Whether this is really a Halloween or Christmas movie, Nightmare Before Christmas has made our list. The stop-motion animation tells the story of Jack Skellington, the King of “Halloween Town”, who stumbles through a portal to “Christmas Town” and becomes obsessed with celebrating the holiday.
Watch: Available to stream on Disney+, or buy on Amazon https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107688/
Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special
Gavin & Stacey, one of the most beloved British comedies of all time had a one-off Christmas special episode in 2019. There won’t be a new Christmas special of Gavin & Stacey this year – but there will be a rerun of last year’s episode.
Watch: Re-watch the episode again on Christmas Eve (Thursday 24 December) at 8:40PM on BBC One! https://tellymix.co.uk/tv/506585-gavin-stacey-christmas-special-2020-will-the-show-be-back-for-a-new-series.html
The Polar Express
The Polar Express is a Christmas staple, and it definitely captures the Christmas magic every winter. The animation film tells the story of a young boy who, on Christmas Eve, sees a mysterious train bound for the North Pole stop outside his window and is invited aboard by its conductor. The boy joins several other children as they embark on a journey to visit Santa Claus preparing for Christmas.
Watch: Available in the UK to stream on NowTV for the holiday season, or to rent or buy on Youtube and Amazon Prime. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338348/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt
Peep Show: Christmas Special
Peep Show is a British sitcom that follows the lives of Mark Corrigan and Jeremy “Jez” Usborne, two very different, dysfunctional friends who share a flat in Croydon, London. In the Christmas Special, Mark has his family over to the flat for Christmas dinner, as well as Dobby, who he is finally going out with, except he hasn’t told his parents yet.
Watch: Available to stream on Amazon Prime and Netflix UK https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1774084/
Jingle All the Way
Jingle All the Way is a 1996 American Christmas family comedy film directed by Brian Levant. It’s a classic plot: Parent forgets to buy a super-popular toy for their kid and must scramble on Christmas Eve to find said toy and prove that his child is, in fact, still loved. It’s silly, adventurous, and a fun one to watch with the family!
Watch: Available to stream on Now TV, or rent on Amazon Prime https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116705/
What’s Christmas without a classic Grinch movie? There are multiple movie adaptations of Dr. Seuss’s most iconic and beloved character, but here’s one you can stream on Netflix: the 2018 adaptation, Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch.
Watch: Available to stream on Netflix in the UK, and rent on Amazon, Google Play, or Youtube https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2709692/
It has been a hectic year for us all, but the Christmas and holiday season is here! Since we can’t do much about our wanderlust this year, here is a blog from Pagoda Projects intern Cara Wilson, who writes about her time in Zhuhai, China during Christmas 2019.
Christmas has not long passed, however to me it feels like it was months ago. This is probably due to the fact spending Christmas in China is extremely different from the usual celebrations I partake in at home in Scotland. Although this wasn’t my first Christmas spent abroad, it was still a new experience for me. Spending Christmas away from family and friends is always a strange sensation. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad experience, just a different one.
This year, I was in Zhuhai for Christmas. However, the small southern Chinese city didn’t make a big deal out of the celebration. This is due to the fact that Christmas is generally not celebrated in China, or in many countries across Asia. The 25th of December is not a national holiday, and Chinese companies don’t have any time off. Luckily for me I had Christmas day off, therefore, I had the chance to celebrate in my own fashion and at least relax a little and call my family back home.
If you were in Zhuhai in December but had no idea what month it was, you probably would never have guessed it was nearing Christmas. Although I knew that this Christian festival was not widely celebrated in China, I still thought there may have been some sort of commercial decorations or markets set up around the city. However, there were very few signs that pointed to the existence of Christmas, and the hot weather and lack of decorations really made it easy to forget about the festival altogether. During the last few days leading up to Christmas I even started forcing myself to listen to some classic Christmas songs to make sure I remembered it was almost time to celebrate.
As much as I found the lack of celebration surprising and new, it was also a good reminder of the cultural differences that exist between the UK and China. Yes, I would have loved to be able to visit a cheesy Christmas market, but in some ways, I viewed the lack of celebration interesting as it really put my small world into perspective. While so many countries celebrate Christmas each year, there are still millions of people who don’t treat the month of December any differently. For many, other festivals hold much more importance, for example Lunar New Year. Although I missed my usual Christmas activities, I could also view it as another chance to learn and experience a new culture, the number one reason why I chose to move to China.
It’s important to have some support, especially when you are so far from home or if you feel homesick. If it wasn’t for the people I spent my time with around Christmas, I would have felt even further from home.
Something else that I learned from celebrating Christmas abroad is the importance of the circle of friends you surround yourself with when abroad. It’s important to have some support, especially when you are so far from home or if you feel homesick. If it wasn’t for the people I spent my time with around Christmas, I would have felt even further from home. So, in some ways, it was not only a chance to experience a different aspect of Chinese culture but also an opportunity to spend time with new friends and make sure we all felt like we had a family thousands of miles from home. Although my Christmas was different in many ways, the homemade carbonara I enjoyed in my small apartment with friends tasted just as delicious as the turkey and potatoes I am used to sharing with my family. The experience gave me new memories and let me appreciate the new friendships I’ve made during my time here.
Although I may have missed my family on Christmas day, I still enjoyed the relaxing day off I had. And at the end of the day, it is just 24 hours. I think this is important to remember, especially for those homesick over the festive period. Try and give yourself something to look forward to in order to distract you from missing the celebration. The day will come and go, and you will be able to experience Christmas as the local people wherever you may be spending the day. It will also let you appreciate your next Christmas at home even more, and you’ll be able to entertain the table with tales of your travels abroad!
Our team here at Pagoda recognizes that growing your career (both in-person and now remotely!) presents many challenges, every step of the way. No matter what stage you are at right now, here is some advice you can use to prepare for all of your interviews.
Scheduling an interview at a good time is not always as straightforward as it seems. Arranging your interview at a time when the interviewer is most alert can positively influence the interviewer’s perception of your fit for the internship.
Timing is also important for building relationships with the professionals you may be working with in the future. For instance, earlier interviews in the middle of the week are more likely to be when people are working at peak productivity, increasing the likelihood of full engagement and deeper conversation.
- Aim to schedule interviews earlier in the day, and in the middle of the week
- Pay attention to time zone differences!
Scheduling interviews efficiently promotes positive experiences for both candidates and hiring teams. There are apps organizations use to increase efficiency- from sharing a Calendly link or using Google calendars, to other software to help account for timezone differences. Familiarize yourself with what the company uses, and be sure to set appropriate reminders for yourself. This is especially important if you are working across multiple scheduling platforms!
- Be familiar with the industry-standard scheduling tools
- Set reminders for yourself, especially if you are working across platforms
It is important to put a date and a time that is suitable for yourself, and an outline of communication. If that has not already been outlined to you, it is also important for you to communicate that you are flexible. – Liam Dempsey
”Once you have been accepted for an interview, which is fantastic, you can move to the next step of your process which will be to confirm your time and speak to your host company and the individuals involved. So it is important to put a date and a time that is suitable for yourself and also an outline of communication. If that has not already been outlined to you, it is also important for you to communicate that you are flexible. For example, you might be able to put forward to speak on Tuesday at 10 am, UK time via zoom, but it is also important to outline that you can also be flexible for other times.
So when it comes to your interview, you might realize you might have some issues to attend the interview or certain stage of the process due to an illness, or maybe something unexpected come up, this does happen to all of us sometimes, so just look to communicate this with the individual that you have been talking to from the company, look to apologize for the inconvenience, and make it very clear to arrange another time.”
Do your research about the role, company, and industry for any position are interviewing for. You don’t need to have all the answers, but recruiters and hiring managers can always tell when you’ve put in a genuine effort to learn about the role. Take this quote from Pagoda Alumni Victoria Rudolph, who completed an internship in 2015 in China with a Law Firm.
There are three areas that are very key to understand before you [start] the interview. Number one is the role itself. Do you understand what the role is and what you will be expected to do? Number two is the company itself- make sure you understand their product or services, anything relevant in the news. Thirdly, I would say the industry at large: the sector and their competitors. Knowing these three areas, you’ll feel a lot more confident going in. – Victoria Rudolph
The key to a successful interview is being prepared, but not just prepared for answering questions! Make sure you are also visibly and technologically prepared- this means dressing for the role that you want and having tested your technology before going into the interview.
- Research the role, company, and industry you are interviewing for
- Always show up about 10 minutes early for your interview
- Make sure your technology works ahead of time
”When you are arranging your interviews with the host company via e-mail, make sure to first double-check the time difference before you give your availability, and always include both your time and their time just to make sure if everybody is on the same page. Show up about ten minutes early for your interview, just to make sure technology is working, the internet is working, and dress up accordingly for your interview- smart and casual.”
There is no one true “best time” to schedule your interview or a one-size-fits-all method for a successful one. However, in making an effort to have good timing, efficiency, and preparation, you increase your chances of leaving a good impression with your interviewer.
Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it. –Theodore Roosevelt