In this #MyPagodaStory series, we’re featuring guest blogs from participants that completed our Easter Skills Programme. This is Pagoda participant Alice O’Donnell, from Cardiff Metropolitan University!
Keep reading to see how Alice improved her cultural awareness and intercultural communication skills, gained digital fluency, and learned some valuable insights about China through conversations with her cultural mentor!
I am Alice O’Donnell, a third-year Fashion Design student studying at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I decided to join the virtual Easter Programme as I believed that it would help me to gain a better understanding of cultures, and also provide me with important and knowledgeable information to prepare me as a graduate.
Throughout the past three weeks, I have enjoyed completing all four courses that Pagoda had to offer, each course providing me with different information. The first course that I took was called ‘Cultural Fluency’. I particularly enjoyed this course as it taught me all about intercultural communication which is a really valued skill. I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own. This course made me more aware of communication differences which will benefit me in the future, as I can avoid misunderstandings when communicating with overseas clients in a potential fashion design role in the near future. I then found it particularly interesting to learn about the culture of Greater China, Mexico and Vietnam, specifically their cuisines as I am one to try new tasty foods.
I can now say that I have some awareness on how to interact with people from cultures different to my own.
The next three courses that I took were more focused on employability skills and digital communication, therefore setting me up for the workplace after graduation. These courses were educational, in particular the digital competency course. This is because a lot of the fashion industry is promoted through imagery and so understanding the best times to post on certain platforms and how long a caption should be on certain platforms was very useful.
I have also been in contact with my Chinese mentor, Aubree, over the past three weeks. The conversations with Aubree have been insightful and it has been lovely spending time on the weekends to communicate with her. We have discussed the topic ‘communication’ and how it differs between our cultures. I found it interesting that in China a manager may ask “have you eaten” as a way of greeting their employees. Aubree explained that this is because in China they like to make sure that everyone is well-fed. She also explained that in China they have an app called ‘Wechat’ which is used as a central hub for communication between friends, lecturers and colleagues. In England, we do not have an equivalent to this app, and we spread ourselves across multiple platforms such as Snapchat for friends, Microsoft Teams for education, and communication via email for colleagues.
This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.
We have also discussed the environment and a lot of the issues that arose were mutual across both of our cultures. Single-use plastic is a big issue in both of our home countries, and I explained that there has been a new law introduced where you now must purchase a plastic bag at the supermarket for 5p. I was surprised to hear that in fact, China has also introduced this law too.
We both discussed how canvas bags are popular, particularly among teenagers, and Aubree mentioned that canvas bags are also used as school bags in China. We then had a very interesting chat about how we can reduce buying cheaper goods that break easily, and instead buy items and clothing with longevity. The issue that we both concluded here was that cheaper goods are more accessible, resulting in a never-ending cycle as items with longevity are often more expensive and therefore less accessible to many.
I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed.
The final topic that Aubree and I discussed was the arts. This topic was interesting to talk about as I am a creative individual and we both agreed that the arts deserve more credit. Aubree discussed that in her family art is very important, and they have a sentimental vase that has been passed down through the family which they really value. We also agreed that we are both individuals that are confident when around friends, but lack some confidence talking and performing in front of people that we do not know.
I had a lot more in common with Aubree than I had originally thought. I am an individual that cannot wait to explore the world, and speaking with Aubree has made me excited to one day visit China and pick up on some of the things we have discussed. The interaction on the app was really useful for me to keep track of weekly discussion points, and I also interacted with some of the games and events that were held. This has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I am glad that I took it upon myself to get involved.