Brandywine students expand cultural perspectives at conference

MEDIA, Pa. — Several Penn State Brandywine students recently attended A Taste of GELE (Global Engagement and Leadership Experience), a one-day, off-campus retreat on global citizenship. Brandywine’s four attendees joined 22 other students from Penn State Abington, Berks and Lehigh Valley at the Oct. 23 session.

A Taste of GELE is a spinoff of the Global Engagement and Leadership Experience, which is typically a three-day conference that brings together international and U.S. students to discuss and learn about aspects of global leadership. It is a mix of serious conversations, engaging activities and practical simulations. The conference provides a space for diverse populations of students to talk about cultures and think critically about leadership skills through a variety of global perspectives.

Olga Moskaleva, regional global education coordinator for Penn State Abington and Brandywine, said the event gave students an opportunity to talk about cultures from various perspectives.

“Students connected with their peers from different campuses, had inspiring discussions, expanded their mindsets, and worked on their intercultural competency,” she said. “I truly believe that this outside-of-classroom immersive cultural experience allows students to add value to their resume and contribute to their global learning on various levels. Moreover, A Taste of GELE gives a great perspective on the diversity our campuses offer, and we like to honor it and learn from it.”

Vaidhai Gupta, a first-year student at Brandywine, said the conference was an opportunity to get to know students from other campuses and build a more global perspective.

“Sometimes that can be a more difficult thing to do, take a step out of your world view and try and look at things from other people's perspectives, to be empathetic, to put yourself in other people's shoes,” Gupta said. “We went through a bunch of different exercises about it. Even during lunch, we did actually talk a lot about global issues, topics, various politics and countries. So overall, I'd say it was a good day to learn and to really better yourself in terms of global leadership.”

“I have traveled to a lot of countries and lived in a lot of different countries, so it basically expanded the database of knowledge I already had,” Gupta added. “What was more interesting was the fact that I was able to see how much diversity is at Penn State and how much emphasis Penn State puts on diversity and having a global perspective. It was really interesting to see that such a large school, with campuses all over Pennsylvania, really does care about things outside of Pennsylvania, about global issues.”

Rabeha Wardak, also a first-year student at Brandywine, enjoyed the conversations, activities and interactions.

“We didn't just sit at a table, but we actually moved around and did activities, got to know each other, got to know each other's cultures, and got to see the overlap between cultures,” Wardak said. “I really learned the difference between equality and equity. That was a big thing I got out of it. Equality being, you treat people how you want to be treated. But equity being, you treat people how they would like to be treated. Because everyone has different cultures.”