Final PGS Blog: The Real Lesson

Here were my originally stated PGS goals:

My goals for the spring:
– Discuss lots of interesting subjects like science, food, culture, and life
– Visit universities and labs, such as CERN to talk to the scientists and learn how research is conducted
– Talk to students and attend several university classes to gain a feel for the style of classes in Europe, comparing them with other areas and with the United States
– Hike around the entire Lake Lugano and other parts of the Alps
– Get to know the students and faculty
– Enjoy Europe!

The most major goal listed was to learn about European education and research. I ended up exclusively focusing on Switzerland, but this goal was certainly met, largely through group project work. This was one of the most interesting parts of the semester, with the most interesting part to me being the vocation side of Swiss education. Here’s our what we learned.

“Hike around the entire lake” was misleading. I was actually looking for a specific spot that my sister and I found last summer during our Europe trip. That spot was found almost immediately after arriving, so goal checked.

The others would be rather hard to fail, so they make poor goals, no? They are not particularly interesting to talk about, so I will not.

In all honesty, my second important goal (the first being education) was to get better at working with people, though I never listed it. I figured that the interdisciplinary environment here would provide me with a diverse base of people on whom to test strategies. When I arrived here, I immediately started and have kept working on the goal with an obsessive focus. Hours of every single day here have been invested to that goal. From all this effort, I’ve learned a ton of strategies. I believe I will be able to put them directly to use this summer.

However, I think I learned a more important lesson. After the failure of my initial efforts to collaborate, I began attempting to adapt to the dominant mode of conversation which I disliked. In order to blend with the group, I attempted to adjust the wording and content of my contributions. I began saying things which I thought were stupid in an unnecessarily convoluted manner. The harsh impact of my words was lessened, but all their value was lost in the process. This was a difficult adjustment for someone who personally puts absolute value on content and no value on delivery.

Much frustration and anger later, I have decided that I will certainly adapt to others a little, but never to the point where my own worth diminishes. It seems such an obvious lesson, but it took far too long to figure out.

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