A Reflection on the Opportunities and Challenges of International Collaboration
The Foundations II course introduced students to project development and program management in global health. The course used a case study approach to develop innovative proposals to address health disparities while learning to translate theory into practice. Throughout the semester, working with group members from partnership universities in the Netherlands, Sudan, India, and Colombia some of the key takeaways included incisive decision-making and cross-cultural negotiations.
Foundations II was my favourite course in the MSc in Global Health program and the course that I learned the most about myself and collaborating as part of an international team. I was lucky enough to work alongside colleagues of various backgrounds and ages, from different locations and cultures, and a few of which were non-native English speakers. These factors played a role in our final assignment and project proposal being a success as we each brought different perspectives and skills to the collaborative process. Effective collaboration allowed us to tackle the innovation, sustainability, and equity aspects from a variety of angles and through various lenses. Everyone brought original ideas and passion which strengthened the project immensely!
As my teammates can contest, our differences also played a role in our collaboration as there were certainly disagreements, misunderstandings, and strong dynamics at times. Employing mediation skills on how to address these dynamics in a calm, nonaggressive manner to allow for effective communication to continue was of paramount importance. Through this, we learned that the conflicts were rooted in our cultural norms and values and ways of knowing and doing, which caused personal biases that led to misinterpretations. I strongly believe that the meetings that employed mediation techniques and that reviewed our group guidelines helped to build mutual respect, strengthened our interprofessional collaboration, and aided us to grow as individuals and as a team. These skills developed over this course not only helped us throughout our time collaborating but will support us in our careers working as global health professionals in diverse, global teams.
Lastly, at the start of this project we all agreed on the goal that we are in this competition to win the “grant” hoping one day as a group we could find funding and implement the project we had created. Coming back to this goal was critical in our drive to rectify conflicts and move forward in completing a project we were all proud of. It was a significant end of winter term to have developed strong rapports and friendships with each of my teammates, with the bonus of creating a winning proposal.
Advice for future students:
- Build on each other’s strengths
- Learn how to compromise (as sometimes the ideas are bigger than a 20-page paper)
- Remember the overall goal
- Times of disagreements and misunderstandings allow for reflection and support growth
- Be receptive to feedback