February 16, 2010
Before I arrived at the Camp Ocala 4-H Center in Altoona, Florida, my expectations of the 4th annual Florida International Leadership Conference (FILC) were uncertain. As a junior and former study-abroad student, I had never attended a conference to represent Rollins and I understood that I not only would be participating to meet students from similar Florida academic colleges and universities, but young adults from around the world. As I chose my cabin bed and met my new roommates for the weekend, I quickly learned this would be an experience of a lifetime. My initial encounters were already diverse, as I quickly met international students from Jamaica, China, Malaysia, Panama, India, and Russia. My realization of the conference mission, which aims to promote friendships and networks among international and study abroad students, became clearer the more I met an array of inspiring new friends.
The Florida International Leadership Conference was created in 2007 to facilitate a cross-cultural exchange of ideas and to foster a network of friendship between international and study abroad students from various colleges and universities in Florida. Through breakout sessions that aimed to cultivate leadership skills and cross cultural understanding, this two-day event challenged participants to view themselves as global leaders in a world of differing opinions.
Rollins’ Director of International Student & Scholar Services Jenifer León served as the 2010 Conference Chair. She believes FILC is an important component to establishing cross-cultural alliance between students. “This conference brings international students and study abroad returnees together to develop their leadership skills while exploring their international backgrounds and interests. The experiences and perspectives that our international students and study abroad returnees bring to campus are very valuable as we seek to educate our students to be global citizens. The conference enables students to enhance their leadership skills and therefore their influence on the internationalization of Rollins.”
Rollins College was a strong supporter of the 2010 FILC. Winter Park Institute Visiting Scholar-in-Residence Adis Vila (Class of 1974) was the keynote speaker for the weekend, encouraging participants to think critically and act ethically in a world of diverging views. Director of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership and Cornell Campus Center Brent Turner was appointed as Breakout Sessions Co-Chair, also facilitating the general session of the weekend, titled “The Leadership Challenge,” which showed participants how to lead effectively through different styles of action. International Programs Advisor Dawn Wharram contributed as a FILC committee member and created a coffeehouse on the campgrounds for participants to spend social time together. Administrative Assistant in the Office of Student Involvement & Leadership Jane Wurzelbacher presented a breakout session titled, “What’s My Motivation?” which enabled participants to see their dreams and leadership styles together. In addition, Rollins students Jamie Ruiz (Class of 2010), Meghan Thomas (Class of 2011), and Tina Udhwani (Class of 2012) contributed a cultural simulation presentation.
The Rollins College students who participated in this conference each brought their own diversity and experiences to the mix. Second-year participant and former study abroad student Kyndra Short (Class of 2010) served as a FILC Peer Leader. First-time participants included international students, Vasanth Bhat (Rollins MBA 2011), Shail Derashri (Rollins MBA 2011), Djordje Jovanovic (Holt MLS Program), Kathleen Watson (Holt Undergraduate) and study abroad students Jennifer Chaves (Class of 2010), Ciera Parks (Class of 2011), and Stephanie Posner (Class of 2011).
As a Rollins College student and participant of the 2010 FILC, I left this conference with a new perspective on leadership and cultural understanding. In addition to meeting remarkable students from various Florida institutions, I also gained a sense of comradeship through the new friendships that were developed. Through participating in breakout sessions and group activities, each student had the opportunity to shine as representatives of their home countries. I believe that through this experience I gained insight to other cultures, understanding that at the very core of our existence, we have shared commonalities. We enjoyed discussing current events over coffee, shared meals together, played an intense game of soccer, and showed off the dance moves of our home countries; mine was the “sprinkler.” At the end, we said our goodbyes, wishing well to the future endeavors of our new friends. Driving back to Rollins, I felt hopeful for humanity based upon the individuals I had spent the weekend learning from. I concluded that when the participants of 2010 FILC gain leadership in the larger scope, the world is in talented hands.
-Stephanie Posner (Class of 2011)