Leadership Development: Chicago

For my STEP Signature Project, I went to Chicago, Illinois on a mission trip with Cru, an international college student organization. In the duration of my 10 weeks, I worked alongside my student and staff mentors to shape my character and develop leadership skills, and learned to discuss spiritual beliefs with people of various backgrounds at college campuses.

A night view of the city of Chicago.

While I was in Chicago for the STEP Signature Project, I learned how to be more social and comfortable around others, both with people on the mission trip and those who I met on college campuses. These conversations changed how I view others. Interactions with students on the mission trip helped me to understand various upbringings and life struggles that I would have not known otherwise and helped me to see how people have adapted or gotten out of situations. This made me realize that it is hard to understand people just by how they seem to be, but also easy to understand their background and thinking just by listening and asking question about them, and encouraged me to learn more about others. By talking to students at college campuses, my view of the world changed as I learned about how people of other cultures see how the world works and why they have faith in their beliefs. I realized that even between people of different beliefs, it is very possible for people to understand each other’s feelings and opinions. I pushed myself to learn more about different religions and beliefs in hope of understanding others better.

Multiple times over the summer, I went onto different college campuses around the city of Chicago to give students opportunities to discuss their spiritual beliefs. I had interesting, deep conversations about religion with a wide variety of students, including students who were Hindu, Muslim, atheist, and believers of other faiths. Having only thoroughly explored the Christian belief, I was enthralled to learn about other beliefs and how other people have embraced them as their own, in addition to seeing how others live out their beliefs as students and employees. Through these conversations, I was able to learn empathy toward others and understand the point of views of people from differing backgrounds.

One of the games used to encourage students to talk about their day and beliefs.

The project also helped me to become more social and comfortable around people I do not know. I did not know any of the students who I was going to spend the 10 weeks with. I also did not know any of the students that we approached on different college campuses. However, I gained the ability to step outside of my comfort zone to talk to the other members of the mission trip and get to learn more about them as various people came to talk to me and learn about me. Going onto college campuses and having conversations with strangers gave me practice to start conversations with new people. These chances I had to talk to peers I had not met yet let me become used to seeking ways to befriend new peers and have better, more in-depth discussions with people I have not met before.

While being in Chicago, my mentors and peers on the mission trip walked with me to develop an attitude of kindness. My mentors pointed out ways that I could be friendly to my roommates also on the mission trip such as asking about their day at work, and I started to find ways on my own to be kinder to them, such as washing their dishes and asking questions about their plans for the day. In addition, I helped to serve the community dinners served to all of the members of the mission trip. Helping with the dinners made me more conscious of how I interact with others, in addition to addressing details that people tend to forget, such as cleaning up after each meal. By being guided by my mentors and getting to serve dinners to others, I learned to become more humble and serve others better.

These changes that happened over the summer are critical in my life because the experiences helped me develop my leadership skills. For me, leadership skills indicate the ability to keep a goal in mind and make sure others understand their own role in reaching the goal. By talking to various people, I can understand diverse groups of people better. By learning about ways that I can show kindness to others, I can communicate my own desires and understand their desires. By becoming humble, I can understand that each role in a team requires different work, and administer the work fairly among different people. The STEP Signature Project gave me the chance to develop my leadership skills in a way that was unique to Chicago and this summer with different people that I met and learned to interact with.

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