International>Global Opportunities>Testimonial - Alys Patterson

Alys Patterson - BA Primary Education Studies

​Santander Virtual Christmas Programme

I was very excited to learn mid-December that I had been accepted to take part in a 3-week virtual Christmas special programme. This opportunity provided me with a positive way of staying productive over the Christmas holidays and gave me valuable insights into numerous cultures. There were 3 main tasks involved in the programme that included an hour-long weekly chat with an assigned cultural mentor, completing at least 2 out of 4 online courses, and actively engaging with pre-recorded workshops.

Cultural Mentor - I was lucky enough to be paired with Juliet Zhou originally from Shantou City in China, but currently studying in Beijing. As you can see from the pictures, where I live in Abergavenny, Wales, is a vastly different environment compared to Beijing, which was an exciting topic of discussion for us both. Juliet was so lovely to get to know, and it was so interesting to talk about our goals and values. We learnt despite coming from different cultures, we shared a great deal in common, and I found myself feeling proud of her for tirelessly revising for her exams and working diligently on her thesis throughout the time we were on the project!

Despite initially being afraid Juliet and I would have nothing in common, the experience made me realise that my fear was misguided. I learnt that when interacting with someone from a different culture, there are many possibilities you may find shared interests.

Online Skill Courses - I managed to complete and thoroughly enjoy all four courses on Employability Skills, Digital Competency, Cultural Influences and Workplace Basics. However, the Digital Competency and Employability skills courses benefitted me immediately as I am currently doing all my university work online and actively looking into future employability prospects. I learnt so much about effectively using LinkedIn and updated my CV and cover letter to a much more professional standard. I also completed a SWOT analysis to determine the target areas I would like to improve on. Furthermore, as I am studying Primary Education, I often have to prepare numerous presentations for my course. Thus, the 'Death by Powerpoint' presentation in the Digital Competency course has benefitted me massively.

Webinars and Workshops - There are numerous pre-recorded workshops to view once enrolling in the program. I specifically took advantage of the Personal Development, Remote Working Basics and All About Vietnam, China and Mexico workshops. There was also an opportunity to attend a live webinar about Managing Across Cultures. This webinar provided insight into how different cultures have different communication styles and prefer utilising various evaluating, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling methods. One fun webinar task meant we could collaborate with others on the course via breakout rooms and discuss where we believed our culture would fit in various categories. The webinar concluded with the team expertly highlighting what methods we could use to increase our intercultural fluency. Overall, the webinar was incredibly insightful and provided points I had never considered before whilst thinking about cultural influences.

The book 'The Culture Map', by Erin Meyer was also recommended highly by staff during this time, and I decided to purchase it for myself. I am honestly so glad I did as it is truly eye-opening and such an enjoyable read!

Christmas Challenges - As this programme ran over the Christmas holidays, it was great to see the Pagoda Projects team provide Christmas themed activities. It felt like such a unique project to be a part of due to their hard work. I often found myself working on a skills course and then having a fun little break to participate in some of the themed activities such as the Christmas decorations and jumper challenge and nabbing third place in the Christmas destinations quiz! I cannot help but applaud the team for taking the time to provide us with some entertainment over the festive period.

Overall - I have thoroughly enjoyed being given a chance to participate in this experience, and I learnt a great deal about different cultures and also myself throughout it. I was surprised by how many of my own experiences have blatantly involved cultural miscommunication though I had previously been blind to it. This programme has allowed me to expand my knowledge on multiple topics such as Asian Culture via my cultural mentor and improve my digitals skills. It has also encouraged me to tackle my nerves on posting confidently and connecting with others via LinkedIn. I am wholeheartedly sure that every aspect of this programme will positively impact my future, and I am so thankful for that.