Sarah – Amsterdam, Netherlands and Berlin, Germany

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This past summer, thanks to Barger Leadership Institute, I was awarded Summer 2015 Global Scholarship for my Global Course Connections trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands and Berlin Germany. With fellow students from diverse backgrounds and academic interests, I was able to explore ways in which organizations and agents in various countries engage community residents in social and political acts. This experience exposed me to various narratives, provided me many opportunities to get to know others, and helped me foresee my future goals as a scholar and a leader.

In both countries, I had many opportunities to engage in conversations with various people and learn more about the countries through different narratives. In both Amsterdam and Berlin, gentrification is rampant. Areas where immigrants and people of lower socioeconomic status used to reside were being transformed into newly painted houses and fancy coffee shops. Every corner I turned I saw a battle against the poor ­ the people who really do need a community dedicated to themselves were being wiped out in the names of creativity, innovations, and money. Erasing the graffitis on the wall meant erasing the narratives of the marginalized.

Acts of gentrification in Amsterdam and Berlin are very similar to what is happening in Detroit; masked by the word “revitalization”, Detroit is currently being exploited by young, creative individuals who are seeking to make a lot of money. However, when a community is being revamped and turned into a cooler, more “hip” place, housing prices go up and the residents of such communities can no longer afford to pay rent. They are being displaced.
Gentrification not only leads to physical displacement but also “cultural displacement”, which Meagan Elliott, an urban planner and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, describes as “a loss of a sense of place and community and [your] right to [create] the vision for that community’s future”. Even if the people are still able to live in the area, cultural
displacement strikes an imbalance between community representatives, leading them to lose their attachment to their communities.

When I saw gentrification with my own two eyes in Amsterdam and Berlin, I began to question people and their underlying motives: Why is it okay for some to change other people’s communities without meeting eye to eye, without considering their positions? Is everyone so blinded by their own gains that they do not see the pain reflected in others? Are we that selfish?

Then a voice in my head asked me quietly. Am I that selfish?

As someone who loves to explore and visit new places, I too may partake in gentrification. I can’t say that these creative processes are always bad or unwelcomed; people always crave the “next best thing”. Moreover, new businesses can sometimes also help stabilize the city’s tax base, which means more money for the city for essential services like garbage pickup, cops, and firefighters. But the working­class and low­income residents who are outcompeted by newcomers almost always end up falling through the crack. Prison­industrial complex (overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems) and the overall disproportionate impact on minorities become more and more noticeable. So the real question is, how can we continue to make money to sustain the community without kicking out the original community members? How can we benefit everyone and make sure we are listening to everyone’s voice?

On this trip, we were encouraged and pushed to analyze how various countries use different approaches to mobilize people for collective action, challenge oppressive structures, and build cohesive communities. Disruptions in the communities due to international flows of labor and education were especially analyzed to address concerns regarding globalization and immigration. Engaging in such conversations lead me to realize that it’s everyone’s job to help a community sustain itself on its own account. People have their own cultural upbringing and history, and that shapes who you are as a community member. Therefore, outsiders should not infiltrate that space. When others try to disrupt that space, no matter how well­meaning they are, the place is no longer the same. As an aspiring community social worker and leader, I was reminded to always value people’s individual identities and narratives, no matter how beneficial my work may seem. As a leader who wants change, I need to take a step back first and ask: Am I here to help or to intrude? Are my actions invited or disapproved?

Hear people’s voices. Respect their existence. This is a lesson I can apply to any part of my life, in any relationship, and I am thankful to have been selected as one of the students to learn such important message.

Mandy – Beijing, China

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For three weeks in May, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and travel across the globe to China, a country I never thought I would experience. When I registered for the GCC Course Psych 457: Research Methods in Educational Settings, I knew I was getting closer to completing my psychology major, but I didn’t quite realize that I was also getting closer to embarking on the most influential trip of my life. In the course, we conducted cross-cultural educational research and looked at how cultural differences influenced child development. At Beijing Normal University in China, there was a group of students taking a similar course, and the trip in May allowed us to collaborate with them in the analysis of our comparative data. Through this trip, I learned a great deal about research, but I learned even more about myself as a leader.

In a world undergoing rapid globalization, today’s leaders need to be even more adept at understanding multiple perspectives and communicating effectively across cultures. They can’t fear that which is different, they must embrace it and enjoy it. They must face every situation with a positive and open mindset, excited by the idea of diversity and change. They must listen to others to understand and make no judgments. In the end, leaders know that inclusion means everyone has a voice and something important to contribute. During my time in China, I developed such skills to propel my own leadership journey.

I’ll admit that when I first found out I was accepted to the abroad portion of the course, I was a bit nervous. What little I knew about China was that the culture was quite different and that it was often spoken about with negative connotation. I was worried about whether I would be able to adapt and fully immerse myself. What I found was that Chinese culture isn’t all that different, and that those who speak negatively about it probably haven’t had the chance to experience what I did this summer.

For the time I was there, I stayed on the campus of Beijing Normal University, a college much like the University of Michigan, thriving with ambitious students who take many courses, join many clubs, and have a lot of fun. I interacted with the psychology students we were collaborating with and formed unbelievable friendships. We learned so much from each other, and the language barrier was no stopper. We had meaningful conversations about our lives and how they were similar yet also quite different. We traveled to historic cultural sites together and ate lots of good food together. At the end of trip, we presented our research together to an audience made up of Beijing Normal University professors and other students. I even had the chance to visit a family and help cook a traditional Chinese dinner. I was completely immersed and welcomed into the Chinese culture and I appreciated it even more as a result.

I went into my abroad trip with some reluctance and reservation, and came out of it with excitement and inspiration to be a better leader. I want to be the kind of leader who faces new situations with enthusiasm and determination, with open-mindedness and sensitivity, and my China experience was just the beginning of my journey to becoming that leader.

Anna – Chiapas, Mexico

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Being a leader in research can look different in a lot of ways. For me, being a leader means taking responsibility for my work while also helping others to reach their full ability. While in Mexico this past summer, I was able to put that idea to the test when I began conducting interviews with Central American migrants for my honors thesis in anthropology. I was there with a group of other students in the Undocumented Migration Project field school trying to understand the complexities of migration through an ethnographic lens. It was the first time any of us had conducted semi-formal interviews before so the prospect seemed daunting. I was scared at first because even though I am a good conversationalist in English, improvising questions or probing an interviewee in Spanish was a challenge. My first interview was a little rocky but after a few stumbles and flubs, I was soon conducting lengthy interviews regularly. I am proud of the connections I made with people and the data I was able to collect in those meaningful interviews.

For all of these interviews though, I still saw other students struggling to break over the hurdle of interviewing another person. I spent a lot of time with others informally debriefing about the difficulties of working in the fields. Through discussion, we unpacked a lot of the invisible power dynamics pertaining to race and nationality that prevented them from feeling comfortable asking for interviews. Many people, including myself, felt guilty or exploitive by asking people to share intimate stories about their lives in interviews. I shared tips and my experience approaching migrants about interviews with other students who felt this way. Quickly I be came a proponent of the idea that sharing and recording stories in themselves was a valuable aid for migrants because it provides them a platform to be heard and listened to, which rarely happens while migrating. This idea kept me going and centered my work. By sharing it with others, the idea was solidified and many others took comfort in it as well. Leading these discussions helped me and others formulate our research in a more productive way.

I also plan to make my research relevant in the current discussion on migration policy. This project has the potential to shape our understanding of migration on a large scale and I hope to be a leader in that as well. What became clear to me from studying in Mexico was that there are multiple levels of structural violence acting on migrants to prevent them from crossing safely, seeking justice should crimes occur, and keeping them in a liminal space without state protection. It is this transient space that poses the biggest threat to migrants because it means they cannot access typical safely measures, such as a police force, which a citizen would have. Understanding their position is key to creating policy reform to help them and I plan on this research being used to enhance our collective understanding of migration.

Nabiha – Dhaka, Mirpur, and Chittagong, Bangladesh

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I worked with OBAT Helpers, an NGO in Bangladesh, conducting ethnographic research on maternal care in Urdu-speaking minority camps in Bangladesh. I explored how women in these camps accessed and used maternal care and whether their status as minorities affected their access to care. I informally interviewed several pregnant women and mothers across the various camps located in the cities of Dhaka, Mirpur, and Chittagong. I observed the interactions between dais (traditional birth attendants), ayahs (nursemaids) and biomedical physicians with their patients. Also, I observed births in clinics and in homes. I will share the data I collected over the summer with OBAT Helpers in order to help them build a maternal care program.

My trip has completely altered how I look at the growing presence of biomedicine in developing nations and how that has affected maternal care access and use. The ubiquitous advertisements advising against the use of traditional birth attendants has majorly affected women in the camps. There is a stark difference in how women give birth within the last fifteen years in Bangladesh due to the growing emphasis that has been put on maternal care. This was evident in how women who had recently given birth talked about pregnancy and birth and how their mothers talked about it. However, the larger use of biomedical clinics brought its own set of problems and discrimination. Due to the poverty these women faced, it was difficult for them to find clinics they could afford and often had impending loans from deliveries. Prenatal appointments were few and far between and due to the unhealthy environment, there were often more complications in the birth which would entail a (expensive) cesarean section.

Sitting down with women, allowing them to relay their stories, struggles and joy was an awe-inspiring experience. It was something I truly enjoyed and felt fortunate to be given a chance to relay their stories. However, the reality of the world of research and nonprofits became quickly apparent to me. The conditions and struggles of the women were incredibly difficult to hear especially without actively being able to alleviate those struggles. It required me to keep my emotions in check so I would not startle the women or move the attention away from them. The workers of OBAT Helpers would often echo my feelings and made me realize that patience and compassion required to work in their fields. They helped me understand that even when everything seems bleak, you have to take it one step at a time. They taught me what true leadership meant. In the face of complex problems, leaders relied on their passion, optimism, and dedication to eventually reach their goals. This experience gave me even more respect for the workers of non-governmental organizations. I hope I can continue to work for the benefit of others and to take my lessons with me on my future endeavors.

Pauline – Cape Town, South Africa

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This summer I ventured to South Africa to indulge myself in this country’s healthcare system in order to learn as much as I could in a short 6 weeks. I first interned at the South African Christian Leadership Assembly, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on public health projects. More specifically, SACLA specializes in home-based care in Nyanga, a township on the outskirts of the city of Cape Town. Most of the home-based care patients suffer from chronic illnesses, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and TB being the most prevalent, so a large part of my internship was shadowing and assisting the nurses with checking patient’s vitals, such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Another large aspect of my internship with SACLA was preparing community integrated health workshops for the chronically ill and assisting the home-based care nurses with presenting them to the patient’s within the community. These workshops were focused solely on primary prevention for those who have yet to be diagnosed with a chronic disease, but also treatment and explaining healthy living for those who had already been diagnosed.

Unfortunately, my time at SACLA was short-lived because of a safety issue, so I was relocated to a health clinic in Retreat to continue my observations of South African health care and my education of their system. At my internship with Retreat Day Hospital I became a clinical observer and was able to interact with the doctors and nurses as well as have conversations with them about South Africa’s healthcare policies and get their personal opinions about their system. Through my internship with Retreat Day Hospital, I was able to observe nurses and doctors in multiple different departments, including ARV, Injections, Psychology, Trauma and Maternal Obstetric Unit. Rotating through these different departments widen my perspective of how the clinic functions when handling a variety of health circumstances.

After this experience, I really hope to take what I have learned about South African public health tendencies and healthcare policies and combine that with what I already know about these topics in America. In addition, I hope to assess the tendencies in both countries on a deeper level to gain a personal understanding of what flaws are within each system as well as the pros to be able to produce an ideal healthcare system for future communities all over the globe. Though I am obviously not a policy maker or do not yet hold the power to do this, I think it is valuable for me to keep this in mind when I eventually go into public health and nursing, which I plan to do after undergrad. Having both of these very different perspectives and experiences under my belt, I believe this will makesme a valuable employee within the health field. I feel as though I will be able to bring innovative public health ideas and practices from my experiences in both countries in order to better address global health disparities.

In addition, my time in South Africa allowed me to develop and grow personally to an extent I would have never imagined. South Africa allowed me to be my best and most exciting self; not only in terms of the activities and fun things I did, but also in terms of my internship experiences. Some of the activities I did abroad, like shark cage diving and walking with lions, were things I would have never in my wildest dreams foresaw me doing. In addition, things like seeing a man’s head wound get cleaned and sutured by a nurse or seeing a live childbirth were also not experiences I was anticipating on this trip. That being said, all these opportunities led me to being a much more open-minded and experienced person in the most amazing way. Thinking back to these experiences, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

After my summer in South Africa, I see the world much differently. I see the world as a place I wish to travel and explore, but also a place where I want to build mutual understanding with. I desire to travel but only in an appropriate way, which is with respect and an open mind in order to gain the most valuable perspectives.

Michael – Anchorage, Alaska

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This summer, with the support of the Barger Leadership Institute, I had the opportunity to intern for Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) in Anchorage, Alaska. ICC is a nonprofit that advocates for the Inuit, the native people who have inhabited the Arctic regions of Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland for untold generations. My internship was a tremendous learning experience that exposed me to a new culture, a spectacular land, and new ways of thinking about leadership and sustainability.

My internship was run through the Program in International and Comparative Studies Arctic Internships Program, which has an ongoing relationship with ICC. As a double major in economics and environmental studies, I was eager to learn from Inuit leaders, who need to think about the economic, cultural, and social well-being of their people, as well as the rich Arctic environment upon which every element of this well-being is fundamentally based. The Inuit are a hunting people who traditionally lived by hunting marine mammals, fish, and game. Many Inuit live in isolated villages with no road access to the outside world and lead subsistence lifestyles closely tied to the land. Therefore, environmental sustainability is a critical issue for Inuit leaders. At the same time, when gas and milk cost ten dollars a gallon in remote communities with few opportunities for employment and little infrastructure to create such opportunities, economic development is just as critical. I was interested to see how Inuit leaders from the community to the international level balanced environmental protection and economic development.

My main project during the internship was the creation of a first-draft proposal for an Inuit economic development summit in Alaska in 2017. The summit comes from the vision of ICC President Jimmy Stotts, with whom I was lucky enough to work closely throughout the internship. Jimmy is charismatic, wise, funny, and instantly commanding of respect. He is Inupiaq Inuit from Barrow, Alaska’s northernmost town, and has worked for Inuit corporations on circumpolar Inuit issues for over 40 years. Jimmy told me to give him and the ICC executive board a starting point to work from in the planning of the summit, which will be the first to bring together Inuit from across the Arctic to discuss common matters of economic policy in their communities and boardrooms. My final proposal included a list of invited organizations, an essay on three broad topics of discussion (Industry- Emerging Opportunities, Emerging Threats; Circumpolar Cooperation; and Community Infrastructure), and a review of potential funding sources. I loved this project because it let me think independently and get a broad base of knowledge through my own research on the Alaskan economy, economics in isolated Northern communities, and subsistence practices.

The summit proposal project also gave me the chance to go along with Jimmy to meet high-level leaders at several Inuit corporations based in Anchorage. For example, I once found myself in a room with Jimmy, himself one of the world’s most influential Inuit leaders, and Wayne Westlake, the CEO and President of NANA Corporation, which represents Inuit in an area the size of Oregon and has over one billion dollars in annual revenue. I was very fortunate to get this chance as an undergraduate intern. The meetings exposed me to perspectives I could not have heard elsewhere, such as Bering Straits Corporation CEO Gail Schubert’s assertion that in the event of an offshore Arctic drilling spill that gets into the narrow strait, the villages in her area are “done” culturally and economically. My proposal was presented at the ICC executive council meeting, attended by Inuit leaders from Russia, Canada, and Greenland as well as Alaska, that I was able attend at the end of August, in Bethel, a tundra town with no road access. That was quite a surreal experience to wrap up my time in the North.

My internship taught me a great deal about leadership. I learned directly from my coworkers, including Jimmy Stotts. He taught me how to bring my ideas forward without seeming pushy by involving others and sharing credit for successes, and that “you never get what you deserve, only what you negotiate,” among countless other lessons. In meetings at Inuit corporations, I learned of the importance of working with other organizations, even those who might seem to be enemies, such as the Arctic Slope Corporation’s involvement with oil development companies. Finally, I learned from many leaders of nonprofits that leadership can mean a career of endless work against better-funded, more politically connected opponents, with little tangible gain, but still be extremely rewarding and important to society.

My Alaskan experience outside of the internship was just as valuable to my development. Alaska is often forgotten in the lower 48 states, and when discussed it is often thought of as the end of the road, a repository for loners who want to escape society. On the contrary, I found that Alaskans are unbelievably welcoming people with a strong sense of community. In a practice that probably comes from Inuit culture, Alaskans love to share food. I regularly found myself savoring freshly caught wild salmon or succulent raspberries brought over by a neighbor. I was constantly amazed by this generosity, but everyone was confused by my effusive gratitude. For Alaskans, it’s just a normal part of life to catch thirty salmon on a Saturday, eating a couple that night, throwing some in the freezer, and distributing the rest to friends, relatives, neighbors, and even strangers; I was once handed a barbecued salmon fillet while strolling through a downtown park. In addition to their generosity, I was impressed by the adventurous nature of Alaskans, who all seem to have a story about the time they narrowly escaped an encounter with an angry moose while backcountry climbing, or the time they moved to Hawaii to surf but missed Alaska too much to stay long.

Another central element of my time in Alaska was the land. At first I wasn’t sure why so many Inuit continue to live in tiny, isolated villages on the tundra, where winters bring months without the sun. Although as an outsider I’ll never be able to fully understand the Inuit connection to their lands, I began why they have such respect for the Alaskan environment. It is truly indescribable; words like vast, spectacular, unique, and pristine convey some of the qualities of the land but do not do it justice. While hiking massive scree ridges in Denali, swimming in impossibly blue glacial lakes in the Chugach mountains near Anchorage, and watching the salmon run in their millions up ice-colored rivers on the Kenai Peninsula, I perhaps saw the world as it was long before my birth: not untouched by humans, but used lightly enough to absorb the impact and retain its full majesty. I count myself extremely lucky to have experienced this true nature, which few people ever get the chance to see and feel.

Reflecting on my time in Alaska, I can only say that I was given much. I tried to take advantage of every second I was there, and I gained a great deal of personal development from the experience. I cannot recommend working in Alaska, and with ICC, enough, and I hope that the relationship between Michigan and ICC can continue forever. In a university where many students want to work and study abroad, too many forget that our own country has areas which are truly different, culturally and physically. To those who gave me this opportunity, I say, in Inupiaq, Yup’ik, and English: Quyanaqpak! Quyana! Thank you very much!

Michigan Health Aid – Ann Arbor, MI

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Michigan Health Aid enormously benefitted from the BLI large grant given to us in the winter 2015 semester. In our proposal we outlined our plan to have a large health screening held at the beginning of this fall term. We still followed the steps in our timeline but at an expedited process and also added a new component to our health program. In our proposal we described our process of setting up a health screening, teaching members how to run a screening and compiling the data to use for research/analysis
purposes. Due to additional sources of funding from the DOW sustainability grant we were able to hold a screening on March 25th, 2015.

The screening was held at Bethesda Bible Church in Ypsilanti. Our CCPS (community coordinated preventative screening) team worked together to find the location and the correct time for the screening. The first and third Wednesday of each month Bethesda Bible Church holds a food pantry for community members. We decided to partner with this event. Over the course of two hours our physician saw 15 patients. Each patient had different concerns and issues that they had the opportunity to discuss with the physician. Many of the patients came to the screening with multiple children and thanked us for the convenience of our screening, as it was difficult for them to commute to see a physician while watching their multiple children. Other patients wanted to solely check their blood pressure to make sure they were in the healthy range their physicians told them to stay within. This type of patient was hopeful to see because it showed that the message provided from their physician had resonated and they were carefully and responsibly watching their blood pressure. The physician who volunteered for the screening was an OBGYN. Physician recruitment is often the most difficult part of our screening so we ask our members to connect with the physicians they know in the area. Our member asked his mom and she was thrilled to volunteer. This allowed for a unique opportunity for a parent to be part of the philanthropy their student is involved with. Dr. Clubb was impressed with the screening and expressed interest in coming back to volunteer again.

While we intended on having another screening over the summer, we could not recruit a willing physician. Instead, for the second year in a row, we participated in the Juneteenth Event. This event honors the announcement of the abolition of slavery. It is a national day of celebration, and the Ann Arbor chapter of the NAACP holds the event at Wheeler Park. Instead of bringing a screening to this event, we adapted it into a health fair. We printed hundreds of informative pamphlets and our members taught interested community members on the basics of living a healthy sustainable lifestyle. One of our members is a phlebotomist and thus we still offered to take blood glucose and cholesterol levels. 21 people had their glucose and cholesterol levels taken and 31 had their blood pressure measured. This type of event was an experiment and the community members appreciated us being there and found it useful. Thus, as an organization, we considered it a successful event.

Our events caught the attention of local community leaders such as the president of the NAACP who thanked us for being at the event and the executive assistant to the sheriff, Kathy Wyatt, who has been supporting us for multiple years now.

These two events taught our team how to be more dynamic. In an effort to still provide an impactful event to the community, we had to pivot from our standard health screenings to adapting to an event without a physician. This is a valuable lesson that we will continue to as a growing organization with more projects

and more student members. These two events touched 46 community members and will continue to impact the community as we continue to grow and build on the foundation we have.

Dynamix Wheels/AOE Medical – Ann Arbor, MI

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We have found that most of the leadership lessons that we learned were learned when we had problems. For example, we found that it was difficult to as a group co-ordinate our schedules and what needed to be done as a team. To solve this, I stepped up and had to learn how to create schedules and find ways to motivate each individual on the team to not only organize their free time but to also get their individual tasks done. On the team we have also learned huge lessons in terms of leadership when it comes to team work. We are often consulting outside people as mentors and contractors. While working with these people it is often hard to find a balance between requesting help or giving a task and being open to their criticism, feedback, or advice. One of the hardest things to learn, at least I have found, is how to take critical advice on a project that you are deeply vested in. Sometimes it is hard to truly listen to someone else’s ideas especially if they are counter to your own beliefs. These past few months have challenged everyone on the team to become a better leader by really listening to those around them. Listening has affected our leadership not only in receiving feedback for our project but also in our style of dealing with each other.

As on any team we have had some team conflict. When there are issues within the team over opinions, attitudes, or styles of teamwork we have to figure out how to listen to each other and really understand how we can compromise, explain, or change the way we are acting in order to solve the problem. Personally, this happened to me back in June. I was feeling a little down about the progress of the project and was being sarcastic at the office and making comments that could be interpreted negatively about the project and the team. I meant the comments as jokes and way to alleviate the stress I was feeling; however, these comments were taken negatively by a few members of my team. It took Darren stepping up and having a conversation with me about my attitude for me to even realize that I was doing it and accept that I needed to change the way I was behaving in the work place. Those conversations, especially when on a team with people who are your friends or that you have worked with for a long time, can be tricky, awkward, and painful, but they need to be had. I think that experience highlights one of our greatest qualities as a team and that is the ability of any team mate despite position or chain order of command to step up and be a leader when there is a problem.

Another leadership lesson we learned concerning listening was that you need to not only listen to mentors and to your team mates, but you need to be attuned and listen to the things that are unsaid. Sadly we have been through the process of having team members become less interested or unmotivated in the group. This has been something that was extremely difficult to deal with. When one of your members is having insecurities or problems that are often unrelated to the project it can be a tricky step between work and social life in terms of how to deal with that member. In our case, we learned that sometimes the best thing you can do is offer a hand, reduce the workload, and work with that member to do everything you can to make them happy first before working toward how they can help the team.

To summarize some of the main lessons in leadership we learned were that to be a real leader you need to: be open to listening to other people, especially when their view point differs from yours, be open to dealing with conflict in a constructive manner rather than a critical one, accept that you aren’t perfect and can’t control things that happen in the lives of those around you, and most of all just try. A real leader will never stop trying to improve or be better, like a startup a leader must keep plugging away trying to become better every step of the way. These are just some of the lessons we learned, I could not even fit one hundredth of the different experiences, trials, or moments that taught us different lessons about ourselves and leadership over the past 6 months, but I can say that this experience has forever changed the way I work in a team environment and even act on a daily basis. Without it, I would not be the leader I am and probably wouldn’t be capable of seeing the leader I want to be.