As I reflect upon the past two transformative years of my development, my mind vividly revisits the enchanting landscapes that compose the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. Picture it: swooping toucans and howling monkeys amidst the sonorous and visual beauty of Northern Colombia—an unparalleled feast for the senses. This breath-taking environment served as the backdrop for my Leadership in Action project with the El Rio Foundation, an experience that allowed me to apply the invaluable lessons I've learned as a Laidlaw Scholar.
My journey as a scholar began back in 2021 when I embarked on the challenging task of applying for this prestigious opportunity. Crafting a research proposal and conveying how I could benefit from this scholarship were not simple feats. Back then, I had limited understanding of how to propose my own research. It was during these initial stages that I received invaluable guidance from my supervisor, Dr. Yarí Perez Marin. I am deeply appreciative of Dr. Perez Marin's assistance throughout my scholarship, which served as a profound exploration into the intricacies of constructing a compelling and nuanced argument. I'm eagerly looking forward to putting these skills into practice as I approach my dissertation in the upcoming academic year.
The research process itself was a reminder of the importance of forward thinking and meticulous planning. As encouraged by my supervisor, I worked diligently to create a reasonable yet ambitious research plan. Utilizing methodologies like Gantt charts, I was able to navigate the research pathway successfully. Undoubtedly, there were moments during the summer when I had to push through the time constraints of the six-week project. This required a considerable amount of resilience, but it ultimately taught me the immense power of hard work when striving toward one's goals and objectives. This newfound resilience would be crucial as I embarked on my self-proposed Leadership in Action project in Northern Colombia—the most daunting challenge I've ever encountered.
The journey to Buritaca tested my willpower as I overcame the fear of leaving home and immersing myself in an entirely unfamiliar environment. However, upon arrival, I quickly found my footing. One of the most fulfilling aspects of these two years was the seamless alignment of my research project with my Leadership in Action project. Meeting with the same Indigenous communities I had studied in contemporary cinematic representations exactly a year earlier was a remarkable experience. Engaging and communicating with them significantly broadened my perspective and cultural awareness. I realized that my research findings held far greater academic value than their direct impact on these communities, but this revelation was invaluable for my growth as an ethical leader striving to act upon sound cultural awareness and be a genuine global citizen.
As I look ahead to completing my final year of undergraduate study and beyond, I believe that the most significant lesson I will carry forward is the art of leading with empathy. In my view, great leaders possess the ability to use empathy to build trust and create an environment where individuals feel safe enough to give their best. True empathy cannot be feigned; it's a skill honed over years of connecting with diverse individuals from various backgrounds. Ethical leadership and global citizenship hinge on the effective use of this skill to unite a diverse group of people towards a common goal.