International Relations Team– First hosting experience and a sense of belonging to the community.
There is a saying ‘you never forget your first one.’
Whether the saying regards first business ventures, first genius idea or even a first time ice-swimming, it is ultimately true: no matter what, your first experience with something is entirely unique and shows your capabilities of performing in an entirely new field previously unknown to you. It is up to you to see what procedures to undertake and how to act.
My personal experience with Proakatemia’s International Relations Team was and is a very special one as I had the chance to ‘jump off the deep end’ immediately.
The International Relations Team (hereinafter the IRT) interested me for a simple reason: I find it highly self-fulfilling to be able to represent a topic or an entity I truly believe in. As a first-year student, the immediate experience of Proakatemia is euphoric for its tight-knit community and explosively proactive spirit, which I found wanting to showcase in the best way I deemed possible. I was attracted to representing the programme and the values we stand for to an international crowd. Given my international background, I found it natural to look into the International Relations Team. I was privileged to be included to the team immediately, which also meant getting my introduction to our first guests of the term.
There is certainly some irony in receiving your introduction to Proakatemia from a student that has been a part of the community for barely over a month, however, I had full faith in Proakatemia. In a way, the experience pushed me to be even more curious about our educational institution and eager to learn of learning contracts or learning journeys.
Upon reflection, I wholeheartedly believe that the possibility of proving myself so early on was also the key factor in improving my overall sense of belonging into the larger Proakatemia community.
Belonging can be defined as a subjective feeling that one is an integral part of their surrounding systems, including family, friends, school, work environments, communities, cultural groups, and physical places (Hagerty et al., 1992). Keeping this in mind that the feeling itself is described as a person feeling as if they are an integral part of the surrounding system, I began understanding my thoughts better. Certainly, I had just been accepted into the programme and naturally, in new environments one feels the need to find new contacts. With my interest towards the IRT since it aligned with my interests, the immediate trust I received from the IRT, the feeling of responsibility and later on a successful experience, everything seemed natural. The experience was only brighter since I got along wonderfully with the first hosting team, we took group photos together and are still keeping in touch over a half a year later. Additionally, we visited Proakatemia’s alumni companies together, which added a sense of pride to belong to Proakatemia where such success stories were possible.
Allen et al (2021) offers a theory that belonging is a dynamic feeling and experience that emerges from four interrelated components that arise from and are supported by the systems in which individuals reside.
The four components are competencies for belonging (skills and abilities); opportunities to belong (enablers, removal/reduction of barriers); motivations to belong (inner drive); and perceptions of belonging (cognitions, attributions, and feedback mechanisms – positive or negative experiences when connecting). Implementing the theory, we can see a red thread through my first IRT experience.
I was overcome with joy once I found out that there is confirmation regarding my feeling of belonging to the community. I continued contributing to the IRT by setting and achieving my developmental goals while creating physical outcomes and getting to know the members of the IRT as well.
It has been a wonderful experience to be able to host and meet so many amazing contacts with whom we still keep in touch, to represent Proakatemia through the IRT to the best of my abilities with the hosting experience and to learn so much more about myself in the progress. I feel as if the idea of my belonging to the IRT, SYNTRE and Proakatemia has only strengthened over the time and I cannot wait to see what follows this amazing journey.
Allen, K-A., Kern, M. L, Rozek, C. S., McInerney, D. M. & Slavich, G. M. (2021)
Belonging: a review of conceptual issues, an integrative framework, and directions for future research, Australian Journal of Psychology, 73:1, 87-102, DOI: 10.1080/00049530.2021.1883409
Hagerty, B. M., Lynch-Sauer, J. L., Patusky, K., Bouwsema, M., & Collier, P. (1992). Sense of belonging: A vital mental health concept. https://doi.org/10.1016/0883-9417(92)90028-h
Cover photo: Self-made photo of the first visitors I had the honour to host