GLC student takes part in life changing trip
Jonathan Baldwin, a psychology student currently in his last semester of study, joined the Global Leadership Center (GLC) to gain professional experience and leadership skills internationally. He gained that and much more during his trip to Cambodia in May of 2015.
The GLC leads a two year certificate program that offers students of any major the opportunity to gain consulting and leadership experience by organizing different projects with international organizations each semester.
Baldwin, who is currently in his second year with the GLC, is a senior studying psychology and focusing on educational research. During the 2014-2015 school year, he and the GLC team he was on consulted with the Cambodia Living Arts (CLA) organization located in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia.
The CLA’s mission is to facilitate positive societal and economic growth in Cambodia through the promotion and exhibition of art. Cambodia has a rich history of art that the CLA promotes and uses to its advantage to yield tangible results. However, the organization’s problem was that it was discovered that about 83% of the people that attended the CLA art events were tourists. CLA wanted to affect Cambodians as much as they were able to reach out to tourists.
During the 2015, spring semester Baldwin spent time researching the CLA, Cambodian culture, different styles of art, and more with his teammates, Arden MacDonald, a linguistics major, and Haley Hershman, an applied plant biology major. They also worked with a team of Cambodian students studying at the American University of Phnom Penh via Skype.
“It was really awesome getting to know [the American University of Phnom Penh team], presenting with them, and meeting them in person,” Baldwin said. “It added a level of difficulty that I wasn’t expecting, but also a level of reward that I wasn’t expecting to reap.”
Before traveling to Phnom Penh, however, Baldwin took the opportunity to travel to Bangkok, Thailand with a friend. It was his first experience traveling outside of the United States.
“I was basically independent,” Baldwin said. “It was a bit overwhelming, the first few days, but after we got in the swing of things, it was a really awesome feeling.”
After his visit to Bangkok, Baldwin traveled to Cambodia to meet with his GLC teammates and work on their consulting project for CLA. He also met with his teamates from the American University of Phnom Penh.
“One of the first times we met our American University of Phnom Penh teammates, we went to get lunch,” Baldwin said. “We went to this very nice place…where you could take off your shoes and sit on the floor. Us being the Americans we are, we were looking at the menu and imaging what’s good and thinking ‘Oh, I want that,’ and so they went around asking orders and we each ordered our own dish. Our teammates were looking at us very oddly, but they ordered a lot of dishes, too. When they brought our food the first thing that struck us as odd was that rather than setting the food down directly in front of us they sat it down in the middle of the table with a lot of different silverware, and then they gave us our individual plates to dish the food onto. So what we were ordering was not individual dishes for ourselves, we were ordering dishes for the table. We had basically ordered seven huge bowls of fried rice, chicken, curry, and more. It was a ridiculous amount of food for seven people.”
Ultimately, the mistake acted as an icebreaker; everyone laughed and ate as much food as they could.
Baldwin and his teammates used their two weeks in Cambodia to further their research and polish their proposals before presenting them to CLA.
One of the things that Baldwin and his teammates had noticed was that the majority of the art that CLA organized was in the form of live performances. These performances would usually only occur once and also required that a cover charge be paid by attendees. Baldwin and his teammates determined that these performances were not convenient for Cambodians to attend.
“The first thing that we proposed was for CLA to diversity their art forms,” Baldwin said.
Instead of only offering traditional performance art, it would be beneficial to CLA if the organization started providing and promoting more contemporary and transformative art.
“As wonderful as these traditional performances are, over half of [Cambodia’s] population is below the age of 24,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin and his teammates determined that it was critical for CLA to consider organizing more contemporary art in order to appeal to a wider demographic.
Their second proposal was for CLA to further diversify its art to include tangible art, in addition to performance art. Street art and art galleries would be able to be offered for longer times and could be moved to different locations, unlike one-time-only performances.
The final proposal was for CLA to increase its marketing efforts.
“The main mode of transportation in Cambodia is the tuk tuk…which is a bike with a cart attached,” Baldwin said. “People pay a fee to the bike driver and ride in the cart.”
Baldwin and his teammates proposed that CLA put its ads inside of tuk tuks so that people would see them as they travel, similar to the ads you see inside subways and taxis. The back of the tuk tuk also has space for advertisements, and their frequent travel throughout cities would mean that the ad would be seen by a wide audience.
Additionally, during their research phase Baldwin and his teammates travelled to 20 hotels and hostels to ask the staff if they knew about CLA and the events that the organization offered. Only 2 out of the 20 businesses had heard of CLA, so Baldwin and his teammates also proposed that CLA put its brochures in the information kiosks in hotels.
“And CLA was already producing these brochures, they just weren’t placing them in the hotels,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin was pleased with the proposals his team came up with, and he said that CLA was as well.
“I know that they appreciated the marketing and promotional efforts recommendations, specifically the information we found out about hotels and hostels not having knowledge or pamphlets about them,” Baldwin said. “That was one thing that I know that they improved upon very quickly.”
In addition to working on the proposals, the GLC students were also able to tour Cambodia and experience the local culture, which was very different in some instances.
“It was very interesting to see how different eating is. [In Cambodia] it’s all about sharing and contributing to the table,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin and his teammates also experienced as much of the Cambodian culture and society as they could fit in during their two week stay. They visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, in addition to other national landmarks and museums.
“I think we were fortunate in what the GLC offered was not just a ‘now you’re here in Cambodia, get working’ type of experience,” said Baldwin.
After his two week stay in Cambodia, Baldwin decided to travel back to Bangkok for a few days, then travel to Northern Thailand to visit an elephant conservation in Chiang Mai.
“I volunteered there for a day and got to hang out with a bunch of elephants. It was an amazing experience,” said Baldwin.
Overall, his trip abroad lasted for about a month.
After graduation, Baldwin plans to pursue graduate school and he is looking at OHIO’s Educational Research and Evaluation program, the Critical Studies in Educational Foundations program, and the International Development Studies program. He intends to find a job in the educational research field.
The GLC not only offered Baldwin the opportunity to consult for an international organization, it also helped him by exposing him to international school in Phnom Penh. Dr. Robert Stewart, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and advisor to the GLC, took him to the school in order to tour the facility, meet the faculty and staff, and experience how school systems operate differently than those in the United States.
“Working at an international school like that is something that I can absolutely see myself doing in the future,” said Baldwin. “Ideally in administration, or in the development of a school like that.”
Ultimately, Baldwin’s trip abroad was life changing.
“A lot of people ask me: ‘Was it worth it?’ ‘Would you do it again?’ ‘What did you learn?’” Baldwin said. “I think the biggest thing that I learned was a knowledge about myself… about how I react, adapt, and am capable of functioning in different cultures and countries.”
The trip gave Baldwin an overall confidence in himself that he did not have before.
“Maybe before, I would have shied away from a job or internship prospect in another state because it would be strange, and foreign, and not Ohio,” said Baldwin. “But now I know that I can operate and be successful...and stretch beyond my boundaries. I would absolutely recommend the experience to anyone.”