Reflections of experience on arrival in the UK

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I really enjoy living abroad but sometimes it is very hard and I miss my family and friends. I have been living in the UK for two years and the best thing about it is that I have learnt English. In the beginning, I felt happy and good about arriving in the UK. Everything was new and amazing, and it felt like a holiday, so I could ignore any small problems. I felt relaxed and didn't have to work anymore. However, after a while I felt a bit pressured. I started to miss my family and my favourite foods, and I felt depressed about my ability to speak English. What is more, the weather was dark and very changeable, which affected my mood as well. I often carry an umbrella because I don't know when it will rain. A few days of grey skies made me depressed and I felt very far away from my family.

I spent many hours in contact with my family back home to comfort myself so that I could express myself properly in my language. After two months I decided to join a pre-sessional course before my MBA studies. This English course helped me to improve my English and I was able to share my experiences with other international students. It enabled me to learn more about British culture, lifestyle and food. At the end of this course the university organised a trip to Cambridge. It was a beautiful and fantastic place, and I especially enjoyed punting. One of my dreams was that one day I would visit one of the famous universities in the UK.

I continue to improve my English skills by reading books and magazines, including my favourite magazine, Readers Digest, which I buy monthly. I also find reading newspapers like The Guardian helps me to develop my vocabulary and the structure of sentences. I also watch the BBC News so that I can get used to different accents by using subtitles. At the weekend I like listening to the radio while I am cooking. It helps me to become familiar with different accents and to understand them.

Settling into a new culture can be very difficult. Although some culture shock is inevitable, I think that there are many ways to make living abroad easier. Firstly, it is a good idea to find as much information as possible before moving to another country by reading books or searching the Internet. The booklet 'How to live in Britain', published by the British Council, is very useful. We also need to speak to other people who have lived abroad and share their experiences. It is important to learn the language and taking lessons is advisable. When living in a new country, if possible try to make friends with local people so that you do not become lonely or isolated. However, it is useful to keep in contact with family and friends in our own country. Finally, aim to be open-minded about the whole experience. That way you will be prepared for when you arrive.

Identify Skills and Talents

When I enrolled on a full-time MBA course I realized that I would have to do a lot of writing, including essays, and that I would not be very good at it. I worry about my ability to write in English, as English is not my native language. I found that there are three areas that I need to focus on to cope with university level study: speaking, reading and writing. I think that the strength in my English skill is listening. I can understand the lesson in class and what people outside the class say. However, the main weakness in my English language skills is the grammatical errors when I speak. It is obvious when I want to give any opinion regarding a topic. Sometimes when I speak I use the wrong tense, prepositions or linking words.

In terms of vocabulary, I often do not use a wide range of words. I learnt from this course that I need to concentrate on speciality and frequently used of words. I log any words that I encounter frequently in lectures and whilst reading, and if I do not understand the meaning I will ask native speakers or look them up in a dictionary to make sure that I understand and have learnt those words. When I was given the first assignment, I had difficulty paraphrasing where it required me to interpret an author's ideas and present them in my own words. I have to identify whether there are any key terms or technical words that I would have to keep and use. Before paraphrasing, I need to fully understand the writer's main point. This skill requires a lot of English vocabulary, as I need to think of other ways of expressing the key information, words or phrases from the text. However, I believe that if I keep reading articles, journals or any academic writing I will become familiar with academic vocabulary, but it takes time and is a lot of hard work.

Joining the MBA made me realize that I have to speak or communicate with people a lot, because almost all lectures include a group discussion where I need to contribute my ideas or notions to the class. I think my English is better than before I joined this course. In addition, resources like NOW and e-mail help to develop my skills in exploiting ICT. There is a wide range of journals, articles, books and databases that I will be able to exploit once I learn how to search efficiently. This will help me to find information for assignments or read dissertations. In addition, I believe that attendance is one of the best ways to prevent failing and so far I have attended all the lectures, no matter how difficult it may be for me to understand them. Actually, attending lectures has given me a better understanding of the modules.

Sometimes I feel that I have wasted time, especially if I spend a lot of time in the library. If I plan to do something it always changes. This course offers an amount of work that I did not expect by giving deadlines and exams. Sometimes I lose focus in class when a deadline is near. Moreover, I find it hard to handle stress. I know that I'm stressed if I have difficulty sleeping, get headaches or forget things that I should have done. I would also like to learn how to organise and deliver short presentations on this course. I believe that practising speaking in front of the class will build my confidence and teach me how to project my voice to the audience. I expect to improve my English skills by learning how to cope with fast speech by listening for key words. It is very important to have the skill of taking lectures notes by listening for key words, especially on this course.

Assertiveness and Confidence Building

Assertiveness is used to convey meaning to a body of knowledge and techniques in much the same way as negotiation, leadership and decision-making are used in the world of training (Fritchie and Melling, 1991). It is expressing our opinions, needs and feelings without ignoring or hurting the opinions, needs and feelings of others. Because people want to be liked and thought of as nice or easy to get along with, they often keep their opinions to themselves, especially if those opinions conflict with other people (Winstanley and Woodall, 1992). But this sometimes leads to one being taken advantage of by people who are not as nice or considerate. Many people are concerned that if they assert themselves then others will regard their behaviour as aggressive. But there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.

Assertive people state their opinions while still being respectful of others. Aggressive people attack or ignore others' opinions in favour of their own. Passive people don't state their opinions at all. While the decision to develop your assertiveness is a personal one, the rewards can be much greater than the personal satisfaction that being assertive brings. Assertiveness assumes that individuals have certain rights in their life (Winstanley, 2005). The change in our behaviour can positively influence those around us, both in their behaviour toward us and also in their behaviour toward others.

I still remember when I was working as a clerk in a company that supplies cabins for site offices. My friend and I went to the store to return a piece of broken electrical merchandise. After being turned away by the receptionist, I asked to speak to the manager and convinced her that the store should return our money. At the same time, I felt good about standing up for my rights and my friend was impressed with the way I handled the situation. The next day, I felt more confident at work and suggested an idea for a new project. My manager liked the suggestion and asked me to oversee it. In addition, my friend, who didn't understand a bill she'd received, remembered how I handled the situation in the store and called the billing company for an explanation. She felt better about herself and more confident about speaking up the next day at work and so on.

While in my previous work as a civil servant, I had difficulty when trying to voice my opinions or thoughts in a meeting. When I spoke to my own subordinates I was quite assertive but realized that I was different when I was in a senior relational context. I struggled to assert myself in meetings with senior management. Sometimes I felt the pressure of performing to superiors when I was monitored more closely. Therefore, it affects my ability to communicate freely and in a relaxed way. I realise that I need to build my confidence and boost my self-esteem to be professional and successful. Growing more confident will help me maximize my potential and make me feel more comfortable with others and may even improve my appearance. Making presentations at work, striking up conversations with strangers and getting involved in community activities like playing netball will build my confidence. I believe that increasing self-confidence is a slow process but that it can also happen quickly.

Belbin Team Theory

Belbin's team role theory determined eight roles initially but then he came up with a ninth (Belbin, 1993). Belbin describes the team role as a servant member that facilitates the progress of the team as a whole with his performance, the structure of his behavioural attributes and considering interaction with others.

I experienced working in a team when I submitted the last group project of our economics module. Although for all other groups the group assignments were over, our group had one more assignment to do, which we volunteered for, and it was I who took it on and trusted my group members to cooperate and support me to complete it successfully. At the start of the course we were all assigned groups and asked to do various assignments with our designated group. In the early days of our group work I had a problem because I just went along with my group members and would not make any comment about their work.

However, gradually we all developed a sense of understanding among ourselves about group work and each undertook certain tasks, such as making slides for the presentation, collecting data from the Internet, analysing data and writing reports of the project work. I took on the task of developing the procedure for carrying out project work and telling others how to proceed. Gradually, my group members started looking to me to start the project work.

We divided the task by making slides, typing reports, doing the surveys and getting questionnaires completed for projects. My job was to analyse and compile the data they collected and to make the final reports and presentations of the work. As in all typical groups, there were good and bad events and moments. Sometimes we conflicted over different issues, but we shared the joy of good remarks for our work together. I don't know what kind of experiences my group members had, during the entire year, but I had all sorts of experiences with them and learnt a lot from them. I will say that I am happy about the time I had with my group.

Conflict and Negotiation

Conflict has both positive and negative implications. It is positive when it encourages creativity, the development of human competence to manage interpersonal differences and viewing old conditions and the explanation of points of view in a new way (Fowler, 1996). Conflict can be negative when it creates feelings of defeat, broadens the gap of misunderstanding or causes reluctance to accept change.

For instance, in my previous work in the government sector, different ideology causes conflict between junior and senior employees. This is because the basis of the concepts or ideas used by a certain group is of a great importance to them and they do not want that basis questioned by others. For example, an old timer's unwillingness to change to a new technology even though the evidence reveals that a change would be useful to success. Therefore, the action of one minority group and the group that examines ideology cause conflict at work.

When conflict occurs in an organisation, it is impracticable to separate ourselves from feelings, values and beliefs because we are human (Back and Back, 1991). When we create conflict, we think we know how it should be managed or dealt with. Dissimilarity appears because of contrary knowledge bases and perceptions. There would be no conflict if those involved sensed no dissimilarity. However, there will always be contrary views in the environment of interpersonal relationships and conflict will be the norm.

Conflict is a state of unresolved difference between two entities, human or organisation (Masters and Albright, 2002). Sometimes the difference is functionally productive, as with creativity, but sometimes it is dysfunctional, as with sabotage or less drastic results. Conflict should not, therefore, be naturally considered either bad or good. It will be bad or good depending upon the value base of the interpreter. However, conflict of some form is inevitable wherever two or more humans have some interdependent relationship. The important aspect of conflict is how the human participants relate and respond to it. Managers must control conflict and keep dysfunctional conflict at an acceptable level, but they must also recognise functionally productive conflict when it is at a low level.

Schein's Career Anchors

Schein's self-assessment of career anchors is essential to help me organise my choices. In many jobs and organisations, careers are either over managed or not managed at all (Schein, 1990). It can also help the individual to become more self-aware so that they can negotiate a better career path and career development within their organisation. In addition, organisations attempting to maintain their effectiveness in an increasingly dynamic environment will need to improve the process by which work is matched to people. In that matching process they will increasingly be dependent upon career occupants being open and clear about their own career anchors so it is in the best interests of both the individual and the organisation to stimulate self-awareness and to create a climate in which employees can be more open about what their career priorities and anchors are.

My key career anchor is strongly placed in lifestyle. This means that I could not give up to incorporate and balance my personal needs, family needs and the requirement of my career. Therefore, I would say that my previous job as a civil servant provided enough flexibility to make all the main sectors of my life work together as an integrated whole. For example, I could choose flexible starting and finishing times each day, enjoyed full pay while on maternity leave and could take unpaid leave ranging from six to five years for career breaks. If I have to move to another area because of promotion, I may have to sacrifice the job, because for me success is not just about my career but also includes my development in any particular job and how I deal with my family situation. I also believe that I need to organize my career around the career of my spouse, for instance the location of work, to integrate both career and family needs.

Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback

Feedback is information we receive from others defining their perception of us in terms of looks, actions or things we have said. We often look at feedback as something negative, but feedback, properly given and received, may also be defined as an opportunity to expand one's understanding and can be used as a tool for achieving positive results. Properly given, this feedback becomes constructive feedback. We receive feedback daily and from different sources. If we can understand it and use it, this feedback can empower us to communicate more openly and improve our performance in many areas. Feedback is seldom merely verbal, but can include emotions, timing, location and body language. All contribute to how feedback is received. Giving critical feedback to someone to change behaviour is a delicate process.

I have received feedback from my colleagues about my annual performance. I believe that giving constructive feedback expresses respect for the individuals in as much as it expresses that they value their peers and regard them as important and worth spending time with. I just listen to the feedback without comment. I hear more if I concentrate on listening rather than justifying myself. I also ask for clarification to make sure that I understand what my colleague is saying and what evidence the comments are based on. After that I will devise action plans and identify where I need to change or any new ideas I want to try. I keep it as a written record so that I can use it for later reflection and action planning.

Gibbs (1988) describes six stages to complete one cycle. I will improve my skills continuously in organisation and learn from the experience for better practice in the future. The cycle starts with a description of the situation; next is analysis of the feelings; third is an evaluation of the experience; the fourth stage is an analysis to make sense of the experience; the fifth stage is a conclusion of what else I could have done; and the final stage is an action plan for if the situation arose again. Bolton (2005) give some reasons why reflection is required in the reflective practice. They state that to reflect is to generate the practice knowledge, assist the ability to adapt to new situations, develop self-esteem and satisfaction as well as to value, develop and professionalize practice. However, Siviter (2004) explains that reflection is about gaining self-confidence, identifying when to improve, learning from one's own mistakes and behaviour, looking at other people's perspectives, being self-aware and improving the future by learning from the past.

I will reflect on the situation that occurred during the two years I worked in the land office in order to develop my interpersonal skills and to maintain relationships with clients from a variety of organisations. Belbin (1997) defines interpersonal skills as the total ability to communicate effectively with other people.

A friend and colleague of mine asked if I could assist in a project which involved interviewing a large number of public land applicants. His job was to read and analyse the transcripts. A week later he called me to say that he really liked the way I conducted the interviews. Then, one month later, I received a call and he informed me that the length of my transcripts appeared to be shorter than the other interviewer's and that I had not asked enough follow-up questions, although we had been given a list of questions to ask. I asked if he had noticed a difference in interview length between two groups and he said that he hadn't. He recommended that I ask more follow-up questions in the interviews. I was confused and questioned his judgement. I felt unfairly judged because it contradicted the feedback he gave me when reviewing the transcripts. If I had been given the chance I would have explained my concerns. I would then have reiterated that I wanted to do the best job possible and to do so need actionable feedback. It is good for me to think of those times that I felt I was treated unjustly and how it affected my level of enthusiasm and commitment, and also my level of engagement. I will let those memories motivate me to do my homework before giving corrective feedback.

Coaching 

According to Parsloe and Leedham (2009), coaching is a process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be successful, a coach requires knowledge and understanding of the process as well as the variety of styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which the coaching takes place. Mentoring is off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 2009). At one time, coaching and mentoring were only available to senior managers and company directors, but now it is available to all as a professional or personal development tool. Coaching and mentoring are also strongly linked with organisational change initiatives to help staff to recognize and adapt to changes in a manner consistent with their personal values and goals.

Recruitment and Selection

The job interview will be a primary source of information about applicants. However, it may not be the best source for some information. Some interviewers find that they spend a lot of time in interviews describing the position and providing general information for applicants. Instead of sharing information verbally in each interview, it may be more efficient to provide written materials for applicants (Jenner and Taylor, 2000).

Through this MBA course I have had the opportunity to practise as both interviewer and interviewee to improve my questioning technique. In addition, I can also add some special questions in interviews and evaluate the type of responses that the interviewer receives. I am able to provide a critique of each interview to determine how the interviewee can improve their style.

Personal Development Record

Key Dates

What did I do

What did I learn from this

How have/will I use this? Any further action

20.01.10

Reading a book: The New Parent by Miriam Stoppard

To gainknowledge of the baby growthand developmentboth before and after birth,how to establish breastfeeding,basic advice on caring for a baby during her first year of lifeand how a baby will effect a relationship.

This book helpsme to find out what the bestmethod on caring a baby that suits me and what makes me feel comfortable and confident enough to follow my own instincts.

25.03.10

Antenatal class in Barrow Upon Soar Medical Centre

Offer adviceon what to expect during labourand birth, how to support a partneratbirth, the options of pain relief duringbirth, exercises for later pregnancy and labourand how to prepare for lifewith a newborn baby.

I usedall theinformation when Iwasintolabourfor example using gas and air as a pain relief.

30.03.10

Attending guest lecture: My MostEmbarrassingMistakesby Doug Richard

Share experience with a guest lecture on the mistakes made within hisexperience as an entrepreneur. Doug has a wealth of experience particularlyin the area of technology and software and his expert advice will be vital for all developing business.

Give an insight into the support and guidance available for a new business as well as some pitfalls to avoid.

30.03.10

Attending guest lecture: The Hive - NTU's Centre for Entrepreneurship and Enterpriseby Chris Hall

To know the function ofTheHive, a purpose-built Centre for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise at NTU.

It helps students and alumni to develop high growth creative, knowledge and technology-basedstart-up enterprises and give them the skills to run their own business.

30.05.10 - 04.06.10

International Consultancy Project in Kuala Lumpur

How to work with a well establish organization, get to know how organizations can compete amongst their competitors.

Appling my communication skills to extract as many information from the organization.

19.06.10

Report Writing for International Consultancy Project

How integrate, manage and dividetasksbetweengroup membersand build teamwork.

Managing person and giving out tasks to members to achieve the desired output

05.07.10

Presentationfor International Consultancy Project

Rehearsing presentation to build confidence and cope with nervous when making areal presentation in front of supervisor and lecturer.

Using this skill in my future job including in meetings, seminar and training.

Personal Development Plan (Covering the period from November 2010 - August 2011)

What do I want/need to learn

What will I do to achieve this

What resources or support will I need

How to make cakes and pastries

Attendingcooking classes

Community centre that offerscooking class on weekend.

English language

AttendingEnglish classes to improve my communication both oral and written.

English language centre that offer on weekend classes.

Swimming

Attendingswimming classes

Leisure centre which provide swimming classes for adult.

Leadership

Attending seminar or leadership course

Find an organisation or university that offer this course.

Managingaprogram of project

Attending project management seminar or course

Find an organisation or university that offer this course.

Leadership Skill

Excellent performance in this area results in being able to:

• communicate my vision of the future, the reasons for the change and the benefits to everyone involved.

• identify strategies for achieving the vision and communicate with clearly to everyone involved.

• identify and deal with obstacles to change.

In order to improve in this area, I may want to get some advice on:

• The main models and methods for leading organizational change and their strengths and weaknesses.

• How to use different leadership styles and behaviors for different circumstances.

• The political, bureaucratic and resource barriers to change, and the techniques for dealing with these.

• How to use different methods of communication in various circumstances.

• Stakeholder expectations and how they influence the change process.

Manage a program of projects

Excellent performance in this area results in being able to:

• make sure everyone involved is clear about how the program links to the strategic targets.

• make sure everyone involved understands the critical aspects of the program.

• monitor and control the program so that it achieves the stated objectives on time and within budget.

In order to improve in this area, I want to get some advice on:

• The difference between project and program management and the role of a program manager.

• Principles, processes, tools and techniques for managing program.

• The basic principles, methods and techniques of total quality management.

•How to manage, motivate, plan, monitor, and assess people.

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