By International Ambassador Lauren Elliott
Entering into the International Ambassador (IA) weekend retreat, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too excited. Between missing my final day of work, traveling alone with baggage that weighed more than my entirety, and completely lacking in sleep, I found it difficult to muster up any great level of enthusiasm.
Once we had settled in at the retreat center, it was clear that the ISSA staff had one goal to attain by lunchtime: have everyone learn each others’ names. Three name-games later, we were finally allowed to sit down for lunch. That is the first time all the IAs united as a team. As cliché as it may be, the opportunity to sit down for a meal provided more than just physical sustenance, it truly united us as a team for the first time. The barriers of nationality, language, age, etc. were all broken down by one commonality – we were all hungry and exhausted.
Following that first meal, the International Ambassadors continued to increasingly become closer over the weekend. According to Robert Jackson, president of Magnovo Training Group, LLC, “Studies show time and time again that employees involved in corporate team building events come back to work noticeably more productive, enthusiastic, and overall happier.” In my experience, this mantra proved true. The IA retreat truly enhanced the experience of International Orientation by allowing the IAs to communicate more effectively, improving team morale, and improving our problem solving skills. The weekend provided each IA with the opportunity to trust other ambassadors and understand that the best way to work was to work together.
Beyond a successful orientation, the effects of the IA retreat will extend into the rest of the academic year. This sense of unity will allow for the IA program to grow into a strong one – the program itself is only two years old; it is still developing and defining itself and its role here at Notre Dame. Looking back, I can’t believe that I was so unsure going into the retreat experience – it truly was one of my best here at Notre Dame. I came out of the weekend having gained so much: new friends, a more unified IA team, and a stronger (and yet more global) connection to the Notre Dame family.