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Hamilton Scholar Experiences Mentorship on Both Sides of the Equation

While working on his dual degrees through NC State’s Alexander Hamilton Scholars program, Alex Kaliberdine in spring 2010 accepted the opportunity to participate in the Hamilton Scholars mentoring program.

With his interest in French culture and plans already set to study abroad in France during the fall of 2010, Kaliberdine gladly accepted the assignment to be mentor for French student Ophelie Cachou, who was studying at NC State’s Poole College of Management.

In a recent interview with the NC State Poole College of Management, Kaliberdine said, “by being a mentor, I was able to share and give advice on things that I was passionate about in the United States, and at the same time to learn new things about this country through an international student’s point of view.”

Cultural Immersion – Stateside & in Europe

With the guidance of her mentor, Cachou was able to integrate more naturally into the American culture and lifestyle. Together they explored the ins and outs of Raleigh, dined at a variety of restaurants and even attended a college basketball game together.

Come fall semester, this experience was returned when Kaliberdine went to France to study at IAE Aix Graduate School of Management in Aix-en-Provence, coincidentally Cachou’s home university. This situation led to a role reversal of Kaliberdine and Cachou’s mentor-mentee interaction, which ultimately proved to be the most rewarding aspect of his study abroad experience.

“There is a positive relationship from a double exchange,” Kaliberdine said. “Not only did I get a better understanding of the French through experiences with Ophelie in the U.S., but also through direct ‘on-site’ participation in their traditions and common activities that ultimately make them so unique.”

Throughout the semester, Kaliberdine was immersed in a world of cultural enlightenment as he explored Aix-en-Provence with Cachou. While Kaliberdine practiced his “la bise,” or the common kiss on each cheek when greeting people, he also discerned specific elements that set the French and American cultures apart.

The “escargot” (snails) and the “cuisses de grenouille” (frog legs) that often makes French cuisine far more exotic than American foods were just a few aspects of French culture that Kaliberdine experienced. He also described seeing certain values that could only be expressed as European.

He explained, “In the U.S., many have a coffee cup with them everywhere they go. The French really see coffee as a break and expect to be able to sit down and enjoy it at a café.” Along with differences concerning gastronomy and the value of leisure, Kaliberdine drew distinctions that include time management, highly developed public transportation systems, and the level of politeness in interpersonal interactions.

Many who are thrown into a culture so vastly different than their own can be intimidated by such unfamiliarity. His involvement in the Hamilton Scholar mentoring program enabled Kaliberdine to gain a familiarity with the French culture prior to his trip to France, helping to ease the integration process overseas. Getting to know Cachou had helped him develop lasting friendship with many other French students, which as he says will allow him to “embark on multi-national endeavors together” in the future.

A Complete Exchange Experience

Kaliberdine described his time with Cachou, at home and in France, as “the complete exchange experience” because of the well rounded learning environment as well as the “unprecedented flow of first-hand knowledge and experiences from one country to another and vice versa.”

Introduction to foreign cultures and the personal satisfaction of exploration are only two features that the program aims to achieve. Above all else, it is the establishment of ties between people and their respective countries that opens the path for future success.

“It’s important not to forget,” Kaliberdine added in regard to his education and prospective future, “that as future business leaders in an ever growing international arena, it is these experiences that will enable us to be competitive and to work with people from various backgrounds.”

As his time in France came to an end, Kaliberdine returned to his family roots in Russia where he continued to expand his cross-cultural awareness. He said, “I am originally from Moscow, so it’s interesting to go back and see how it changes from year to year.”

When asked how his involvement in the Hamilton Scholars program helped him, Kaliberdine said the experiences have shown him that “the opportunities are endless.”

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