Group Dynamics

Kathryn Elms

Major: Organizational Communication

Program: Spanish in Quito, Ecuador

We’re towards the end of our trip now, and the flight home looms closer every day. I am ecstatic. I miss my family and my friends. I’m looking forward to the second half of summer and my job. I’ve loved being here in Ecuador, and I’ve learned so much about the culture and Spanish that I could never have learned in the States. But I’m ready to move on and be home.

Other members of our group want to stay in Ecuador forever. They could stay another six months and still not want to leave. Although this difference in opinion is relatively small, we’ve been each other’s lifeline for almost seven weeks, and even small rifts can cause big problems.

The theme of this blog is group dynamics–how to get along with the strangers with whom you find yourself on an epic adventure.

  1. Understand that people handle new experiences differently. Think introvert vs. extrovert. Some people are ecstatic to be in a new place doing new things. Some people are terrified. Some people show their emotions readily. Some people are more reserved. Give people a lot of grace, and assume the best first. Try to see things from others’ perspectives, and don’t be afraid to ask people about their intentions–it’s better to know than to assume
  2. Conflict is going to happen. Whether happy or terrified, being in a different country is stressful. Taking classes in a different country is stressful. At times, existing in a different country is stressful. So, people are going to be grumpy, high strung and, at times, inconsiderate. Everyone. No exceptions. If it’s your turn to be grumpy, try not to take it out on other people. Apologize if you do. When it’s your turn to be grumped at, try not to take it personally. Forgive readily, and try to talk it out when the grumpy person is in a better mood.
  3. People have different personalities, and it’s okay. You may not get along with everyone on your trip. You may start out getting along with someone and then halfway through, you no longer get along. Dynamics shift with experience. It’s more than okay not to get along with someone, but you are going to be stuck in a foreign country together for a while, so try not to write anyone off automatically. Try to get to know everyone, and give everyone a fair chance. But don’t try to force a relationship–sometimes things don’t work out and that’s okay. On the other hand, if someone is making you uncomfortable, or purposefully antagonizing you, don’t hesitate to talk to the staff supervisor. This is your trip too, and you shouldn’t let anyone ruin it for you.

That was some basic advice that I wish I had thought about before going on this trip. I definitely wasn’t perfect, and we did have some issues that could have been worked out with better communication. But every experience is a learning experience.

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Weird to think this is where we started, in the shadow of “The Virgin who Dances” a statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks Quito. We were still strangers then. Better or worse, we’re friends now!

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