In June of this year I was lucky enough to participate in Common Purpose Leeds to New York Study Abroad programme. Our programme consisted of two days in Leeds and six in New York where we worked with and heard from multiple organisations including AQL, American Express and New York Law School. Activities focused on developing critical leadership skills and cultural intelligence by working in teams to research the challenge of “What makes a city smart?”. Hearing from experts and successful leaders such as William Stredwick, Senior Vice President at American Express and Marc Maurice Principle of New York French American Charter school provided me with a diverse insight into what skills and ways of thinking are critical to effective leadership such as pragmatism and open-mindedness.  We also had the opportunity to see the amazing sights of the New York including the One World Trade Centre, Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park and were able to fully immerse ourselves in the city.

We then had to plan a solution to the challenge both in New York and again in Leeds and present our idea to a panel of business leaders. On our final day in Leeds we pitched our idea of “First Leeds”; a not-for-profit organization, that works to bring students together with employers in the Leeds city. One of the major problem’s which was identified from our immersion visit in Leeds was the retention of graduates in Leeds opposed to other cities such as Manchester and London. The feedback we received from our final pitch in Leeds has subsequently opened many doors that I could never have anticipated with our idea being taken forward by the University with hopes to have launched the programme in University of Leeds by the 26th September.

I had such a fantastic time on our programme, leaving me feeling challenged and inspired and I have seen a real change in my perspective and priorities since we returned. As well as developing my confidence, pushing me out of my comfort zone and teaching me that success is reliant on the ability to understand those different to yourself, I have also been lucky enough to continue working with Common Purpose on my current Internship with the Common Purpose Student Experiences Team. The emphasis placed by Common Purpose programmes on Cultural Intelligence and open-mindedness has altered my mind-set and I believe will continue to influence my decisions in the future.

Sarah Cant