UC Berkeley Winter Externship Reflection: Choosing a Career in Conflict Resolution

by Tiffany Hoang, 2013 UC Berkeley Winter Extern.

One doesn’t expect the work of four days to yield very visible results. Though when it comes to externing with the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center (APADRC), I feel I have grown so much as a result of four days that synthesizing the experience into one page comes as a challenging task. What I can say is that my short time at the APADRC has contributed to my growth both personally and professionally. I think being a senior in my undergraduate studies has a lot to do with it, so it makes me particularly thankful that this opportunity presented itself when it did.

On the one hand, mediation training was two-fold in helping me translate theory into practice while allowing me to reflect on who I am as an individual and how that relates to the work I do. Through the workshop exercises, I can identify myself as an “indirect communicator”, a moderate expresser of emotions, and a “conflict avoider.” I know that I’ve acquired most of these attributes from my parents, and may stem from being an immigrant and learning the mindset that one  acquires when adapting to a new country. Contrarily, the avoidance of conflict in my upbringing allowed a level of ignorance that ultimately led me to where I am today- a student in Peace and Conflict Studies.  This also explains my receptiveness to new ideas, which I learned is a desired trait for mediators. Therefore I am realizing that even though overt conflict has not played a strong presence in my life, my desire to satisfy curiosities nonetheless allows me to seek out situations where mediation or alternative dispute resolutions can be utilized to yield more peaceful outcomes. Moreover, the mediation training from the APADRC has provided me with a skill set that I feel confident in practicing in my own life and in lending in the service of others, if and when the opportunity arises.

Additionally, I found that working on site with Program Director, Claire Doran, to be an experiential way to learn about networking skills that are vital to non-profit work. I enjoyed watching Claire interact with community partners, and appreciated her encouragement for us to interact with these partners as well. I was able to practice carrying a conversation by connecting on a mutual point of reference and asking questions. I also found it valuable to hear that reaching out does not just mean connecting with the community your organization serves, but also “pulling in all aspects of yourself.” That is, keeping in touch with all the communities you associate yourself with, past and present. It was nice to know that I didn’t need to leave one side of myself to pursue the other, but that in fact, there is a purpose for all skills and aspects of myself in the non-profit profession, and I could use them to my creativity. These skills will be valuable for helping me move forward as I make the transition from student to professional.

All in all, spending these past few days with the APADRC was most important in reaffirming the path that I have chosen. Pursuing a profession in Peace and Conflict Resolution is not a common direction for many people, but knowing that it is out there gives me hope that I can do it too, and find success doing it as well. Thank you to Claire Doran and the APADRC community for hosting such a wonderful externship program. I look forward to returning to the APADRC soon to lend my services in any way that I can. Your organization is an invaluable asset to the community, and I am thankful to have been a part of it for this short time.


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