Outside the Classroom: Global Entrepreneurship in Munich
“When and where is it best to buy Euros?” I asked people around me. See, at Northeastern we learn that the value of money goes way beyond just green paper. Therefore, in order to make this conference trip an even better learning experience, I had to start from there. Being surrounded by such a strong internationally diverse student body, the answer came pretty easy: years of reliable acquired expertise. Nonetheless, five hours before my flight departed to Munich, Germany, I had yet to pack my travel cases, complete my Aplia assignment, and most importantly buy that particularly worthless green paper. Just there a life-changing adventure began.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summer School aims to “build billion dollar projects to foster societal change.” Once a year, students from all over the world are brought together to build social business models over the course of one week. Only thirty-five participants are chosen out of thousands of applicants and are then encouraged to work together in teams and contribute to sustainable change in a magnitude of billions. These people range in a variety of cultural backgrounds, knowledge, and expertise, but there was one thing we all had in common. Regardless of our field of knowledge, whether Engineering, Business, or International Relations, we possessed a fervent passion to ignite social entrepreneurship around the world.
El Salvador is home for me. It is a small country in Central America. My contribution to this event was precisely that, coming from a developing country with socio-economic strives. It took a couple of seconds into the welcoming reception to realize I was the youngest of the participants. I then knew it was only going to get more challenging. We were divided into teams of five so that each team worked on a separate business model. The clock was started and the competition began. One week. One idea. One billion dollars.
Our alarms went off at seven every morning and we headed form the hotel to the Creative Center–that is, if we hadn’t slept there already. At the end of very long days, we had team bonding activities and networking events with everyone, including the founders, organizers, and sponsors. Everyone was so eager to learn about you and the initiatives you’ve worked on before or plan to do in the future.
We presented our project with exaggerated excitement. Targeting the issue of mobility in mega-cities, we addressed how traffic and the subsequent carbon emissions represent a hindrance to social and economic development. We wanted to implement a subsidized system of automobiles that would run on renewable energy and would have a similar revenue model as Hubway in Boston. We made real contact with senators from South American countries to show their support and interest on this project. It was a groundbreaking experience.
Even though most of the travel expenses were covered by the sponsors of the event, there were some miscellaneous costs that weren’t included. Northeastern’s Honors Program Travel Grant helped me fund these costs and made sure my experience was as enriching as it could’ve ever been.
Even though the winning team targeted education as their primary source for development, we were definitely one of the most astounding presentations. Looking back, I can definitely say it was a complete life-changer; I learned to work in a team with such pronounced diversity, to build entire business models, and to pitch them effectively–and, most importantly, that you should never buy Euros at an airport.
-Carlos Eduardo Villalobos, Business Administration