Posted on October 13, 2022 by Rebekah Alegria

Twelve Carlos Alvarez College of Business students embarked on a journey 4,973 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean for an experience of a lifetime. They participated in a Global Business Trek to Porto, Portugal hosted by the European Innovation Academy this past summer.

Portugal Immersion Group

The three-week accelerated learning opportunity included 500 students from over 80 countries. Teams comprised of five students of different backgrounds of study came together to experience the real-life process of building a startup company with the guidance of mentors from companies such as Google, Uber and Amazon.

Student participants were Anik BanerjeeTyler DavisAndrea GarciaJJ GonzalezBryan Gonzalez-Gonzalez,  Sarai LlamasAlejandro Mansbach,  Keren MansbachClaudia Morales,  Graciela OrtaAriana Santeliz and Kara Ward.

Alexander Lewis, assistant professor of management, led the group through 10-12-hour workdays to complete their business ventures. “The European Innovation Academy is an extremely well-designed program, and there is a fantastic energy to it. It was great to see the students so excited and then so focused as they worked to bring their business ideas to fruition by the end of the third week,” Lewis commented. Group of students in Student Success Center

For many of the students, it was their first time working in a high-pressure environment and their first time ever leaving the country, allowing an abundance of growth to transpire. With just three weeks to navigate communication, time management, define team roles and compose a master startup plan, the students experienced both great successes and failures. Lewis encouraged both to happen, citing an entrepreneurship quote, “Fail early and fail forward,” empowering students to learn from their failures and to celebrate their successes.

Students who participated in the event could not have been more grateful for the opportunity to travel across the globe and put their business skills to the test. “This experience has motivated me so much that I have decided to consider living and working in the European Union in the future. Not only did my team accomplish the goal of creating a startup idea from scratch with very limited time, but we also had an actual social media platform, a website and hundreds of users. It was interesting using my financial expertise to help any way that I could,” stated Alejandro Mansbach, a graduate student in the M.S. in Finance program.

European Innovation Academy group Though business is a universal language, students were able to learn just how differently others from across the world, think, process and implement business plans. As students began to develop their startup plans, they expressed their ideas with U.S. business prices and markets, seemingly making the smartest and most conscientious choices. But their team members from different countries considered their ideas to be expensive, forcing the students to make market adjustments to consider the universal perspective from other countries.

“When you are in the U.S., you think that things are a certain way, but when you see how different things are in other places, you must shift your perspective. It opens your mind and tells you that certain places have different rules and laws to consider in your business models. It is important to see that the things you know and are used to can be done in different ways,” explained Gonzalez-Gonzalez, a graduate student in the M.S. in Business program.

The seemingly impossible became possible as our Roadrunners adapted to the Portuguese culture, universal business methods, language barriers and differing lifestyles. Though the U.S. is culturally diverse, culture looks much different when experienced outside of our borders.

Experiencing this firsthand was M.S. Business student, Sarai Llamas. “I had to get out of my comfort zone, adapt and understand new dynamics. How I approached problem-solving looked different. Taking my education abroad developed my global perspective and encouraged me to continue seeking more opportunities to cultivate that,” she said. Student group photo

Though the students worked day in and day out completing their startups in just three weeks, they spent their free time soaking in the beauty and delicacies of Portugal while building new friendships with students from around the world. From the delicious eats to soccer games to the Porto scenery, the students made the best of their business immersion.

“It’s fulfilling to put your knowledge to work and have the guidance of first-class mentors supporting you throughout the process. I wholeheartedly recommend immersion programs to all students. If you are on the fence about trying it out—do it,” said Llamas.

— Rebekah Alegria