Wake Up Call
It is actually difficult pinpointing when the value began to flow during the Transatlantic Entrepreneurship Academy. I would say it started weeks before the program even began. Just like many other students, I joined Entrepreneurial Mindset 201 after hearing of an opportunity to travel overseas for a reasonable time and price. I did not know what to expect out of this, but every student who has traveled abroad always says something good about it. From that point, I knew I was in for something good.
Going to study entrepreneurship and the startup environment of another country was definitely a new experience that opened my mind. There were several things that made this memorable. The beauty of exchanges of thoughts and ideas was certainly one of them. Yes, we can do this in America, but doing it in another continent was something else. As the Austrians taught us about their culture and beliefs, we taught them about ours. There were certainly some distinct differences, but there were also many similarities, both which allowed us to get along well.
During the week we practically emulated the life of an entrepreneur. I, along with the others, had to learn how to balance social life with work life. It is common idea that entrepreneurs work much more than the average 40hr a week job. The lengthy work days could have lasted up to 10 hours. We were constantly fatigued from being awake until 4 a.m. learning about Austrian culture and social life. It was certainly dreadful at times—falling asleep in our chairs, listening to insightful, but monotone speakers, pitching 5 times a day, and working on our entrepreneurial ability. Although few of us had an actual startup idea outside of the program, I came to realize that this was definitely a wake-up call for any aspiring entrepreneurs, including myself.
Working on our startup idea was certainly a very genuine experience. How well we did was based on how hard we worked. How hard we worked was based on how interested we were in our product. I truly believe every group was deeply involved in their ideas as we all attempted to persuade the audience that our particular product was worthy of the first place prize. The final product was a result of several hours worth of research, interviews, marketing, and teamwork. Although this was something we could do within a classroom, it was much more authentic doing it in another country with team members who approached every problem differently.
What I learned throughout this trip is that when you put diverse minds together, you will come out with a lot of great ideas. This cognitive diversity was critical to creating an efficient and friendly work environment. As we learned more about each other’s way of thinking, we were able to build upon ideas to come up with a final product. In the case of my group, that was Early Hawk.
For many of us, this was a great introduction of what to expect of the professional world. We worked on our own skills that are required to perform well academically and post-graduation. Some of these skills include critical-thinking, working well in teams, and learning more about a certain topic or industry. As aspiring entrepreneurs, TEA gave us a taste of what the startup lifestyle consists of. I can easily say, this program had a positive impact on me as a college student and a future professional.
Written by Andres Villanueva
Montclair State University, Class of 2019