By Ivan Vuksanovic, Alumni Coordinator for Montenegro
Thanks to the United States Department of State and American Councils, this summer I had the opportunity to participate in one of the best experiences of my life: Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry, a workshop at the Iaccoca Institute at Lehigh University.
Today, when I look back and remember how long it took me to decide to apply I am mad at myself. I applied at the last minute, and now I am very happy because I applied. I was thinking that business and industry are not my field—I study law—and the description of the program sounded so business-oriented and complicated to me.
When they notified me that I was selected and that I received an A-SMYLE alumni scholarship to attend, I was very happy, but still I was worried about how I would fit in in this program and whether I would be able to follow it.
When I arrived at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, I was tired from traveling a long way and I just wanted to go to sleep and rest. But as soon as I got out of the car that had picked me up at from the local bus station, I was surrounded by lot of people who all spoke English, but with every possible different accent one could imagine.
After getting my bearings, I walked around the campus and met people from Germany, Mexico, and Uzbekistan. They offered me some food, and we talked and laughed like we already knew each other. The same thing happened when I met my roommate Andy a copule of hours later!
The next five weeks were all about lectures, projects, parties, trips, laughing, speaking different languages, eating different foods, cooking, cleaning the kitchens, more cooking, and more cleaning. The initial culture shock of having to share one bathroom with an entire door floor full of people passed, and I made so many friends that the time fly.
As for my worries of keeping up with business program, no problems at all. After a while I understood that it wasn’t all about business. The program, however, was great of course. There were so many successful and interesting speakers who shared their stories and gave advice, allowing us to ask anything we wanted. The study trips were amazing. We took a tour of the New York Stock Exchange, a dream come true. Just a few weeks before, I was watching our president close the day at the NYSE, and the next day I was there, at that exact same spot, learning more about that amazing place.
We also had the opportunity to work on a real project for a real company, which was a very useful experience. We had to communicate with the client, negotiate, promote, and put together strategies and reports, and it all give a real perspective on how business consulting works.
Lastly, we went to Washington, DC and toured the Pentagon, the Citizen Diplomacy Center, met with A-SMYLE, YES, and FLEX evaluators at the American Councils head office. It was all a once in a lifetime opportunity—one that I truly encourage you to apply for next year if it’s available.
If you think that your exchange year changed your life and that it has put you on your current life track, you will know how to appreciate Global Village. It is another one of those amazing expereinces that deserves to be called “life changing”.
I owe huge thank you to the American people in general and those who work run the Global Village program and those at the U.S. State Department and American Councils who made these types of opportunities available to alumni.