How one student’s exchange experience has come to inform a Summer School that spans over two continents.
When Carmen Zahno talks about her experience during her exchange semester in Colombia at EAFIT University Medellín, you cannot help but join in on her enthusiasm. From her tales of squirrels and orchids on campus, the friends she made and not least from the high academic level of the courses at EAFIT, Carmen took a lot home from Medellín – and cannot wait to go back.
During her time in Colombia, she got involved in several social activities offered by the school. Thanks to these, she experienced first-hand how the urban transformation has changed the city and the lives of its inhabitants. For a long time, Medellín was known as a hub for drug trafficking. After the fall of the cartels, the government launched several projects to raise the quality of living in Medellín, installing public libraries, parks and transportation infrastructure. This inspired Carmen to come up with a social business idea of her own.
Carmen on the campus of EAFIT (photo: International Office Universidad EAFIT).
From a project idea to a Summer School
“I wanted to launch a Summer School in Medellín, so FHNW students could experience the transformation of the city directly. It was by chance that the lecturer in my major Entrepreneurship, Prof. Dr. Rolf Meyer, was working on a concept for a Summer School himself. So I jumped on board and supported the project with my contacts and experience.”
Not only has Carmen, who studies Business Administration (International Management), helped set up the new Summer School of EAFIT and FHNW, she also made it the subject of her Bachelor’s thesis: “I will investigate how the exchange affects the cultural intelligence of the participants. Swiss people and Colombians can benefit from each other. The people of Medellín have a great motivation to realise their ideas, because they know they can make a difference. On the other hand, they can learn some things from us about organisation.”
EAFIT is a new strategic partner university of FHNW. This summer will see the first jointly organised Summer School, focusing on social and sustainable entrepreneurship. Participants from Colombia and Switzerland will spend one week together in each country, attend academic courses and visit companies and organisations. Besides the academic exchange, Carmen also stresses the importance of the cultural aspects of the Summer School: “Colombians are very proud to share their culture, for example by offering salsa lessons. We can learn a lot from their openness and their positive attitude and we can also give them something in return, maybe take outdoors to roast some cervelats on an open fire.”
We look forward to a successful Summer School and wish Carmen all the best for her project and her Bachelor’s thesis!