Being Worldly

The world has become a much smaller place. Before someone has had the privilege of seeing another culture as distinctly different from our own as India is, it’s hard to imagine what the world is truly like. As I have lived here for the last two weeks, the curtain of mystery has been lifted and U can see that beyond our differences, we are all simply humans living our lives.

Through there is still an impossibly large number of things still waiting for me in this wide world, I know that underneath appearances we are all primates looking for happiness and understanding in a life whose specifics are defined by our culture, our family and ourselves.DSC00243 DSC00556 DSC00538 DSC00497

Review of the course

The course on entrepreneurship was very helpful and I learned a lot of great information. I do think that the course could have been organized a little bit better. I think that the students would have benefited more if we were to have taken the course before going out to our businesses and analyzing their problems. I think that if we were to have a week long class, whether it was in America or India and then pursued the entrepreneurship process, our projects would have been much better. During the first few days we were looking at our company’s problems and thinking of recommendations and solutions that might overcome them. By the time we were building our report and thought we had our recommendations down, we learned new helpful information in class which made us rethink our entire project. I felt as though every time we learned something new in class we changed our project because new ideas were constantly flying through our brains. This was a good thing but it pushed our work back to the last few days to write the paper and create the presentation. Overall I learned so much from this course and enjoyed it a lot. I had one of the best times in my life and will never forget this experience. I do believe that the groups could have been more successful if the course was spread out a little differently.

Just swim.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t fake your way through cultural immersion. It’s 100% real and unyielding; there is no choice in the matter on whether you like it or not, whether the culture is up to your standards, or whether you fit in or not. It’s very much like swimming: once you’re in the deep end, there is no choice but to swim. Whether or not the water is the ideal temperature or clean enough for you is irrelevant. Just swim.

As of now, I have studied abroad a total of three times. My first was to China for a cultural course consisting of an intense two-week study of Chinese history and Mandarin language. We visited all the cultural and historical sites we could see in Beijing, Xi’an, Qufu, Jinan, and Shanghai. My second abroad experience was Comparative Management in San Jose, Costa Rica, where we observed various businesses and production factories, comparing their work processes with those of the United States. Both abroad experiences were very different from each other, yet delivered similar results. Through them, I was able to observe cultural differences from the outside by making several conclusions that were sometimes based on assumptions due to a lack of understanding. Finally, I enrolled in Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship in India, which changed how I thought of studying abroad. Immersion and observation are two different ways to experience a culture. After completing the course at BVB, my preference is now immersion.

Since this was my first total immersion experience, I was not sure what to expect. Since we were doing group projects, my grades now relied on my ability to work with my multidisciplinary and multicultural team. What if the cultural differences were too difficult to overcome? What if we could not connect on a common understanding of the goals? What if we just plain didn’t like each other? These were some of the questions that ran through my head before beginning the course. Thankfully, all of my worry was for nothing. Working with my team was wonderful; we all worked very well together and was able to create a comprehensive and coherent presentation for our final project. Additionally, I feel like the lifelong friendships with some of the students at BVB is another priceless benefit of the entire experience.

What surprised me most about the cultural immersion aspect of studying abroad was how organic and fluid it was. There was no control over anything, it just happened. The bonds between UML and BVB students formed quickly, without plan or warning. Although we were from opposite sides of the earth, we had so much in common with the Indian students that it was startling. On my second day in Hubli, my team met with their company’s primary investor. After a very fruitful meeting, we went out to a local coffee shop called Seven Beans. As I sat outside in the pavilion, it was almost like I was in the United States with fellow UML students instead of in India with people I had only met yesterday.  I never could have anticipated how fast the friendships formed.

Over the course of 10 days, the bonds had grown so strong that saying our goodbyes proved a very difficult task. I witnessed grown men sobbing in tears and women holding each other close before parting. It was all very sad to see, but it was also an incredible thing to be a part of. Never before had I experienced working side-by-side with students in another country. I had grown so close to some of the people at BVB that it was very painful for me to leave. I am lucky that I live in the era of Internet communication. Otherwise, I’d need to write letters or buy a long distance phone plan in order to keep in touch with the BVB students. Hurray for the Internet!

Now, Hubli means something to me. It is not simply a city that I observed from the outside during a study abroad course. I experienced Hubli from the inside out, and that has made all the difference. I feel my ability to adapt and adjust to any situation in life has been strengthened even more than it was before. I learned a lot about who I am as person in the last three weeks by simply putting myself in unknown and unpredictable situations and adapting accordingly.

Remember: when the water is deep, the temperature doesn’t matter. Just swim.

-Rebekah Dufrene

DSC_2371 DSC_2778 DSC_2762 DSC_2853

classroom time

What can I say about the actual classroom time that hasn’t already been said?

The good:

I really enjoyed the Seven Beans guest speaker. His story was inspirational. I had visited Seven Beans several times before the final day of class when he spoke to us. Being a fan of all things coffee, I immediately loved the atmosphere and social aspect of the place. It was great to hear the origin of the “seven beans” story, and to hear about the owner’s struggles and triumphs as an entrepreneur.

I also enjoyed the few times in class that we worked on interactive small team projects. It is much more of a learning experience for me when I’m actively doing something instead of sitting for a lecture.

The final project was a great learning opportunity. My team, Campus Cloud, met with the angel investor on the second day in at BVB. It was such an exciting and scary experience. However, he was such a nice guy that the meeting ended up with us all getting coffee at Seven Beans. Working on the project with my team wasn’t always a smooth process, but we were able to pull everything together and make a great presentation.


The not so good:

I agree with others that said the particular room that we were in made it very difficult to hear anything, even when sitting in the front. Every word that was said was echoed into oblivion. There were several days that I could not understand anything from the guest speakers. Even when the microphones were used, the sound was still echoed and distorted.

The classroom time could have been less “lecture” and more interactive. There was one day that we made a small presentation on a problem with a possible solution. That was one of my favorite days because I felt like I was doing something. I know this is just personal preference, but a +3hr lecture was not enjoyable for me.


Overall, I do feel like I learned a lot about the entrepreneurial process, especially since I was working with a start-up company. I’d recommend this course to anyone who wants to obtain a multicultural, multidisciplinary team experience.


“I Guess This is Goodbye, Old Pal”

In one of my favorite musicals Into the Woods there are the lines of:

“I guess this is goodbye, old pal, you’ve been a perfect friend,                                              I hate to have to part, old pal, someday I’ll buy you back.”

He happens to be singing about a cow, and I’m not about to purchase anything back, but I find the words fitting. We went into the “woods” of this extraordinary country, and made so many friends and had such a time of growth in a country where the cow happens to be revered. But the musical is all about the growth of the characters, and I know that I definitely grew.

Entrepreneurship was something that was foreign to me. I find safety in numbers and equations, or on a stage with a giant crowd, most certainly not buried in the depths of a business plan. But I know that someday I wanted to be the engineer who has the ability to talk between any group, therefore my business understanding had to develop.

Working  directly with Ushas School for Exceptional Children was an amazing experience. Though at times I felt the timeline for the course kept me from bits of information I would’ve like to know earlier, and didn’t give much processing time, we managed to come so far and I believe we made a difference. The mentally disabled children at the school were precious, and in the end, we were able to influence the owner to see that she needed to spend small amounts of money on promotion of her school with brochures and cards so she could bring in more donors. We were able to outline that she needs to get a new board so that she has more manpower and is not stretching herself thin, also, we saw simple changes to social media that are easy fixes to promotion problems. In short, we learned how to make a difference, and turn a bunch of engineers into entrepreneurs in the making, and it was a great feeling I hope to have again.

India was a step forward through professional know-how, and was an eye-opening experience. It is my “old pal” who I say goodbye to, who I may see again someday.

-Marcelle Durrenberger

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Spring semester starts today, and it feels completely surreal. Having been home for a few days now, I can’t help but feel like I have this beautiful secret inside my head whenever I think of India around my friends and family. No matter how many stories I tell them or pictures I show them, I know they will never be able to grasp the magnificent contrast of progress and poverty we experienced while there. Because of this, I am even more grateful for my American classmates, who were with me every step of the way and can completely understand.

On the first two days of class, those of us who were working with organizations for our projects were able to visit them. My group’s organization, Family Planning Association of India, offers a wide variety of services relating to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) for free, mainly to people living below the poverty line. It was amazing to witness how importantly they regard their mission of advocacy and access, even though many of the people they serve don’t always see the value in what they’re providing. After observing the organization for two days, we took all of our gathered information to the classroom.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to see any tie-ins between entrepreneurship and innovation in regards to what our organization does. As the days progressed, we listened to class lectures and guest speakers, and it became clear to me. In India, discussing sexual education and health can still be very taboo, as it sometimes is here in the US, too. Despite how uncomfortable it makes people, and despite the fact that some people would rather be sick and suffer than address their sexual and reproductive health needs, FPAI pushes forward. What they’re doing can be new and uncomfortable culturally to many of the people they encounter, but they refuse to give up. They utilize a network of diverse partners with multiple channels to do what they do. In a country with a population as large as India’s, their work is crucially pioneering, and nothing less than admirable.

Working with FPAI while learning about innovation and entrepreneurship really made me reconsider the value of social entrepreneurship. Although not always profitable like traditional entrepreneurship, it can be infinitely more rewarding. In aiming to provide education, access, and treatment regarding SRH to India, FPAI is faced with the challenge of forcing a paradigm shift. They face this challenge with all the passion, bravery, and creativity that you would expect from people who know that if they should succeed, the world will be changed for the better forever.

Global Immersion in Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Since the first day, of my decision of doing the study abroad & student exchange program, till now i feel proud and happy that i did this unique program. The core MBA course in UML usually takes 15 weeks but this course being a core course with 3 credits, completes in just 2 weeks. When i heard this, i was sure that we needed to burn the midnight oil to complete this program. This was a challenge for all of the students participating in this course.

On the first two days, all the groups visited their respective non-profits and understand their workings and problems. Then rest of the days, we were taught various Entrepreneurship skills and methods in classroom so that we could develop a good plan for the respective non-profits, along with that we were working on our projects day in and day out without stopping. We also had various successful entrepreneurs who talked about their lives and how they became successful. It was a treat for any to-be entrepreneur to listen to already established entrepreneurs. Apart from studies, we made lots of friends in BVB engineering college, where students were extremely helpful and friendly. Working with a team where each team member has a different idea and wants to work differently was always a task, but coming up with a common solution was the best part. Working with a diverse team and yet coming to one decision, is what makes a good team. Making a valuable project report and power point presentation were the two main things that were needed in this course, because these two things will be sent to the respective non-profits so that they can work upon their weak areas. Therefore, our team was very careful about these two requirements and we worked on them accordingly.

All the teams successfully completed their projects reports and presented their presentations with the immense help and guidance of Professor Ashwin Mehta, Professor Deborah Finch and Professor Nitin Kulkarni. Without their support this course would have been impossible.

My time in India

As I sit here on the plane returning from India, I’m sad my time there is over but also overjoyed to see my family. In the early years of my adulthood, I spent a lot of time wallowing while I watched my friends go away to college, study abroad and experience all I felt I’d needed to, but couldn’t.  I, of course was married with children, a job and school so I would never be able to share those memories of places so different, in some ways better, in others worse, than where I call home.  This opportunity gave me the chance to recapture a part of being young that I yearned for but never had.  Having said that India more than ever reminded me how grateful I am for my greatest adventure in that of my wife and children.  All of that time I spent lamenting my lost youth was so I’d be able to fully appreciate this memory while knowing I’d be returning to the best thing about my life, my family.

I got really sick the last week.  I didn’t get out much and worked a lot on our project.  Our mo-ped ride to the hill and the market outings seemed far away.  The temples were beautiful and ornate in ways I can’t really describe, but as I lay in my bed delirious with pain I almost couldn’t remember any of what I’d seen.  The young men and women I lived and worked with began to take care of me and reminded me why I’d fallen in love with this country even before I came.  Maturity and sympathy like I experienced scarcely shows up in the adult world that I’m a part of.  Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s our society of independence and quiet suffering, but I barely understood why they were so concerned.  It didn’t really matter; I was there, we were friends and that’s all it took for them to devote their time to me.
India meant so much to me in innumerable ways and I thought the place itself more than anything else would be what I remembered.  The people obviously make a place what it is and that’s what I really understand now.  It is the people who make India what it is through it’s beauty in nature, culture, architecture, landscape and everything else.  Despite its problems, my experience showed that even more things are done right than wrong.  I think I can say the same for where I’m from, but I don’t know if I’ll always be able to say that.  I knew that I, along with everyone everywhere, needed to learn about humanity’s differences, but I just never learned the extent.  I have better idea now.  I can’t wait to come back, especially with my family so we can share this country together.

Our class

I’m not creative in the traditional sense.  I know our class had a guest speaker who more or less debunked that statement, but I don’t see it that way.  What I can do is think of ways that exist to solve problems and create opportunities.  To me, creativity means thinking of something no one else can.  Our class really emphasized that maybe that’s all that’s needed to be an innovator.  I’ve had ideas but lacked the detailed vision to ever be able to see them through.  I learned in our class in India that it was okay not to know every angle of an idea, but that being able to make one move into something was what really mattered. The class itself and especially the guest speakers really gave me tangible skills that I can use to bring about innovation not only to my company, but my life in general.

Usually, I try to self-analyze at all times in all situations.  If I forget to hold the door for someone behind me as I leave a store, I have to stop, figure out why I forgot, try to apologize and remind myself to be more careful.  I do the same thing when I try to implement innovative ideas in my life and that over-analysis can lack direction.  This course gave me an idea of what that direction looks like.  Our projects, the reading material, the discussions and everything else provided me a course to the chaotic self-diagnostics I apply everywhere in my life.  I’d really like to help my wife start a business making furniture and other woodwork/crafts.  Now I know much better what that will look like on paper and in reality because of this course.  Professionally, my workplace can get stuffy and lack innovation, but I know opportunities are there and I think I’ll have a better time seeing those now.  The professors provided a rich and wonderful cultural experience that allowed to grow as people and professionals.  I hardly can think of a more valuable class I’ve taken or will take than this.  To learn so much in just 2 weeks was daunting, but we made it through, learned so much on the way and I, at least found so many new ways to look at things.

The class

I’ve avoided writing this post about the class because I didn’t like the class initially. At first, I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new, but once we began discussing the case studies and having guest speakers I began to see where the class was going.

My favorite part had to be the group project. A week ago if you asked me whether or not I enjoyed the project I would have shouted, “No!” But, being back in Lowell with a break from the course I realize how valuable that project was. We were given the ability to look at and work with start-ups or already established companies, listen to their business processes and strategies and give them recommendations. Usually you have to have years of experience and credentials to get anyone to listen to what you have to say, but this class gave us that chance. These companies are going to look at what we recommend and then take some of our ideas and implement them.

The hardest part about the course had to be working with my companies CEO. I think going forward, when start-ups are being involved they should be handled the same way the company projects were handled. Meet for the first two days, then given the liberty to work alone. With that freedom or separation I think our reports would have been easier to compose and come to an agreement on what we felt needed to be done going forward.