Well friends, the 2014 Global Business Institute is now officially in the books and I want to take a moment to publicly thank the wonderful staff of the Institute for International Business (specifically, Sara Reeves for hiring me), the Program Assistant staff (Andrew Davis, Patrick Ferguson, Sara Nehring, and Lindsey Pullum) for doing such an extraordinary job this summer, and all of the students who participated in GBI this year.
For those of you not yet in the know, the Global Business Institute is an academically-rigorous, competitive business program that culls together approximately 100 students (from many thousands of applicants) from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, and Tunisia. Students submit a business plan that they believe will help their country and they are selected based on the originality and feasibility of their project ideas (among other considerations). The program, funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Coca-Cola Company, and Indiana University, brings the students to IU where they spend one month learning about American business and entrepreneurship from a wonderful group of coaches and faculty at the Kelley School of Business, and then compete against each other in teams to find out which country can put together the best business proposal that will make a positive change in their homeland. The Top Ten (out of 18) teams then present their ideas in Washington D.C. to the U.S. Department of State before heading to Atlanta to meet with Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent and other Coke leaders.
It was a fantastic program and I am incredibly thankful for the experience. I was hired as the Lead Program Assistant which meant that I spent the month prior to the program working in the IIB office organizing GBI social events, piecing together countless program details, and planning ways to acclimate students to life in the United States, life in Bloomington, Indiana, and life on campus at Indiana University. Once the program began, I moved into Eigenmann Residence Hall to live with the students, manage my staff of four Program Assistants, and foster a structured, supportive, and fun learning environment for all. While I had previously studied abroad, worked at the Global Village Living-Learning Center, and taught IU courses in International Studies, this was my first time working directly with students from the Middle East and Northern Africa and I am so grateful for the learning opportunity! It was also refreshing to work with so many students outside of the classroom, but still be very much a part of their learning experience at IU.
Because the program coincided with Ramadan, there were many opportunities for discussions about culture, religion, and politics and it was cool to see that so many students were willing and interested in engaging in such dialogue. I was even invited by my Pakistani friends to try fasting… which was then followed by my first Iftar (my Roza Kushai, if you will). Thanks are due again to Ovais and Zarmina Raza and their family for welcoming me and all of the Pakistani students into their beautiful home to break fast together. If I learned one thing from the experience, it’s that I should not have overslept Suhoor (yikes, 26 hours with no food or water). If I learned two things, it is that Pakistani food is delicious and well worth the wait!
There were, of course, many other highlights from the experience... I can’t possibly name them all, but one was hearing Egypt’s Karim Yehia, who had competed on several TV singing competitions including Arab Idol, tell me that he had never sung in English in front of anybody, and then letting me play guitar while he belted out fantastic versions of Elvis Presley’s ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and Josh Turner’s ‘Your Man’ at Culture Night.
Another was the pomade/art supply trip in the Galaxie with El-Mehdi Iraqi, Amine Bouhaji, Salma El Gamal, and Sara Hasnawi and then giving Mehdi a pompadour just before the Farewell Awards Dinner (his hair even stood up to his celebratory bounds and leaps after his Moroccan team had won first place in the competition #scholarswithgreathair).
Listening to and talking about our hip-hop record collections in the dorm with Hamza Cranky, Tunisia’s breakdancing champion, was also a real good time...
As was pedal boating in the Indiana Central Canal with my Algerian friends Ayoub Hedjouli, Yasser Belouadah, and Nina Laribi (though that is some seriously hard work and I’m so glad I didn’t fall in like one particular unfortunate individual…;).
There were many killer ping pong matches throughout the month and a lot of memorable iftars as well. Truly, there were so many wonderful encounters with brilliant students… I can’t possibly mention them all here, but as a group we went to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game and shouted well-known soccer chants, we went bowling at the IMU, we went romping in Bradford Woods, we frolicked and Frisbeed around Brown County State Park, we heard some great country music by Lexi Minnich and ate some great food at the Taste of Bloomington festival, we watched a lot of World Cup (1-2-3, viva l’Algerie!), we ate goodbye cake together, and so much more. We also went to classes, studied, and put in a lot of team work time in the evenings.
Then, of course, there were the fantastic final presentations which I found very promising. I sure hope that some of these business plans get funded because they were addressing some very important social needs in every country. It was indeed a wonderful month!
What I remember most though is the conversations about life in each country (and about students’ experiences in this country), about differences (and similarities) in education, about dating (ok, mostly differences here), about employment opportunities, about music around the world (thanks again to Tinhinane AitHamouda for all the insights on Berber music and culture!), about cultural difference (Indiana had just legalized gay marriage while the students were here which opened up some interesting and charged conversations), about the Muslim way of life (both in theory and in practice), similarities and differences in the Quran and the Bible, about national conflicts, about peace, about humanitarianism, and about stand-up comedy (Omer Rizwan, you know your funny stuff!) among many topics. Somewhere between the role of policy enforcer for RPS (Residential Programs and Services), Indiana University, and GBI, as well as LPA and manager of the PA staff, I managed to foster many friendships with students and staffers that I hope will continue for many years into the future.
GBIers, you guys were awesome and I’m mighty glad that I could be a part of your experience. Y'all are incredibly talented and inspiring students and I can’t wait to see how y'all build upon the skills learned here at IU and use them to give back to your own communities. And I can’t wait to visit those communities sometime in the future! I really appreciate all the generous invitations to visit y’all in your home countries and I seriously hope I can make such visits happen over time. Thanks to Zakaria Alami and Hejer Baalouch, I’ve already got an outfit that’ll help me fit right in so now I’ve just got to go and make it happen (seriously, many thanks again to both of you for the wonderful gifts)! The outpouring of support and appreciation in everybody’s comments, notes, and emails during the last week has been immensely gratifying and I can’t thank you all enough for the kind words and gifts. Know that they are treasured and if I am able to help any of you in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me.
The LPA job was certainly not short on challenges (which I shall not care to revisit here), but the positives FAR outweighed the challenges, which in the end weren’t so much negatives, but instead opportunities for discussion, problem-solving skill enhancement, working together as a team, and multicultural understanding. To say the least, I learned a LOT this summer. I send my hearty congratulations to all of the GBIers and wish you all continued success in all that you do!
#kelleygbi #cokescholars #algeria #egypt #jordan #morocco #pakistan #palestine #tunis #iub
Ph.D. Candidate and Lead Program Assistant,
Global Business Institute, Kelley School of Business