In June, I received an email from Lauren sent to the 2018 intake of GLOCAL students, asking us if we wanted to attend this year’s Summer School at the end of August. It was first come first served – the school was aimed at the 2017 cohort, so there were only six spaces available for my own intake.
I was surprised – and a bit scared! – when she replied with confirmation that I had been accepted: while I wanted to use the Summer School to get a firmer grasp on what GLOCAL was all about, I was a bit nervous because of my limited knowledge of economics and business. I majored in social sciences, and the title of the Summer School, Mittelstand goes Global: Local Roots and Internationalization Pathways of SMEs remained slightly obscure. So it’s kind of amazing to think that a week was enough for me to become confident in my understanding of the topic, and feel a whole lot more secure in my own business and economics knowledge – which is definitely more than I initially thought!
It’s a testament to the level of teaching, the dedication of the programme coordinators and the support of the other students that after only a day or so, the six of us 2018 cohort were comfortable debating family businesses and entrepreneurship in group discussions, asking questions and challenging lecturers. The course was an inspired, inciteful week, where we were privileged to be able to just listen to and converse with professors talking about subjects they loved.
Highlights included a tour of Jägermeister (leaving me with a day long headache from breathing in alcohol fumes combined with the scents of over 50 different herbs, roots and spices). We were the first group to be introduced to the facility on an educational level, receiving a presentation from the archival historian of Jägermeister, who talked us through the company’s marketing history and the ways in which it maintains local roots while internationalising.
Moving away from Europe, we had lectures on Latin America, East and South-East Asia, and it was interesting to see students drawing from their own experiences to contribute to discussion – I realised I knew a lot more about business and economics than I thought as I was able to look at my own knowledge of Japanese business culture to make my own contributions. It was also fascinating to see how students and lecturers alike stereotyped countries and continents, so it was refreshing to see Andrea Lluch, a professor from Latin America, as well as Latin American students, rejecting and contesting some of these perceptions in the lecture on entrepreneurial families in Spain and Latin America.
The final day saw presentations from the 2017 cohort. Some were on their proposed thesis topics which varied from entrepreneurial constraints in Sub-Saharan Africa, to creative policy at local and international levels. Others presented on their Barcelona consultancy projects – from coworking companies and SMEs as hives of innovation, to promoting innovation and competitiveness in the Catalonian food sector.
For me, experiencing the 2017 cohort’s genuine enthusiasm and kindness was just as important as absorbing the educational content of the Summer School. Seeing how they used their hive mind to transfer knowledge and share readings, supporting each other during their presentations, challenging each other during debate, was particularly inspiring. They were integral in making us six 2018 newbies feel at home, welcoming us into their family and making us comfortable that we could engage and converse. The six of us agreed that it is behaviour we wish to emulate and pass on to the rest of the students from our intake.
While I accepted my place in this masters in April, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into, trusting that it would come together in time. GLOCAL isn’t a typical postgraduate programme with an easy-to-understand title – it’s an amalgamation of courses, minds and experiences, hard to pin down in writing, and it’s newness as a degree makes it difficult to contextualise. For me, the Summer School was invaluable in providing that context. I now feel able to begin the masters next week with a more solid understanding of not only the course content, but also the practical experience available through the degree, the style of teaching, and of course, my home to be next year (if all goes to plan!) – Göttingen. I am unequivocally thankful and honoured to have had this experience, to have met some absolute babes from my own cohort, and to have made – hopefully! – friends for life.
Written by Riyoko Shibe
Read more about the GLOCAL Summer School on the programme website