Going Global for Startup Success
UNCG and Belgian students collaborate, travel together
Countries that once seemed light years away are now our next door neighbors in the business world. As international markets integrate, young entrepreneurs need broader cultural intelligence. They can find it in the Bryan School’s “Experience Business Abroad” course. UNCG’s unique program prepares students for globalization by exposing them to entrepreneurship in other countries and classmates from varying backgrounds.
Here’s the breakdown: students from UNCG and Belgium’s Louvain School of Management at the Universite Catholique de Louvain team up on semester-long entrepreneurial projects. First, the Americans and Belgians meet separately in their home countries and prepare global startup concepts to pitch to their international counterparts. Once all the business ideas are on the table, the American and Belgian students form teams and eventually meet abroad to develop their plans in person.
This year, UNCG students traveled to Belgium over spring break to work on their projects, attend lectures, tour historic sites throughout the country, visit Belgian entrepreneurs, and learn from Louvain School alumni who have launched successful startups. They also participated in a workshop at the Center for Creative Leadership’s European headquarters in Brussels.
Two weeks after returning from their adventures, the UNCG students became the hosts, and Louvain School students visited Greensboro businesses and learned from American entrepreneurs. The Belgian students’ trip coincided with UNCG’s Entrepreneur Day and the Inventors Liftoff, a celebration hosted by The Forge and The Greensboro Partnership.
Bryan Toney, UNCG Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Engagement, has seen the tremendous impact the program has on students. “They learn on so many different levels with this unique course offering. Since they stay in each other’s homes, they develop a deep understanding of cultural differences and similarities while building lifelong friendships.”
Toney originally designed the course at Appalachian State and initiated it in Belgium with the help of Dr. Frank Janssen. Janssen coordinates the Louvain School’s interdisciplinary program in entrepreneurship – a program ranked 5th in the world. Toney has implemented the course with three additional European universities in Belgium, Spain, and Germany over the last decade.
Joseph Erba of the Bryan School of Business and Economics now helms Experience Business Abroad at UNCG, with aid from Toney.
“I don’t believe there’s a better way to facilitate learning and skill development than to use experiential programs like this in our curriculum,” says Erba. “Our students gain great international experience in this short-term, ‘deep dive’ enculturation process, while building their teaming skills.”
“I consider this journey a truly invaluable experience both academically and socially,” reflects UNCG participant Lasse Palomaki. “One that I am capable of appreciating more and more every day.”
Article author Kevin Flanagan is a Media and Communication Intern with the UNCG Office of Research and Economic Development. He explores and writes articles about the on and off campus impacts of UNCG research. Kevin graduated UNCG in 2015 with a degree in communication studies and will be pursuing his MBA from Northeastern University in the fall. His interest in business, marketing, communication, and media led him to his current position.