Global Village makes the world feel smaller

For six weeks this summer, 96 interns—from 18 to 48 years old and representing 43 countries—lived, ate, and learned together at the 11th annual Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry.

The program, which concluded on Aug. 3, prepares future business leaders to succeed in the international market through lectures, courses, trips, projects, and discussions.

“We are trying to get young businessmen and women over the hump, showing them that they can do international business,” says Dick Brandt, director of the Iacocca Institute.

The Iacocca Institute was jointly formed in 1988 by Lee A. Iacocca ‘45, former president of Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation, and Lehigh University. In his bestselling book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? , Iacocca recounts how, in 1996, Brandt “sold me and Lehigh University on the idea of globalizing the world one young mind at a time” through a summer training program that became Global Village.

Iacocca writes of his experience when he returned for the graduation ceremony in 2006:

I saw a young guy ask an Arab girl who was wearing a veil to dance, and I thought, “Wow! This is globalization.” I saw two students, one from Beirut and one from Tel Aviv, hugging each other and crying. When they’d left their homes for Pennsylvania, there had been no fighting between their countries. Now there were bombings every day. They didn’t know what they would face when they returned home, but they knew one thing: They were not enemies. This is America’s greatest advantage. People can come here from all over the world and live together in peace.

Graduates of the program work at international businesses, begin their own companies, or continue their schooling. A few return to the Village as guides, helping other interns through the program, assisting in scheduling, directing discussions, and encouraging interns to achieve their goals.

Here are the stories of three Global Village graduates—one from Sweden, one from South America, and one from South Africa—who returned this year to share their knowledge and experience with others.

Catharina Bratt: “We try to preach one Global Village”

Cathariana Bratt, 28, left her hometown of Stockholm, Sweden to intern at the Global Village in 2002. Afterwards, she discovered that the “world felt smaller,” she says.

“I came home with new impressions, friends, and more self confidence,” Bratt says. News stories became more intimate and real, because she knew someone from nearly every country mentioned.

She returned as a guide this year, mentoring 10 students, leading them through the process of choosing appropriate courses and trips so that they achieve the goals set at the beginning of the Village.

Like most guides, she mentored a project team composed of seven interns. These teams provide business aid to real companies. Bratt’s team generated ideas for a carpet realtor based in the United Kingdom. Bratt coached the interns on how to consult the realtor—a role she is comfortable with since she works in business consulting.

Through these projects, interns practice conducting cross-cultural business, and they learn to cooperate despite different work habits and cultural expectations. For example, Bratt says, Swedish interns often arrived early to team meetings and courses, but those from Latin America are more likely to be late. So, the punctual ones practice patience, and those who tend to be tardy become timelier.

By bridging these differences, interns learn to operate in a global environment. “We try to preach one Global Village. Even though we live in different countries, we are able to get along,” Bratt says.

Bratt also fosters international interaction among alumni as president of the alumni association, called Global Village Networking (GVN). The seven alumni on the GVN volunteer executive board, with the help of other alumni, are creating a Web site, among other projects. Alumni will use this site to arrange visits and glean business advice.

Every year, the GVN hosts a one-week reunion on a different continent. This year, they will meet in Antalya, Turkey from Aug. 18-25.

“The reunions strengthen the network and increase interaction between years,” Bratt says.

Javier Valbuena: “A laboratory of people”

When Javier Valbuena, 31, first attended the 1991 Global Village, he was at a “strange crossroads” in life, he says.

He had graduated from college in Colombia, South America and was working at his family’s company. Although he enjoyed his work, Valbuena hoped for something more.

“I was looking for answers. I was very happy, but thought I could do more internationally,” he says.

The Global Village became the “last drop in the cup to show me what I could do.”

After leaving the Global Village, Valbuena pursued an international life, living in England, Ireland, Spain, and France.

“Life is too short to be in one place,” he says. “I move to a country and start up. I don’t have any plans, but I get to know the culture and the language.”

Most recently, he worked in the import and export department of a multinational company in Spain.

Valbuena sees his return to the Global Village as a “second chance.” When he first arrived in 1991, he focused on understanding the language and having fun, but he missed valuable business information and professional opportunities.

This time, Valbuena eagerly attended the lectures with the interns he guided. “It’s really good, and I’m very happy,” he says.

“For me, the Global Village is a laboratory of people,” he says.

In a controlled environment, different people with similar goals are mixed, creating unusual results. Intense class time provides concentrated learning. Students interact with many different cultures and ideas during the day, and through dorm life, relationships are formed quickly.

Because of this strange environment, he says, “everything happens faster than what it would normally. As a Villager, you experience what you would in a couple of years in only six weeks.”

Pieter Geldenhuys: “It taught me how to care”

Pieter Geldenhuys, 32, a native of South Africa, has attended the Global Village three times—once as an intern and twice as a guide.

“Every year, the Village is different because the people are different,” he says. “It’s not about the culture. It’s about the people.”

In 2002, Geldenhuys earned credit toward his M.B.A. at the Global Village, but he learned more in those six weeks than he could in any management class.

“I learned about myself,” he says. “It taught me how to care.”

Through living in a dorm, Geldenhuys learned that he liked being around other people. He also realized that he had a social as well as a personal responsibility, a responsibility that required him to live mindfully of others.

On his return, Geldenhuys sought roommates and worked in a charity.

The Global Village also gave Geldenhuys his first taste of love. During the program, he fell in love with an intern from Russia. Their relationship lasted after the Village ended, although friendship eventually replaced romance.

Geldenhuys’ time at the Global Village was so fruitful that he added “return to the Global Village” to the list of goals he plans to achieve throughout his life. His life list includes playing with his grandchildren, marrying a woman he loves, scuba diving in the Red Sea, and completing a three-hour cycling race, among others.

Items on his list have priority over all other responsibilities. If the opportunity to complete an activity on his list arises, he will do it—regardless of the money or time needed.

Last year, Geldenhuys crossed six items off his list. He earned his monetary goal and quit his position as divisional director for the Coastal Division of Tourvest Retail Travel in exchange for a summer job as a guide at the Global Village, completing three of his goals.

After the Village ended, three more items were ticked off. He explored South America, visited a fellow Global Village intern in Peru, learned Spanish, began writing a book, and finished the year as a guide.

“In the Village, we get to be the best version of ourselves. I liked being the person I was here,” he says. “I could never reproduce that, but once I unlocked that part of myself, I found ways to sustain it outside the Village.”

Becky Straw