'You become a better version of yourself'

Lehigh’s Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry, now in its 18th year, is playing host this summer to 88 people from 50 countries.
Inspired by Lee Iacocca ’45 and run by the Iacocca Institute, the five-week program aims to equip young people—most of them career professionals and students—with business, entrepreneurial and leadership skills.
“This has been an eye-opening experience for me,” said Nune Dzhunelova, who lives in New York City and works for TPS Advertising, which helps multinational companies and international organizations do business in her native Turkmenistan.
“You get to be with 88 other people who are visionary, hard-working, with very strong principles and beliefs. It’s almost as if you took a trip around the world in a five-week period.
“There are presentations where we each talk about our countries and what it’s like to live there and do business there. We have culture nights where we describe our food, our traditions and other elements of our culture. We cook together, party together, study together. The three dorms where we are staying have become our little universe.”

“A home anywhere in the world”
“The experiences we’ve had are absolutely amazing,” said Ilai Soloducho, a student at The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. “We’ve taken trips to Philadelphia, New York, Washington. I’ve made new friends for life.

“I feel now like I have a home anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Spain, Nigeria, Ghana, Italy—you name it; all I have to do is make a 2-minute call and be with a new friend. That’s an amazing feeling.”
A total of 1,800 students, or “interns,” from 132 countries have attended Global Village since it was founded in 1997, said Richard Brandt, director of the Iacocca Institute.
“Global Village alumni understand how to work in teams and with different partners,” said Brandt. “They learn how to present themselves, many of them in another language. We hope they will leave here and go out in the world to create networks of people and coalitions of businesses that will support each other.”
Global Village courses are taught by Lehigh faculty and by experts from business and industry, including some returning Global Village alumni. Interns also learn the importance of community service and take field trips.
“Global Village cannot be described,” said Athbah Alshehhi, who studies electrical engineering and renewable energy at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
“You have to live Global Village. You have to feel it, just be here. It’s all about the people. I never thought I’d be engaged in such a diverse community with people from 50 different countries! It’s absolutely amazing learning different cultures, religions, languages, how people think, behave, how their personalities reflect their cultures.”
Alshehhi said she was struck by a comment made by another Global Village intern.
“He said that whenever he looks at a world map from now on, he won’t see cities or countries, he will see people. I see that now. I’ve learned a lot from other people around the world. They’re my family.”
Soloducho said he arrived at Global Village late last month before the latest outbreak of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
“I don’t believe I should have stayed home just because there’s a conflict,” he said. “We have to do our best to represent our country, even during a conflict. I’m happy to have the opportunity to do that.”
Brandt said the interns at this year’s Global Village include students from Palestine and Israel, and from Ukraine and Russia.
“They have become friends,” he said. “They really understand what it takes to be friends across borders.”
“After Global Village,” said Dzhunelova, “I don’t think I will be the same. This experience has been so transformational, I don’t want to be the same. My skills, my beliefs, my thoughts have not only been altered but enhanced as well. You take a little bit of everybody, you take the best from every one of 88 people here. You really become a better version of yourself.”

Video and photos by Stephanie Veto