EUAS in the Americas: Southwestern Advantage Program: Part 3

We have been writing about how three of our students – Kaspar, Liisbet, and Annika – are a part of the 150-year-old Southwestern Advantage program and are spending their summer in America. They spent their first week attending the sales school in Nashville, Tennessee, with nearly 400 students from the Baltics, Poland, and Slovakia. 

Last week we asked Liisbet to share her experience, and this week we are getting to know Annika better as we talked to her about how she got into the summer program and how it is related to her studies. Here is what she said.

I am a first-year Master’s student at EUAS, pursuing the Human Resource Management program. After completing my Bachelor’s degree at the Estonian Business School (EBS), I consciously chose to pursue my Master’s at EUAS. I liked that EUAS has smaller classes, so we get a more personal approach. Our lecturers get to know us as individuals, which helps us better address gaps in our knowledge and enhance our strengths. I am the youngest in my class, and I often feel that the conversations and discussions get me to discover a range of perspectives and ideas through the varied life experiences of my fellow students.

This is the sixth time I am participating in the Southwestern Advantage program, and my role as a Sales Manager in the program was matched with my specialised area of study. In this role, I will learn and experience several aspects of team management, motivating people, mentoring, and human resources management, which I am learning in theory at EUAS. I feel what I am learning during my academic years at EUAS is helping me to become more successful in sales. The perfect fit of the Southwestern Advantage program is allowing me to practice what I am learning in the classroom.

I have spent four of the six summers in the USA – in Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio, and this year we are in Nevada. When visas were not granted during the pandemic to travel to the States the previous two years, we made sales in Estonia and the summer before that in England.

I accidentally came across the Southwestern Advantage program when my high schoolmate suggested it. It was more of a dare to travel to the USA, as I lived with my parents. When questioned about my interest, I did not dare to say NO, instead pushing my teacher to travel with me all day. Finally, my friend and I went to the USA with our teacher.

That was my first summer in America, a significant change for me. But that summer, I learned many important lessons about life – how to solve my problems, be independent, present myself, learn about self-image, and become more confident. I had been a dancer for eight years during high school but have always had the habit of criticising myself. During a demanding situation, I was in the practice of demotivating myself through negative self-talk. I never realised that my critical inner voice was harmful to myself. Since I have started participating in the Southwestern Advantage program, I practise positive self-talk and refined it daily to enhance myself.

This year I have an opportunity for the second time in the program to become an organisation leader, where I get to lead a small group of people, including first-year booksellers and experienced program participants. We meet every Sunday to set goals for the upcoming week. As a group leader, my entire team should feel good about participating in the program by the time the summer ends. The program’s opportunity to see and contribute to other people’s growth is especially interesting for me. The Southwestern Advantage program ensures that students learn and develop a lot in the summer, not only in sales but also in terms of discipline, independence and coping with emotions.

The first week we attended the training workshop in Nashville, Tennessee, passed by amazingly fast, and the first-timers of the program also started their summer with a lot of enthusiasm. It feels great to be back on the road, knocking on the doors. Of course, during the initial days, I was hit with nostalgia and reminisced about the emotions that door-to-door sales bring – how to deal with constant NO and move on to knock on the next door.

As with any state, Nevada has its characteristics. Of course, the people in Nevada are amicable, and the weather is beautiful. There are a lot of casinos here – indeed, you can play in a casino inside any significant store. In addition, there are a lot of fuel companies in Nevada – many families I meet during the day work in a fuel company or a casino 🙂

A few days back, we visited Virginia City. We went to a gunfight and stunt show and took pictures in antique western-themed costumes. Since it was also a show where the audience could participate, it was inspiring when one of our group members, Kati, was invited to the stage. The immersive living history experience was indeed very great.

I am pleased that my team members are getting to have an enjoyable and valuable experience. As a group leader, I want each one of us not to forget to have some fun in addition to working hard.