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. And now, they have successfully completed their first few sales weeks. In the last few weeks, we asked Liisbet and Annika about their experiences and this week, and we are getting to know Kaspar to find out how he got into the summer program the first time and how it is related to his studies. Here is what he said.
Another week has passed here and very successfully! I am a third-year undergraduate student studying marketing at the EUAS Tartu branch. It is my fourth summer in the Southwestern Advantage program, my second time in America, and I spent the intervening “corona summers” selling books in the UK.
EUAS offers me just the right amount of independence and flexibility, where I feel I can put my theoretical learning into practice. In high school, my friends and I always talked about how we would like to travel, experience life and see the world, but many do not get to do that in reality. When life offers an opportunity to do something new and challenging, the first reaction is inevitably to stay in the comfort zone. First, I was invited to an informative session for the Southwestern program in 2018; however, it did not work out then, and I could not join the program. So, a few months later, I decided that I would like to hear more about this possibility. I didn’t want to regret later that I missed such an exciting opportunity. My personal goal in the program is to learn to be happy by myself, to make peace with my emotions – the time away during the summer offers a highly intensive opportunity for this and I can practice it daily. What I like about the program is that not only can I develop my confidence and leadership skills, but it is also inspiring to see the entire group grow together during the summer and how each one works in a team based on shared values.
For the first time, I am the head of a summer organisation, and this is an incredible challenge for me to gain management experience in addition to selling books. My first summer was in Texas; I am working in Iowa this summer. I also get to test my marketing knowledge every week in America – the subject of social media marketing has been the most helpful. During summer, I regularly use my bookman page on Facebook, and I also use Facebook advertising in every new city where I start working. The last week was very special for all of us because we dedicated it to someone special and important in our lives. It is always easier to work when you are doing it for yourself and someone else because in difficult moments, you can remind yourself why you still need to continue and move forward. I won the dedication award with Urmi and Kristian, my two colleagues from Estonia. As a group, we were also perfect, and we continued to improve! We have shared some pictures with people who have motivated us to do better.
I would also like to share some fun and memorable memories we have had in the last few weeks. One memorable moment was when we showed our books to one of the families, and we were asked how we find the food in the USA and what we miss about our Estonian food. When I answered that I missed dark bread, the mother went to the kitchen, brought me a loaf of dark bread, and asked me to take it with me. It was a lovely feeling and made me feel right at home. Last Tuesday, one of our team members, Karl-Gustav visited a family, where the mother gave him 2 Lunchables (small boxes where you can make something like a sandwich quickly from the ingredients) and three muesli bars. The next day, when I had to return to the same family, I got pastries, watermelon and other snacks. Later, he also played basketball with the children. He also met former booksellers Greg and Pamelta, who have participated in the program for 5 and 3 summers, respectively. It was an incredible feeling not only for him, but both were very excited to meet the new bookseller! While walking around and sitting down with families, I found a family that worked with horses, and Kapu was able to sit on a horse and ride for the first time in his life. The family also turned it into a cool TikTok, which you can watch here.
Kristjan enjoys working in the countryside, and this week, in addition to regular families, with their dogs and cats, he also met show pigs and got along so well with the family that he stayed with them until midnight. By the end of his conversation, when Kristian left the house, the other program participants were long asleep.
The weekend ended on a lovely note when we met in the park on Sunday, where, to our surprise, a family day was held! We ate hot dogs straight from the grill, and afterwards, we had ice cream with syrup for dessert! We also played football in Estonian and American styles and had a great time!