By Marise Abboud
One might think that the major you choose in college would define your entire path and interests.
As a nutrition student living testimony, prepare yourself to hear my story on how I got involved with the Hult Prize program.
It all goes back to the last day of my second summer semester when I saw an email sent by my university; the Lebanese American University (LAU) – Beirut campus in Lebanon to apply to the campus director position. During that same year, I was the president of the nutrition club for that I felt both confident in applying and eager for a new experience. Fast forward to when I got chosen to be the campus director, my mom received the package because I was in an internship and funny enough she was more excited than I was, you know how moms can be! After the big news, I spent A LOT of time educating myself to fully grasp the idea of what the position required from me. When the fall semester of my senior year started, I found out about the LAU Innovation Center; the hub for entrepreneurial innovations and my reference concerning the program, it quickly became my second home.
The first on-hand experience I had with the program was Lebanon’s Hult Prize finals and I loved every bit of it. Why?
Well, it’s one thing to hear about success stories but it’s another when you see the actual progress of students from all educational backgrounds pitching their actual start-up! Seeing the opportunity it gave them to have a voice in front of experts is when I understood the value of the Hult Prize. After that night, I was determined more than ever to spread this same opportunity at my university but the process don’t always go the way you plan.
The Reality of My Journey
Although I got some great candidates that joined my team thanks to advertising and as we were about to launch the program with a 2-day event & info session, the revolution (October 17, 2019) happened and shut down the whole country. We were all in a constant dilemma waiting for daily announcements from the university and personally I struggled whether it was appropriate to continue with the event or not. Thus, I finally went with my instincts to do it although it was a risk because we didn’t know if the students would be open to join during that time. However, as a team we were able to get students register to participate and/or attend the session!
Few days after, the university closed for a month, the streets were filled with protestors where I personally believed it was a breakthrough that gave us a voice (and yes what a year that few months later we’re dealing with the COVID-19!). Following that one month, we were back to college with intensive schedules to catch up where I on the other hand had something as important to accomplish; workshops.
After a team discussion, we decided to do 3 workshops overall and we challenged ourselves to make them happen for our competitors no matter what. As expected, our mental health got affected but I didn’t want anything to hold us back even if I had to reach out privately one by one to motivate and be a friend for them to be able to continue competing. For example, due to the short time we did our last workshop on Christmas Eve day. I salute all that made it, you rock!
OnCampus Event Preparations
We had to work during winter break as the event was set to happen in the first week of the spring semester. As the campus director, I needed to plan the event step-by-step, assign tasks and keep in touch on the progress of the competing teams in other words the whole team didn’t have a break. Plus, I knew I had to time manage, in which, I used to wake up every day at 10:00am and work on booking sponsors and judges mainly until 6:00pm. As you know, like any revolution everything gets affected which was one of the most stressful things to do because as much as shops wanted to sponsor us, financially they couldn’t. Yet, I kept on trying and here I want to mention the help that I got from my team, THE dream team!
OnCampus Event Day
I was excited but also a little scared because I was the representative of the event and the university in front of eloquent judges and regional advisor of the Hult Prize. How was it? Well, I’ll leave it to your imagination (Hint: everyone enjoyed the sponsored food and many won valuable vouchers!).
Finally, it was rewarding when everyone congratulated me especially when I saw that they were enjoying their time during the event. Even for the first time, the LAU Innovation Center gave my team and I certificates of appreciation because they believed that we did an amazing job where the head of the center expressed his appreciation of my work in person. It was a special moment that I’ll always remember.
As I’m writing my small journey on my laptop, I got back all the emotions I felt and in my turn I want to thank the Hult Prize program, the LAU Innovation center and my dream team for it all. To answer you, this experience was enriching on so many levels because I learned more about the field of entrepreneurship and how students can accomplish their dreams if given the opportunity. As well, it gave me a space to create, challenge myself, develop my soft skills, meet new people and form long-lasting friendships.
Yes it takes an amount of courage to apply,
Yes it takes your time and energy,
And yes it’s not easy to be a student at the same time.
But who said anything about it being easy?
Life’s not fun when it’s easy, it is when it’s challenging, exhausting and rewarding!