Antonio Di Donato, Debora Zeno and Antonio Olivieri, all from the Campania region of Italy.
They had visions of crowded lecture halls, fleeting interaction with professors, and possibly a little downtime for socializing with the other young men and women who came from all over the world for the six-week Global Village program.
What the three Italian students from Campania region near Naples found was much more.
“You learn so much about everything—social skills, communicating with one another, relating to other people and understanding them,” says Debora Zeno, a recent graduate of the Italian bar and now a property law assistant in Rome. “It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done.”
Adds Antonio Di Donato, a marketing specialist for a telecommunications company in Milan: “It’s been an amazing experience. We have one chance in life to live this fantastic experience.”
Antonio Olivieri, a web designer for the Elabora Company in Rome, concurs.
“My boss came to Global Village one year and he tried to tell me what I would find, but still there were surprises for me,” Olivieri says. “Everything—every single thing—is a beautiful moment that I will remember for all of my life.”
The effusive praise for the Global Village for Future Leaders of Business & Industry
comes one month into the six-week program that brought 108 people from 54 countries to Lehigh this summer. Each year, the university attracts young men and women from all over the globe to prepare themselves for international business success through lectures, trips, group projects, coursework, and a series of team-building exercises.
Run by the university’s Iacocca Institute
, this year’s Global Village is the 13th, and boasts the largest and most geographically diverse group so far. The participants range in age from 19 to 37, and bring with them a broad spectrum of personal experiences. Many are still students, but others are already established professionals, with careers that include law, television, human rights activism and fashion design.
The experience of Zeno, Di Donato and Olivieri comes courtesy of the Iacocca Foundation in Boston, Mass., which is administered by the government in San Marco dei Cavoti, the ancestral home of 1945 Lehigh graduate and business magnate Lee Iacocca.
Iacocca established the Global Village program at Lehigh with a goal of bringing young men and women from diverse cultures together to “change the world, one young mind at a time,” according to his latest book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
A swirl of activity
Amidst a swirl of nearly constant activities for Global Villagers that includes everything from classroom work, lectures, field trips, theme dinners, dancing, culture nights, baseball games and quintessential American picnics, two particular moments stand out to Di Donato.
“I have a much beautiful thought of the opening dinner, when we really didn’t know much about each other,” he says. “One of the young women sang a Michael Jackson song and we were in a circle around her. We ran toward her when she was done and we hugged each other—it was one of the sweetest moments.”
A second was a team-building exercise at the Dutch Springs, a local scuba-diving training facility and aquapark, that challenged his team of nine people from nine different counties to face and conquer a series of physical obstacles.
“We had to use our imaginations, our skills, our intelligence and our creativity—we had to work as a team,” he says. “It was the most fun experience in the Global Village for me.”
Because of the packed schedule of events in and outside the classroom, the trio agreed that it was easy to feel overwhelmed at times. The frantic pace has them moving from morning to night, and grabbing lunches on the fly.
“Too much of what-do-you-call it—junky food?” says Olivieri. “Some days, we have not as much time to eat.”
Still, it is a small inconvenience in exchange for what they agreed has been an extraordinary experience and training ground for future success.
“This background will be with me during all of my life, and could be useful for life of every day,” says Zeno. “It has opened my mind to all different challenges that could come out and could be a tool to be used when you need it.”
Adds Di Donato: “There is so much to experience and to remember. When I interview with an executive to get my next job, and they say, ‘What is Global Village?’ I will answer: ‘Have you a couple of days?’ ”