Guest post by Kelly Shen, Foster undergrad and Certificate in International Studies in Business (CISB) student
She is a Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) ambassador to Team LifeChair from Bangladesh.
Around noon on Monday, the Douglas Forum slowly filled up as teams from all across the world staggered in to attend orientation for one of the most prestigious competitions for university-level students. Amongst the crowd this year were engineering students from India and business students from Bangladesh, community members from the area, UW professors and students. For some, this was their first time traveling outside of their home countries; for others, their first time in America and for some, their first time in Seattle.
Each year, the Global Business Center hosts the week-long Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition on the University of Washington campus and brings together undergraduate and graduate students driven by the common goal of creating sustainable, positive solutions to the issues they face in their home countries and around the world. Unlike case competitions, participants of the GSEC come to the competition knowing what they are competing on—a solution for a challenging social issue. For many of the participants, this week is a chance for them to showcase their months, and even years, of hard work.
The majority of the teams arrived over the weekend. Armed with heavy coats and umbrellas, they took on sightseeing in Seattle during the day. One team, from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India told me about their Seattle exploration. When I asked if they went to the first Starbucks and Pike Place Market, one team member replied “Too many people!” and his teammate laughed, “Too many fish!” When I asked if there was anything in particular they wanted to see in Seattle, the team told me that anything would be fun since they were too busy preparing their presentation before their trip to even look up what to do in Seattle. This just shows the passion these teams have for bettering society.
At night, these teams are up all night working—partially because of jet lag but mostly by their drive to deliver the perfect presentation. When I first met the LifeChair team from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, they told me that they had been up since 1:00 a.m. working. It was 1:00 in the afternoon. As you can imagine, most of these teams have traveled more than halfway across the world, boarding flights which last more than 10 hours. One team, FastTrack House, even told me about how they rode camels on their 20 hours layover in Dubai. But none of this stopped them—despite the jet lag and adjusting the change in environment, the teams persevered to deliver their elevator pitches and presentations to coaching round judges Monday afternoon.
Each year since GSEC first began in 2005, the scale of global issues and scope of solutions competition participants bring to the table have greatly increased. This year, GSEC is honored to invite 34 students from 9 nationalities and 12 universities in the United States, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Singapore. For these teams, getting to Seattle was no easy feat either. This year, the teams beat out 91 other competitors from 67 universities in 29 countries to get a chance to pitch their idea to the judges on Thursday. So if you see them around campus this week, congratulate them! Great job, GSEC teams and I can’t wait to see what this week has in store for you!