four engineers and a journalist

9 12 2010

Four engineers and a journalist…

It sounds like the start of a bad joke.  Or maybe some kind of social experiment.

It kind of was.  The five of us were the grad student/postdoc(s) from UW-Madison who traveled together to Holland for the Wageningen Entrepreneurial Boot Camp.  You guessed it; I’m the journalist. There was plenty of friendly badgering (apparently following people around with a videocamera isn’t commonplace in the engineering program), but we survived the social experiment in the end.  All kidding aside, the trip was a blast.

Here are some highlights from our time in Holland:

Global Entrepreneurship Week

The boot camp coincided with Global Entrepreneurship Week, which Wageningen celebrated with a range of events on campus.  We kicked off the week at the grand opening.  Check out this video with scenes from the first event:

We also listened to entrepreneurs in the life sciences at a lecture series.  And then on the last night, we rocked out at a benefit festival for the Organic Africa Pavilion at the BioFach.  The first band played “big band” music, while the second was a cover band that played songs from bands like Rancid and Green Day. Every few songs the other U.S. students and I would have a “Oh my gosh, this is so middle school!” moment, which always makes you feel super cool.

Group Business Pitches

The focal point of the boot camp was developing a business idea and pitching it to real investors at the end of the week.  Before the boot camp, we took a 140-question competency test to gain a better understanding of ourselves and what kind of personality traits we bring to the entrepreneurial table.

On the first day we each received a 69-page personality analysis based on the test.  If you want to get to know yourself, reading 69 pages about your personality is a great first step.  Seriously.

They put us into groups that we would pitch the business idea with and I cannot say enough good things about my group.  It was a blast to work with them and somehow I ended up laughing hysterically every time we met.  That’s not to say we didn’t accomplish a ton throughout the week.


Although we spent a good percentage of the week in the hotel at sessions, we did get out and wander the city a few times.  Wageningen has such a relaxed feeling and the “downtown” area looks like a storybook.  The holiday street decorations made it even more sparkly.  We went to the Saturday market and the produce/cheese/meat/bread/everything looked phenomenally good.  I know, I know.  I talk about food a lot.


Our hotel in Wageningen had an extra perk.  It was also the House of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus.  Throughout the week, about 6,000 kids came to the hotel to meet Sinterklaas and give him their wish list.  I even got to sit on Sinterklaas’ lap, after which we sang Jingle Bells.

As part of the House of Sinterklaas, they decorated 12 rooms with festive decorations and games for the kids. There was one game that I thought was fantastic.  It’s a life-size, horse version of the board game, Operation!  How innovatively cool is that.


We took a train to Amsterdam and spent our last day exploring.  Perhaps the highlight of our day was stumbling upon a political protest.  Jalal and I were walking along, looking for a tram, and within a few seconds there were thousands of people around us.  Make that 20,000 people. The person in front of me was five inches from my face and I couldn’t move an inch without invading someone else’s personal space.

A band started playing and they were pretty good so we were content enjoying the tunes, not that we would’ve been able to weave out of the crowd anyways.  After the music stopped, a guy started talking really motivationally.  Well, it sounded motivational.  It was all in Dutch, so we had no idea was going on.

The main guy: Something something something.

The crowd’s response: AHHHHH.

Main guy: Something something something.


All of this excitement was so exhilarating.  It would be even more exhilirating if we actually knew what was so exhilirating.  So Jalal asked the lady next to us what was going on.

“We’re protesting the government cutting culture,” she informed us.

Cutting culture seemed like a pretty good reason to yell.

Crowd (plus Jalal and Kelliann): AHHHHHHHH.

The End To Be Continued

Stay tuned, as Holland will be seeing me again soon. I will be studying at Wageningen next semester to finish my MA degree.  I can guarantee there will be more blogging then!

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