Students acting as consultants for the government

From September to November, it seemed as if they had finished their studies. That’s because they were working as Junior Consultants for the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). They delivered a substantial advisory report for companies that were interested in a trade delegation to Colombia.

The students have since taken the minor ‘Business in Latin America’ and returned to their normal routines at THUAS. However, this was not before the Faculty Director had enjoyed a cake with them that was inscribed with the words ‘Proud of you’.

Trade mission

The minor, organised by the International Business degree programme, attracts many international students. German student Vivien Jana Voigt and Dutch student Vincent Valstar, who are both in their third year of the International Business degree programme at THUAS, also took part. A surprising part of this minor was that participants were asked to write the advisory report for the trade mission to Colombia.

Groundwork for companies

This trade mission visited the South American country between 25 and 29 November and was led by Dutch PM Mark Rutte. Vivien, Vincent and the other students on the minor did a lot of groundwork for the 110 participating companies. In six groups, they focused on the following three sectors: Water & Logistics, Life Science & Health and Agribusiness & Horticulture. Vincent researched healthcare in Colombia with his group. Vivien worked on water management and logistics. Vivien: “Our final report needs to show what is happening in each sector in Colombia.”

Challenge

At the same time, students from Universidad de La Sabana in Colombia undertook field studies locally. The THUAS students used their results to carry out desk-based research remotely. This created both opportunities and problems. Vincent: “The students there are much closer to the actual situation in Colombia than we are. However, the quality of their research was different to the quality that the RVO expects from us. There were also other problems that needed to be tackled. Vivien: “Exchange student from South America clearly have a very different attitude towards writing advisory reports than we do. It was a challenge to get everything aligned as quickly as possible.”

Extremely motivated

Vivien: “When you write a report, you know that it will be read and evaluated by your lecturer. Our report was going to be read by many companies. Firstly, we had to put ourselves in the shoes of the interested companies.” This gave Vincent a greater feeling of responsibility. “The companies will assume that every single part of our report is correct.” Vivien: “The high expectations meant we were exceptionally motivated to deliver a fantastic report.”

Different perspectives

Vincent was able to extensively practice his intercultural skills in this project. Vivien mainly improved her time management. Vincent: “On the International Business degree programme we learn to look at a product from different perspectives, which is also what I did in this project. Furthermore, I gradually gained more of a coaching role in my group.” Vivien was able to use everything she had learnt about business communication in this project. “Even all aspects of market research.” Her task was to compile the partial reports for each sectors into a final report, something that she was complimented on by the Faculty Manager. “Yes, it was a good feeling.”

Nice confluence of circumstances

Both Vivien and Vincent will be going to Colombia in January as exchange students. Vivien: “I chose the ‘Business in Latin America’ minor because I knew that I wanted to spend half a year studying in Colombia. The fact that we had to write the advisory report for the trade mission led by the Dutch Prime Minister as part of this minor was really a nice confluence of circumstances.”