Arjun Sarkar is in his third year at the University of California, Berkeley. Last July, the Environmental Economics and Policy student accepted the challenge to have an international experience at the European Innovation Academy in Portugal. The study abroad program brought a lot to this creative student who embraced the development of innovative concepts. 

The EIA team invited Arjun to share his experience at the Innovation Academy. Learn more about this international experience and get inspired to get out of your comfort zone!

The International Experience of Arjun Sarkar

I had quite an incredible summer at the European Innovation Academy. At EIA, you can expect to make shifts to adapt to a fast-paced environment. For me, the international experience of it was a huge part of my education and learning process. Imagine pitching your ideas to people at markets, on the cobbled streets, or on the beachwalk in Portugal! 

Arjun Sarkar Internation Experience at EIA
HustleApp Team: Connor Chase, Nikolas Steed, Kameron Truesdale, Ruth Galindo and Arjun Sarkar.

With a great idea comes rejection from the people that you are trying to sell to. By dealing with that enough times, you begin to refine your idea and feel very satisfied when people start to catch on to it. If you can get even one person to believe in your idea, then there are surely more to follow. 

The biggest lesson 

Probably my biggest takeaway from the EIA program was the lesson in resilience. It means that certain obstacles will come in a way that you might not foresee, but it’s often better to take them head-on so that you can get closer to your objective. 

When living abroad, you pick up these nuances that will make your stay ever so different than life at home. When traveling in the US, for example, do you usually use Uber or Lyft? Well, in Portugal I opted to use Bolt, a rideshare app based in Europe. While the shift to Bolt wasn’t particularly difficult—it only required me to download an app on my smartphone—you can see how this shift can open your mind to other possibilities when abroad. Things that are pretty simple where you live can be challenging when having an international experience.

Alternatively to Bolt, you can make use of Portugal’s train system to get to and from the areas of Cascais, Lisbon, and Carcavelos, where I was staying for the duration of the program. Being from the Bay Area, I drew similarities of Portugal’s trains with the BART system, but of course, the destinations and overall experience of the trains felt unique in comparison. 

Even more noticeable would be the cost of living, where in Portugal you can immediately tell that you are getting more from your US dollars than at home. This allows you to make the most out of your experience in Portugal. Renting a place by the city is easier than before; very good places in Porto can go for less than $80 in some cases, and you have direct access to the city. Great food and entertainment are definitely within student’s means, so you definitely need to take advantage of the opportunity while you can. It really broadened my perspective and opened doors to life outside of the States. 

Outside of your home country, different technologies and ways of life may be the norm, and you should be ready to make a shift when needed. 

Experiencing Portugal 

Of course, a lot can be said for Portugal’s social experience, which you really have to witness for yourself. After a hard day’s work at EIA, I would indulge Portugal’s amazing culture: friendly people, nightlife, beaches by the venue, amazing seafood and Portuguese favorites like the francesinha—all of it. When you study at EIA, you have to take these rare opportunities to experience life from this perspective, and I assure it’s going to be well worth your time.

Want to read more stories from EIA participants? Find them here!