OUR ALUMNI


A spot in the program is not guaranteed, but you will be invited to an info meeting by one of our mentors to see if you qualify.
DIFFERENT PEOPLE,
SAME SUCCESS PRINCIPLES

See what others have to say about their experiences:
DIFFERENT PEOPLE,
SAME SUCCESS PRINCIPLES
See what others have to say about their experiences:
Helena Maripuu
I was invited to SWA presentation by my mentor Aime, whom I did not know at the time and who had received my number from an acquaintance of one of his former team members. Everything seemed very exciting and a little bit unimaginable at the same time. I was very surprised when my parents agreed to let me go - I realize afterward that they didn't even understand what I was signing up for.

All in all, I am very grateful for the experience I have gained over the two years, the wisdom of which I still use in my work and daily life. I learned a lot about interacting with people and running an independent business, but also about being independent and understanding myself. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to put themselves to the test, is ready to face challenges and learn from them, learn more about themselves, and the critical success factors.

Thanks to my book-selling experience, I have made it to where I am in my career today because at the time I was hired thanks to the Southwestern summers mentioned in my CV, to which my boss said that if I was crazy enough to do that, then I can do this job as well.

I'm also glad that my sister sold books for three summers a few years later - this experience taught her a lot and changed her tremendously (positively, of course!). She, in turn, was able to teach me essential self-management skills and tricks for working with people, which I hadn't grasped in my book-selling years. In the meantime, I really miss the time when I was in the book-selling mindset - bold, novice, positive, open - and I wonder how many experiences I would have lost in life today if I hadn't said "yes" to a stranger called Aime at Werner's Café in the fall of 2009.
Mārcis Budļevskis
I recently found out that I am the first Latvian that participated in the American direct selling company's Southwestern Advantage studentu summer sales program. I can admit that it is one of the TOP 3 craziest things I've done in my life, but I don't regret it for a moment because I gained very invaluable experience.

I've been working in real estate for a long time now, but in the early nineties, I had the opportunity to study in the US, and I took it. I went to America in the summer of 1992.

During my studies, I met a girl from Estonia who had already participated in the Southwestern Advantage program for one summer. She talked a lot about her experiences selling textbooks and going from house to house; those stories intrigued me. On the positive side, she sketched a very realistic picture of what was expected of to happen later. There were both exciting stories and experiences where there was an unfriendly attitude towards the student knocking on the door. I figured that I should give it a try.

Was I scared? No, but it was such a crazy and absurd move at that time! However, everything happened very fast. We had to go through training, prepare for selling, and every other moment you just had to survive, so there was no time to be afraid. Nowadays, the training is probably even better to prepare students for what will happen, but even back then, the preparation program was at a very high level, so it was not a big problem to start this adventure.

Twenty-five years ago, I had a stressful moment when I had to knock on the front door to start my sales pitch to find a host family because, at that time, I had to find a place to live first by knocking on doors. It must be taken into account that the person on the other side of the door does not know whether someone will ask him for a room to rent, to buy books, cookies for charity, or something else, so the attitudes and reactions were very different. I understand that now everything is much simpler - families are found through databases, program graduates, and their relatives. Most students are housed in families that have previously hosted Southwestern Advantage members.

Of course, not everyone was born a salesman, and the work regime was not easy, but I knew it and took it into account. Just like nowadays, we worked six days a week from morning to evening. I went with confidence - if I try and do, the results will be there. I felt that my skills improved with each presentation, and the sales talk became more compelling. When I decided to participate, money was not the main goal for me, but after the program, I returned home with a check for 2000 dollars, which was quite a lot in 1992. It is likely that during the first summer, there will be no exceptional profit, but it is also possible to earn very well.

There was indeed no shortage of difficulties and challenges. Let's start with the fact that in the 1990s, the Internet was not a thing, of course, so I had never actually seen the product I was selling - just the samples. It was a summer with +35°C heat. There were no cars either; I walked. The second-year or more experienced salespeople had vehicles; they also had the sets of books with them- if the buyer is ready, they went to the car and got the books from the trunk. In turn, I delivered the books to the customers after two months at the end of the summer. It should be noted here again that during these 25 years, the program has been improved, and the company itself delivers books to customers - students no longer have to deal with it.

When I finished studies, I got a job in Latvia not only because I had studied in the USA, but mainly because I had sold books there. The management told me this in clear text, and looking back, I understand them very well. During the Southwestern Advantage summer, I realized what it means to work really hard. I realized that there are people who will not buy your product, but it should not be taken personally. I learned to be afraid of nothing, and what happens next depends on the person and how good of a salesperson they are.

The communication skills I acquired with talking to a wide variety of people are of great benefit to my future career. Some people wanted to talk, share their stories. It was an incredible range of emotions and experiences, a massive school of life. I am sure that everyone who takes part in this program for one summer will come up with at least five dozen mind-boggling stories that will be remembered for a lifetime.

I am fascinated by the fact that books are still being sold in this way in the United States today, because it seemed to me that the books were already in decline, soon no one would read them and no one would need them. As time goes on, technology is evolving, but every year hundreds of students from all over the world go to America to sell books because society is used to this type of trade, and it benefits people there. Of course, part of the population also has a negative attitude, but it must be accepted, and just move on to the next house to the next potential buyer.

When Sanita Zaļmeža, a participant of Southwestern Advantage Latvia, contacted me and said that I was the first to participate in this program from Latvia, it was a pleasant surprise for me. I am also surprised that this program is still active and involves so many young people. Last year, more than 100 students from various Latvian universities went to the USA, and Dārta Šice from Valmiera has become the best salesperson of 2017. We have reason to be proud of what Latvia's youth has achieved!

If a student considering Southwestern Advantage asked me now for advice on whether to do so, I would say that if you think you should, then I would do so. Even if you find that it is not for you, I recommend trying it, as it will be an intensive course in business and sales skills. On the other hand, if you don't think you should try, then you don't have to break yourself - people are different. It must be taken into account that it will be hard work and invaluable experience, it will be unforgettable!

In general, I am not prone to big nonsense by nature, so I can admit that this summer is one of the TOP 3 craziest experiences of my life, but I do not regret it for a moment. Although I had this experience 25 years ago, I still remember it, and it helps me even today. For example, on some Monday mornings when laziness comes over me, I remember how I had to work and go through in the summer of 1993, how hard I had to work, and it motivates me to get going, not to hesitate, and move on - I smile and happily climb in my new car to go to my wonderful job.
Karin Kaup
I sold books in the USA for 6 summers. My first summer, I went to look for an adventure. The adventure got more significant and more exciting every year!

SWA is the best real-life crash course for a young person on project management and working with people.I feel that the skills learned in the SWA program and the developed way of thinking and attitude to life will remain with us in a positive way forever. Plus, the travel-bug stays as well!

Today I work as a lawyer. Working in my field, I use what I have learned at SWA every day - active listening, argumentation, negotiation, customer, sales, and teamwork. Asking the right questions at the right time is a skill that can be developed a lot when selling books.

I am super grateful to my patient mentors who guided me, to the friends who trusted me and came to sell books with me to look for their adventure, and to all the thousands of nice families who bought books from us.

Get ready for your all-time best summer! Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. (Goethe)
Dārta Šice
Southwestern Advantage is a company to which I am very grateful for what I have achieved in my life. It is my school of life, where I learned life skills while acquiring academic knowledge during my studies. In 2010, while studying optometry, I applied for this program, mainly going into the unknown and daring to do what many of my peers saw as a risky choice.

Over the course of nine years, spending my summers in North America and preparing students for the job, I have gotten to know myself as well as understand how to communicate with other people most effectively. I never thought I would ever work as a professional sales and management coach, but it happened thanks to SWA's experience. I am now training experienced people on how to achieve higher results both in sales and in running their businesses.

Doing what I am doing now for work, I am very grateful for the knowledge, skills, and discipline I learned in the Southwestern Advantage program. I still remember and use the lessons and examples from my summers every day.
Evelina Petrovaitė
Participation in the Southwestern Advantage program was inspired by the idea and opportunity to finally become what I always thought I could be. I always imagined myself to be successful, but I never thought about how to achieve that. I wanted to become a hard-working, intelligent, ready-made leader who not only improves every year, but also helps others to grow and pursue their dreams.

The Southwestern Advantage summer program gave me the opportunity to achieve my goal. I like the people I have worked with and I am always happy that I had a chance to mentor and pass on the knowledge I have learned about dealing with people, life, business to younger gifted students. It is strange to think that during the four summers I spent in States, I learned so much about myself and others.

Most of all I'm glad I learned to listen to people and as a result in my life as well as others' there's more positivity, gratitude and desire to put effort into living the life we could have only dreamt of before. Each summer's experience is a real-life training that brings new perceptions and lessons which encourage to grow as a person, as a mentor and as a leader. It's an excellent feeling to be able to boldly state that you are surrounded by the most motivated people of your generation.
Šarūnas Rapalis
While studying information technology at KTU in my sophomore year, I received an offer to listen to a presentation about a summer job in America.

I remember being very scared during my first summer, especially after my first day of work in Cincinnati, Kentucky. However, I was born in Samogitia (Žemaitija), where things like finishing the work you started no matter how hard it is, are deeply rooted in the blood! My parents and especially my mom never gave me any other option but to go ahead, kick yourself in the butt and end the summer successfully. And I did it!
I graduated from the program as the nr. 1 student in Lithuania!

And by no means money wasn't the most important thing to be proud of. I learned the art of sales, improved my communication skills, and English was no longer a challenge. Successful people taught me how to manage my time and finances well - I gained a lot of courage and self-confidence.

People ask why I have been doing it for twelve summers. I admit - there are many easier summer jobs. My mother once told me "Whatever you want to be one day, you are now becoming!" I spent many years with SWA precisely because of the daily life lessons I learned knocking on doors in USA. I was able to share the unique challenge with the dozens of students I selected, taught, motivated, and helped become successful people.

There are many beneficial programs in the world to help students develop their character and skills to achieve big goals in life. But I don't think there's another one that would be able to do that in three months.
Denissa Erissaar
During my first year in University I realized that if I want to gain some practical skills I need to find some job for the summer. I really wanted to go abroad, so I would have an opportunity to learn speaking in English more confidently and fluently. I was really lucky that I got selected to the program of Southwestern Advantage. So I spent the summer after my first year in University in the United States.

Looking back, it was probably the toughest summer intership I could choose. Quite a lot of my friends and schoolmates came to the presentation about Southwestern, but they were quite sceptic and felt that it was not worth spending the summer knocking on the people's doors. I myself was a bit worried about whether I would succeed and if the money my parents had invested in me would actually return. Today, however, I can't imagine any other job being out there that would teach me so many important things for life as the summers spent with Southwestern Advantage. I have spent a total of 7 years and I am extremely grateful for all these years of experience.

I currently work at Slido as a Customer Succeed Manager helping our clients in the US region. I use the experience from sales and communication that I gained in Southwestern in my everyday interaction with clients. Likewise, the experience of leading a team in Southwestern helped me a lot when I was given to lead a team of people in Slido.

During the years I spent with SW I travelled the world, built a network of successful people from all over the world and gained strong, lasting friendships (even my husband). In the end, becoming fluent in English was just a tiny drop in ocean compared to everything that SW has taught me.
Przemysław Stanisz
It's been almost fifteen years since I first went to the USA to sell books. However, ten years ago, I sold my last book (at the age of 24) and started my own business.What could I say about this experience today? A lot.

Being a very young and inexperienced person at the age of 19, I decided to go to "some crazy internship program" to a random company from America, with random people from abroad (my manager was American).
I still think that most of my family didn't see and still don't see much sense in it, and even did not understand the reason behind this choice.
Why so far? Why such hard work? Why not with someone in the family? Why now, when you still have so much time for work in the future, and you should focus on learning and preparing for adult life, having fun, etc.? Despite all these questions and uncertainties (primarily from my parents), I decided to leave. Why? Because I saw the value.

What can be learned by participating in such a program? Personally, I learned a few things. I learned to sell without being an intrusive salesman but through really understanding the customer and having appropriate discussions within his needs. I learned how to manage a team not by pushing people to work, but to act as if with customers by figuring out their needs and fulfilling their ambitions together. I learned to work under pressure and control my emotions, neutralize stress, and direct my focus accordingly. I have learned responsibility for my work, for tasks, for products and promises, for the work of other people and their development.

But what does this actually mean in practice?Could I not learn these things by getting involved in the activities of a local foundation, applying for an apprenticeship, and starting work in a corporation for a 3-4 year study? I would probably get many of these values, but certainly not all and not on this scale.

Returning to Poland in 2009, I decided to open a company with my brother - an advertising agency. With a few dollars from the finished summer, we founded the brand in Krakow and started selling. How did it develop?
Thanks to the values I gained from working with SWA, in 2 years, we developed the company to 25 people and worked with brands like PKP, Maspex, Atlas, Capgemini, etc. We went to international conferences, we conducted significant projects, and in 2013, we won the most innovative young companies award in Lesser Poland (Małopolsce) (the prize was a trip to the USA and, among others, a presentation of the company at the Stanford University in San Francisco) and a competition organized by the Ministry of Economy for an innovative e-tool and running a B2B business.

Could I have done it at the age of 27 without having shed any sweat and spent five years in the US? Maybe. In 2013, due to great success in sales and development, I was asked by a person from Google in Krakow to conduct a series of training sessions for companies that Google wanted to promote in its program. They also invited me to the USA for large conferences and to present to exciting investors. It's not often you get such invitations - of course, I agreed. The project was quite successful and created publicity about my experience.Another company that gave me a similar opportunity was Deutsche Telekom (owner/parent company of T-Mobile). The next one was an American investment bank Brown Brothers Harriman, and the list goes on.

Could I advise others with only local experience, by working for a corporation, or by running a foundation? Certainly not on such a scale. That's how my current activity was born - NorthStar Consulting.

At the age of 30, I already advised large commercial companies in Poland and abroad (including Dotpay, Lionbridge, the largest IT companies in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Estonia). I implemented projects where at this age, I explained to sales directors with 20-30 years of experience how they should lead their team and how they should change their strategy so that they can be more successful.

Today, I still run a consulting company that has offices in Krakow, Bratislava, and Tallinn, and supports projects from the USA to Australia. At the same time, I am a proud dad and husband, who, thanks to proper preparation for adult life, can devote himself to his family and then work without sacrificing any of these aspects of life.

If someone asked me if I would do this program again, I would have no hesitation in saying YES.

Does every person in college have to go there? Of course not. Will every person have guaranteed personal and business success after completing this program? No again. This is only the beginning. The experience itself is a tool; the same goes for commitment and the opportunities, but there is undoubtedly a higher chance of success with this experience than without it.

It is not an easy program, and often you see the fruit of it much later in life. But although many managers have told me that I would not deal with anything more challenging in my life, I wouldn't agree with it. Life is full of surprises (positive and negative), and personally, I had many situations that were much more challenging than selling books. But it was thanks to this experience that I could deal with them faster and get to the place in the development that I had planned.

If you are thinking about going to sell books while reading this letter, or you are a parent who wonders if this is the right path for your child, or if you are a person who was asked for an opinion on this program - write or call me. I will gladly answer all your questions and give my opinion if this is potentially something valuable for you (or your child) or if this is simply not the direction for you.
Lívia Handlovičová
I spent 10 of my summers with Southwestern Advantage. During the first summer (2005) I was in Idaho, next years I was selling in states like Texas, Oregon, Kansas and in 2014, my last summer, in South Carolina.

I am currently working as a full time mother but before going on a maternity leave I was leading a company that I founded with 2 of my good colleagues from the States. We founded a consulting company named Northstar. We do help IT companies mostly from Central and Eastern parts of Europe to increase their efficiency of Sales so they can succeed on Western markets such as UK or USA

I can only recommend this summer program to students. Thanks to the experience I gained with Southwestern I was able to achieve a good level of self-esteem and later on was even able to create and lead my own company.
I want to get experience!
Come to the info meeting and see how a person with your character and habits is able to become successful in any area!

USA: 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, Tennessee
Estonia: Lauteri 5, Tallinn | Kompanii 10, Tartu
Latvia: Elizabetes iela 51, Centra rajons, Rīga
Lithuania: Totorių gatvė 3, Kaunas
Poland: Mickiewicza 33, Poznań
Slovakia: Kollárovo námestie 16, Bratislava


USA: 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, Tennessee
Estonia: Lauteri 5, Tallinn | Kompanii 10, Tartu
Latvia: Elizabetes iela 51, Centra rajons, Rīga
Lithuania: Totorių gatvė 3, Kaunas
Poland: Mickiewicza 33, Poznań
Slovakia: Kollárovo námestie 16, Bratislava

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