Risk Talk: Sara Lindholm

Hi I am Sara Lindholm, 22 years old. I study International Business. Originally from Finland and I have lived in Groningen for almost three years now.

What made you apply?

IFP spoke to me because I was looking for a new challenge for the upcoming year. Also, I wanted to do something more study related besides my regular curriculum. I heard about IFP from a friend of mine, and when she told me what it was about I was immediately hooked on the idea of combining travel and research.

It is a truly unique experience where you learn more than you could ever imagine.

How important was the destination for you as a participant?

For me personally Tanzania caught my interest immediately. I have always wanted to go to Africa and explore it in a different way. To explore the country, in a non-touristic way.

What was your first impression of the destination?

Very excited, but also very curious. I had been to Africa before, but very interested in seeing how it was going to be like conducting research there. I was interested in applying some of the knowledge I learned during my studies in an African country.

Can you shortly describe the different phases of the IFP year?

Application & Start
I put a lot of work into my motivation letter as I really wanted to be a part of the group. After submitting all documents needed, I received in invitation for an interview. After receiving the call I could join I was very happy and excited of the upcoming year. I met the group in June for the first time when we had a welcoming dinner. It was a lot of fun to see the people you will work together with for the upcoming year.

In september we started with acquisition and also started to get to know eachother better. You start the acquisition training with several trainings. For example a consultative selling skills training, to make sure you are well prepared when making your first calls to possibly participating firms.

At PWC and Bain & Company we were trained in our consultancy skills, including reporting methods and presentation skills.

Desk research
After acquiring the companies and receiving the signed contracts it was time for the desk research with the teams. Each company has their own research team, consisting of 4 or 5 people. In this phase we got to focus on one specific research and started to become experts in our field. At the start you will plan a company visit to discuss the exact outline of the research and meet the people at your firm. 

During these months it started to feel more real and I became very excited about the research we were going to conduct in Tanzania. During the research period we received trainings from our guiding professor Jim Emanuels, PWC and Bain & Company. Mr. Emanuels taught us on conducting interviews, and gaining the specific information that you are looking for in the most professional way. At PWC and Bain & Company we were trained in our consultancy skills, including reporting methods and presentation skills.

Social activities
Social activities are an important part of IFP, and a big reason you become very close with your group during the year. Every other Monday we ate together with our team and finished the evening in our beloved cafe the Doos. We also hang out a lot on different occasions, or spontaneously eating together. Furthermore we had a very fun IFP weekend on Ameland, in October. 

How do you combine IFP with your studies?

I was prepared that IFP would take a lot of time. I planned my final Bsc year a little different because of that. I chose to focus on IFP and my last bachelor courses for this year, and scheduled my thesis and exchange for next year. This worked for me. You can definitely plan IFP your own way. It is still pretty flexible and doable to do besides your studies, since you do not have fixed hours, and can schedule this in a way that suits you best.

How would you describe the relationship with the IFP group?

I think we are really lucky, we have a great group with amazing people. I could not have wished for a better group composition. The group has a lot of variety in terms of studies, backgrounds, and more. This combination makes it a lot of fun.

How would you summarize/describe the field research period?

The field research period was both a fun and interesting experience. It surely was a change in pace, compared to the desk research phase. For a couple of months we had been busy with preparing for this stage, and now it was time to really conduct some real, hands - on research. 

Our field research period lasted 2.5 weeks. During this time, my research team and I conducted many interviews, some days even multiple interviews per day. This was both challenging and rewarding; it was very interesting to speak to all the different parties involved concerning our research topic, but it could also be tiring at times. While you are doing the interviews and working at the field research, you have to keep in mind that you are actually doing all this for a company that is trusting you to deliver good work, so you want to be at your best all the time. But as you get deeper invested in your research, your interest for your topic constantly grows - and that is really fun. 

How did you experience travelling?

Travelling was truly an amazing experience. After a full 2.5 weeks of working on the research, it was a great way to end the whole IFP experience and get some different insights about a country you already know so much about. 

The group I was travelling with had some really amazing travel plans. We started our trip with climbing the Mount Meru - 5th highest mountain in Africa. A unique way to start our traveling and quite a challenge. After having reached the summit of Meru, it was time for a little more relaxed way of traveling. And what better way to relax after climbing a mountain than camping on the safari? We went to a number of national parks; namely Tarangire, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Lake Manjara. We got to experience the gorgeous nature and wildlife that Africa has to offer, both from our tents and jeeps. And we saw the big 5! 

After this it was time to end our traveling at the ultimate place for relaxation; on the white beaches of Zanzibar. Here we enjoyed the sun, snorkeling, drank cocktails and enjoyed our last days. For the final weekend we all got together to finalize the whole experience properly ;) Overall I would have to say that both the research period and the traveling period were incredibly unique experiences, and I would do it all over again if I had the chance!

What is something you learned from IFP you did not expect at first?

Definitely learned a lot about team work on a different level than you are used to in your studies, for a longer period and more intensive. Also, IFP has taught me a lot combining and finding out different skills that I have. Especially on a more serious level than during your courses. Acquisition has resulted in an improvement of my professional skills. There is a lot of responsibility in contact with firms. I learned a lot during the sales process. 

During desk research, with the help of multiple trainings we gained a lot of insights into consulting skills. How to conduct research according to the wishes of your client and present your results. Additionally how to work together and keep in professional contact with the company you are working for. For example, during our training at Bain & Company we received training in how to present your findings in the most clear and structured way for your client. Also used a specific method for doing research widely used by large consultants. Which was very interesting. So if you have any interest in consultancy, this is a great way of gaining more practical experience in that field. 

What would you say to a potential IFP participant?

Definitely apply! It is a truly unique experience where you learn more than you could ever imagine. You get to have an unforgettable time with a great group. You do something with which you can gain experience in your field of study.