Growing up in a picturesque Alpine village, my childhood was idyllic. But I knew there was more to explore. One drawback – unlike my impetuous brother, I was the sensible, more pragmatic one who liked to plan ahead. I never understood those students who, in a mad panic, only started revising for exams the week before!
Military service is still compulsory in Switzerland. I had always wanted to expand my horizons and see more of the world, and it certainly brought me out of my shell. I then travelled to the US and Canada and spent a semester at Princeton University on a study exchange during my bachelor’s in computer science.
One day, during my first-year master’s in robotics, I opened a random internal e-mail from the university and read about the IDEA League Challenge Programme. It seemed like a great experience, and I remember thinking: Sandro, what do you have to lose? After all, what’s one evening updating your CV and writing an essay? I did the maths: the more doors you open, the greater the chance of finding luck behind one of them. I felt a sense of pride when I received the green light – I was one of the lucky ones to be selected.
We spent four weekends at four different European universities, each with a different angle to help you develop new skills such as leadership, negotiation techniques and teamwork. We discussed and found solutions to some real-life problems that science and technology face. It was interesting to see the group dynamics evolve – leaders who stepped forward, creative thinkers who provided different perspectives and natural team players. I learned that by working to each other’s strengths, the best solutions can be found. In our spare time, we explored the local surroundings and socialised in the pubs and restaurants. It was great fun.
At Gothenburg, we focused on entrepreneurship, and it ignited a flame. I think a spark had always been there deep down. Before university, for instance, I developed an iOS app to help high school students quickly calculate their average overall grade.