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Sandy Valley grad enjoys learning experience in Iceland

By WALTER DOERSCHUK The Press-News Published: July 1, 2016 10:00 AM
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Joe Bartholomew had never been out of the country prior to a few weeks ago.

The Sandy Valley High School graduate and Kent State University freshman got his first chance to travel abroad when he visited Iceland.

Bartholomew, a marketing major, explained a professor from the business and entrepreneur college encouraged a group of students to take the trip. It was essentially a last minute adventure.

"Our professors really believe the best places to learn are not in the classroom," Bartholomew said. "It's to go out and experience the culture, socialize with the local people and get to know how they live over there."

Through a conference called Startup Iceland, Bartholomew and his fellow travelers heard from a number of speakers. They learned different ways of starting a business and stories from successful entrepreneurs.

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Prior to the trip, Bartholomew had been learning about Iceland's 2008 financial crisis. The country's financial situation isn't cold as ice anymore. In 2015, Forbes ranked Iceland as the 13th best country for business.

"I'm sure that number is getting lower," Bartholomew said.

While overseas, Bartholomew and his group had a unique opportunity to meet Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the president of Iceland. The group's professor knew the head of the conference who had a connection to the president. The group of nine was waiting to go into the conference when the president stopped to introduce himself.

"We got to shake his hand, and he hung around for five to 10 minutes," Bartholomew said. "He talked about how excited he was to have us here."

Bartholomew was also able to explore Iceland's surroundings.

"The food was very pure and had hardly any preservatives," he said. "The water is very clean. The streets were very clean. There was hardly any pollution. It was just an awesome place to visit."

He saw notable features including a conference center made of glass, a crater filled with water, a glacier and a viking ship memorial in downtown Reykjavik, the country's capital.

"It was like a totally different planet. You'd drive a mile and you could see snowcap mountain," Bartholomew said. "You could see a glacier, the ocean and you could see a beach all in a matter of minutes."

Bartholomew emphasized he highly recommends traveling abroad to anyone who has the chance. He added, "There is so much opportunity outside of the United States waiting to be discovered."

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