Two very different international experiences have shaped Michael Kurt ’09. One trained his mind; the other, his heart.
In the summer of 2008, Kurt, an accounting major at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, spent four weeks doing humanitarian work in the poorest regions of Central America before flying to England for a course at the London School of Economics. Both experiences have changed the way Kurt sees the world, himself, and the future.
This trip was his first time abroad. “It was the most eye-opening experience,” said Kurt. “I grew so much in terms of understanding myself and understanding the world…looking back on my time at A&M, this summer was one the of the single most important times of my experience here.”
While in Central America, Kurt and six other Aggies involved with the Full Hearts Foundation (www.fullhearts.org) spent time working at Casa Hogar, an orphanage for young girls in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The group also traveled to Monterrey and Veracruz to work with the organization Caritas, which gives food and assistance to the poor.
Kurt and fellow Aggie Greg Kwedar ’07 continued south after their teammates went home. Their trip ended in Guatemala, where their business training came in handy as they worked with Safe Passage (www.safepassage.org), an organization that provides street children with food, education, and a safe place for activities.
“We told them about our involvement with the Mays Business Fellows and they put us to work immediately,” said Kurt. (Kwedar, a marketing major, was also part of the Fellows program.) Together, the young men created training videos and manuals for volunteers and taught classes. They had planned to stay for one week, but the need was so great, they worked for two.
“Along the journey, the common theme was finding your passion, finding your niche, finding where you can make a change in the world,” he said.
“By getting out of my comfort zone and gaining a wider perspective, a new lens to view the world, I began to feel a burning desire inside of me to live. But what does it mean ‘to live’? How do I want to spend each day? What will be my life’s work? How will I be able to leave a positive mark on the world?”
Taken from Michael Kurt’s blog about his summer experience, “Life in a moment” (www.lifeinamomentmak.blogspot.com)
It was a jarring juxtaposition when Kurt left Guatemala and soon after flying to England. With classmates from schools like Harvard, Yale, and Duke, he completed a month-long study abroad course in business analysis and valuation at the London School of Economics. It was difficult for him to go from an environment of extreme poverty into a world of such affluence, where the focus shifted from serving others to building wealth. Still, he says that the experience gave him perspective.
“There’s this drive in the business world to measure your success by your income,” said Kurt. “It’s so easy to jump on that business train. People are telling you this is what’s right.” After his experience in Central America, Kurt says he isn’t motivated by the big paycheck his business degree could help him land. He is looking for more than that out of life.
Yet, Kurt says his experience at the London School of Economics was very valuable. The class content and the diversity of people he met challenged him intellectually. “It was interesting to look at business principals from new cultural perspectives and to see how people from different places see issues,” he said. “The most important thing I learned was how much I didn’t know.”
Among his Ivy League classmates, Kurt and the other two Aggies in the class held their own. “We all did extremely well. Aggies can compete with the best of the best….we were as intellectual as those others. It made me so proud to be at A&M.”
As for the future, Kurt says his experiences over the summer have changed his plans. He was planning to intern in New York City with Ernst & Young’s financial services office in the summer of 2009 and graduate from the professional program in accounting in 2010. He’s scrapped that plan, and will now spend the summer taking classes outside the business school, accruing the science credits he’ll need to apply to medical school. After becoming a doctor, Kurt says he plans to use his dual areas of expertise to start a non-profit healthcare organization.
Whatever his career will be, Kurt knows one thing for sure: his life must be dedicated to helping others. “I won’t be fulfilled and content in a job if I’m not doing something like that,” he says.