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Not everyone could embark on a journey to a foreign country on their own, but Hannes Ausmees made that leap.

“I am just a college student but I wanted to come to America to do something very different,” said Ausmees, who is a contemporary science student from the University of Tartu in Estonia, a country located in Northern Europe.

Ausmees said Southwestern Advantage, a publishing company based in Nashville, Tennessee, is pretty well-known back home with its summer program recruiting thousands of students from Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe to work in the U.S. selling pre-k through college-level educational books.

Although the program was known to many, Ausmees said, only a number of students actually apply annually due to the fear of being in foreign grounds on their own.

“It seemed like a very intriguing idea to come all the way from home with no one to hope for but yourself,” he said.

Ausmees said the transition came easily to him because he was used to living in different places fairly often, noting this was his first time stepping foot in the U.S.

“Nobody goes to college to be a door-to-door salesperson but it’s a mean to an end,” added Trey Campbell, director of communications at Southwestern Advantage. “They graduate with skill sets that are not taught in the classrooms…All of the skills can be applied in whatever fields they choose to go into.”

Students begin preparing for the summer job back home by learning about the U.S educational system and culture, followed by a week-long training course on product knowledge, sale techniques and regulations upon their arrival in states at the company’s headquarters.

Ausmees said he was fortunate to be paired up with someone familiar, Rasmus Hütt. The duo met when Hütt reached out to Ausmees in Estonia requesting to carpool, which is a common occurrence in Estonia, Ausmees said.

The students are given full responsibility over their daily expenses, transportation and lodging during their stay so the majority of students chose to live with host families at their assigned locations.

When both Ausmees and Hütt arrived in Columbus early June, they lived in a hotel for several days before they found a Columbus family to live with.

“Columbus is really interesting,” Ausmees said. “What I like the most is the weather because it’s incredibly hot right now as compared to Estonia.”

Both teens work six-day weeks from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. with the goal of visiting at least 30 families daily. When the duo decided to divide and conquer, Ausmees chose to make his sales in Colfax County and Hütt in Platte, Nance and Boone counties.

“What I like about Schuyler is that there are so many cultures there,” Ausmees said, noting he has met people from Ethiopia, Guatemala, Congo, Mexico and Germany. “It’s so cool. It’s so multicultural so it truly is a great experience.”

Ausmees admitted some days are easier than others due to the number of rejections he's faced on the job, noting how he's learned how to compose his emotions.

“This is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done,” Ausmees said.

Campbell said the company hopes to further enhance the students’ entrepreneurship skills to run their own businesses by providing them the independence to conduct their own sales, adding they can gain more in-depth knowledge on inventory, marketing, finance and ethics.

“Everyone joins the program for a different reason,” he said.

Ausmees hopes to take away the firsthand experience of running his own business to one day open a museum, utilizing the skills he learned this summer and his contemporary history background.

“Regardless what you study and what you want to be, every person should learn how to sell,” he said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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