Hi, my name is Tommaso Fantoni Modena and I’m a business and management student from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan (Italy). Currently I’m not in Milan: I’m in Douala, Cameroon, the farthest I’ve ever been from home (until now, I would say).
This experience has pushed me far from what I considered valid, for myself and for others.
It feels like a lifetime ago since Professor Mario Molteni, at university, introduced us the opportunity to carry out our internship and our thesis in Africa, and I can clearly remember my thoughts at that time: “Interesting, but this is not for me, he shouldn’t have told me. No, I’m too busy for that, I have too many things to do in Milan, too many activities, too many relationships to keep.”
I think breaking that idea is what allowed me to leave and fly to Cameroon and then adapt and live in a whole different context, with such incredible ease. Looking back, I feel like everything came very naturally, as if I had been waiting for this experience my whole life.
I think everything was so spontaneous because I was the first Italian trainee at the E4Impact Entrepreneurship Center Cameroon, and so I didn’t have another student to tell me how to behave and what to do to better adapt to the new setting. Only the boundaries I set for myself and the suggestions from the local staff defined what I could do or not, especially in a country where the unexpected is always around the corner. And this led me to grow little by little and discover the better way to live the “Cameroonian-style”. I started travelling, meeting new people, experiencing different settings and I’ve also tried new sports and eaten foods I had never seen before.
Of course, I can’t attribute this outcome just to myself: first and foremost, I have to say thank you to Flavien Tchamdjeu, my local tutor, and Head of Francophone Africa for E4Impact. As the days passed, he left me more and more freedom, giving me space to familiarize with the context around me, without any pressure. Secondly, I have to thank all the people I had the chance to meet there: without their advice, I would have never made the right choices.
Of course this ‘adventure’ was not important only from an experiential point of view, but it has helped me also on a professional level, allowing me to experience my internship in a very different way from what I would have done staying in Milan. This thanks to the fact that I was immediately given responsibilities and credits for what I accomplished.
During my internship experience I carried out important tasks, such as doing presentations and interviews to E4Impact entrepreneurs, but also support in the meetings the Foundation had with representatives from various ONGs and Cameroonian companies. This activities allowed me to become aware of the capabilities I have developed during my studies at University and learn how to behave in a business context.
The awareness I developed is definitely the most powerful tool I will use to orient my professional career and my future towards new horizons and experiences. For this, I have to say thank you to Cameroon and E4Impact; I’m sure I will bring back with me everything: all the people I met, their charming culture, the wonderful landscapes and experiences, but also the obstacles and the little accidents that made me grow and discover myself.
Tommaso Fantoni Modena