This past August, I spent the month learning about Entrepreneurship and traveling around Pakistan as a participant in the International Entrepreneurship Summer School (IESS) Program with the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi.
This post will tell you everything you need to know about the program, and how you can join next year.
My participation at IESS was kindly sponsored by IBA Karachi. As always, reviews and opinions are my own.
Karachi is home to the University of Karachi and Institute of Business Administration (IBA), which is the best business school in the country. Every summer, IBA hosts the International Entrepreneurial Summer School (IESS).
This 25-day program is designed to teach entrepreneurship from a South Asian perspective while immersing participants in the cultural richness of Pakistan through workshops, lectures, cultural events, recreational activities, and countrywide traveling.
The IESS program is broken down into two parts. For the first half of the program (10 days), lectures and classes are held at IBA during the day as well as tours around the city of Karachi. For the second half, participants travel through the rest of the country.
The Academic Part of IESS
During the program, we had a full schedule of lectures from various international guest speakers on entrepreneurial topics. Coming from a Western business background, I found it very interesting to learn about the different perspectives on entrepreneurship in Asia.
One of the main lessons repeated throughout was to “use your burning hand”, which essentially means to make use of the resources you already have to help you succeed.
We’re taught in North America that you need to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy education in order to succeed – but is this really the best way? Through real-life examples, the instructors made a solid case to show how many successful businesses, even in Pakistan, have started simply through passion and utilizing the resources at their hands.
Another aspect I loved about the program was the emphasis they put on the importance of opportunities for women and youth in Asia. One day of the program we attended a conference at the university in which many women entrepreneurs in Pakistan spoke about their successful businesses. To see such a strong and supportive culture of women in business in Pakistan both surprised and inspired me.
The university itself was modern and well-kept. They have several recreational areas where we could play sports or simply relax outside. The university is also home a number of cats, and there is a student-run organization where they feed and take care them. I love this!
The program didn’t just include academic lessons however, there was also a whole element of experiencing the city of Karachi. During the 10 days in Karachi, we got to explore a lot of the city, including bazaars, monuments, museums, beaches, and more! To see more of what we got up to in Karachi outside of the classroom, check out my complete guide to visiting Karachi.
Beyond the tours around Karachi, we also got to explore the epic food scene that this city has. Pakistanis LOVE food, and dining with friends and family is a big part of the culture. From fine dining by the sea to exploring the street food markets(which was actually my favorite), we got a great sense of the cities bustling food scene.
One evening, we even got to cook our own food as participants in a cooking MasterClass at the hospitality business school. We were put into teams and challenged to create a dish using the same ingredients. It was a fun evening getting to know my fellow students, and so interesting to see all the creative dishes that everyone came up with.
Discover Pakistan: Sindh
After 10 days in Karachi, we spent three days traveling through the province of Sindh. This portion of the trip was managed through a student-run program at the university called Bon Voyage.
During these three days, we explored many historical sights in the province including UNESCO world heritage sites, ancient tombs, civilizations, forts, and mosques. It was a great opportunity to learn more about Pakistan’s history.
I couldn’t believe how few tourists were there. I can’t think of many places in the world where you can walk through ancient civilizations and forts with no one else there, but this is the case in Pakistan.
To see more of the places we visited in the province of Sindh, check out my guide on planning a trip to Pakistan which shows all the places we visisted.
Celebrating Independence day in Karachi
We arrived back in Karachi on August 13th just in time to celebrate Independence day in the city. The university put on a ceremony which we got to take part in. Of course, this included a ton of food! They even got us traditional clothing made – so sweet!
It was such a cool opportunity to be able to take part in the celebrations with locals. Pakistanis have a lot of pride in their country and you’ll always see the Pakistan flag everywhere you go.
Discover Pakistan: Northern Areas
For the next 10 days, we explored the Northern provinces of Pakistan. The journey started with a 24-hour train ride from Karachi to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.
While a 24-hour train might sound brutal, I didn’t find it that bad. We were in business class, so there were sleeper beds in the train cart. They serve food and snacks on the train, and we had no problem keeping ourselves entertained with games, movies, and chatting. I even got some work done!
After spending a night in Islamabad, we got on our mini-bus which we used to travel through the northern parts of Pakistan.
We spent a night in Naran, took an epic journey to Fairy meadows via jeep and hiking, spent three days exploring the beautiful Hunza Valley including a visit to the Pak-China border, and a final stop in Naran to go white-water rafting.
We then returned to Islamabad for an evening and the next day traveled via bus to Lahore to explore some of the cities best sights including museums, monuments, and forts.
To read more about the places we got to visit in Northern Pakistan, read this post.
What to expect traveling as an IESS participant
As a participant in the IESS program, you will be able to stay at the International Housing residence on the IBA campus in Karachi. I spent a night there and found the rooms spacious, clean, and private.
During our time in Sindh, we stayed at the Sukker campus residence, which is similar to the one in Karachi.
After going up North, we stayed at a few different guesthouses and hotels. With the exception of Fairy meadows, where we camped or stayed in chalets (nothing fancy, but helps you warm). Here are some of the places we stayed:
As a participant, you can expect to be sharing your room with someone else. Lodging accommodations become harder to come by as you get up North and due to limited spacing, they often put an extra mattress in the room so a third person can stay,.
In Karachi, we used a number of different transportation methods including private cars, and buses owned by the school. Generally, it was comfy and distances were not too long.
In the second half of the trip, we traveled via mini-bus which I know many participants found uncomfortable due to the cramped space and lack of legroom. As a short person, this didn’t bother me much, but I did find the amount of driving we did to be tiring. A lot of the time up North was spent traveling from point A to B, and I wish we had more time to explore each place.
That being said, we still got to see many amazing and beautiful places in Pakistan, and each day was an adventure. The IESS program is still in its early years, and every year the students take feedback from participants and work to further improve the program.
It’s also important to understand that Pakistan’s tourism industry is still developing and you have to accept that things don’t always go as planned. Delays are common! If your priority is punctuality, luxury, and always having wi-fi, then this trip may not be for you.
The IESS Team
One of the best parts about being a participant in the IESS program is the team that runs this program. The students that organize this pour their heart and soul into it and will go above and beyond to make sure you enjoy it. Pakistanis are known for their hospitality and the IESS team is no exception to this.
How you Can Join the IESS Program
If you are interested in joining the IESS program next year, you can register or request more information through their website.
You do not need to be a student to join the IESS Program. Everyone is welcome to join – there is no age limit! We had older students in our class as well as younger. You should just be interested in Pakistan culture and history, and have an open mind.
The program is such a unique opportunity to experience a part of the world that many people don’t, and one that is well worth exploring. If you have any questions about the IESS program or Pakistan in general, feel free to send me a message or leave a comment below!