Alumni Spotlight: Dasha Shvaikovskaya


Dasha is a biomedical student in her final year of BSc at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. She is a scientist, vegan, traveler, nature lover, and volunteering enthusiast.

Why did you choose this program?

I have always been curious to learn more about business creation and entrepreneurship, as this knowledge is undoubtedly of great use for anybody who wants to work in a Life Science field and/or in a bio-tech company in the future. I also fell in love with Portugal the moment I got off the plane there for the first time in January 2017, and I’ve always wanted to go there again. So, when I saw this program featured on my university website, I just applied without hesitations!

European Innovation Academy in Portugal seemed perfect to me, both in terms of the structure and location.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My university had received two scholarships covering the participation fee of the program that two students from Karolinska Institutet (KI) would be awarded with after the application and subsequent selection processes. One medical student and I turned up to be these lucky ones!

KI's Innovation Office tried to seek for extra financial support for our travel to EIA in Portugal, but this was not possible, so we had to cover the accommodation and travel costs ourselves. EIA offered some accommodation options for its international participants around Cascais (the town near Lisbon where the program takes place), but both of us ended up finding the place to stay at on our own.

Nevertheless, the program providers were very helpful and responsive, and were ready to help us out with any problems and questions we might have encountered prior and upon our arrival.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would say, "be ready for some hard work during these 3 weeks, but don't forget to have fun, also!"

I think the key to fully experience what the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Summer Program in Portugal has to offer is to both stay on track with developing your start-up idea and finding the time to mingle with friends and other participants. Of course, make sure to explore the beautiful city of Lisbon and its surroundings!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Mornings (9AM – 12nn) at EIA are usually dedicated to different lectures on entrepreneurship and business creation, key-note speeches from world-leading experts from different fields, followed by lunch break and subsequent independent work on your start-up idea in your group of five. You can work on it with or without mentor support as they change depending on which particular task is your team working on at that given moment.

Of course, there is also a social program for the participants – mingling events, parties, football matches, and the likes. Weekends are free from official program activities, so you can either continue working on your start-up, or choose to take a trip to Sintra or Lisbon, or simply enjoy your free time on one of the nearby beaches. All the options are, in my eyes, equally awesome!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I cannot say I was scared to go abroad to do such "few-weeks-lasting" project, as I've already done a number of international work-camps and exchanges before. Neither did I fear going to Portugal in general, as people there are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and the country itself is absolutely gorgeous and 100% worth visiting.

However, I was a bit concerned about working with four complete strangers (at the beginning, at least), because, when it comes to developing a start-up into a viable company/enterprise, we all had different thoughts and opinions on HOW to do this exactly.

So, for me, finding compromises with my team mates, as well as learning things from completely new fields, were the "biggest challenges". I loved the whole experience, though!

What makes Entrepreneurship and Innovation Summer Program in Portugal different from other start-up accelerator programs?

I strongly believe that this program is an incredible opportunity for young motivated professionals coming from completely different backgrounds, with diverse sets of skills and competencies, to learn "all you need to know" about start-ups in just 3 weeks, and to learn it from first-class experts and successful entrepreneurs in a vibrant, international start-up environment. These three weeks were definitely one of the best I've had in my life, and I couldn't recommend this program more!