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Fueled by Red Bull, Harvard Students Will Trek Across Europe

By Kathleen G. Barrow and María J. Sada, Contributing Writers

Four current Harvard students will embark on Red Bull’s “Can You Make It” Challenge on April 12, trekking through Europe with only Red Bull cans as currency.

A team of three College seniors—Madeline C. Hung ’16, Nina L. Hooper ’16, and Hanna Evensen ’16—have qualified to participate in the challenge alongside 165 student teams from more than 50 countries around the world. Masahiro L. Kusunoki ’17 has joined two friends from Japan on another team.

“The Red Bull Challenge just seemed like such an awesome and crazy opportunity, especially with it being senior spring and potentially not having the chance to take off and do something like this in the coming years when we have real jobs and might be separated by large states or bodies of water,” Hung said.

Teams will start off at five different locations throughout Europe and will have one week to travel more than 600 miles. Along the way, teams must visit certain “Red Bull checkpoints” and complete numerous challenges, the results of which determine each team’s final score. The winning team will be awarded a trip to Europe, with transportation and accommodation expenses paid for.

During the seven days, each team will only have 24 Red Bull cans at their disposal to trade for food, accommodation, and transportation. In order to limit their transactions and make good use of their time, the all-Harvard team, “Seeing Red,” plans to sleep on buses and trains as they make their way to their final destination, Hooper said.

Kusunoki said his team, which competed in the Japanese qualifying rounds, has no idea what they will do when they get to Europe because there has been very little information as of yet from Red Bull.

“They haven’t told us the checkpoint, they haven’t told us the rules, they haven’t given us a sponsor or emergency contact,” he said.

Although teams are not allowed to make formal arrangements in Europe before the challenge starts, Seeing Red has been active on social media given that part of their team’s final score comes from votes on websites including Facebook. Furthermore, members of Seeing Red said they have been reaching out to the Harvard Alumni Association and Harvard clubs across Europe.

“We really think that capitalizing on the huge network of Harvard alumni would be really, really useful to get them engaged and get them to spread the word,” Hooper said.

The students are preparing for an austere trip, with Seeing Red bringing dry shampoo in anticipation of a week without many opportunities to shower. They say they are unsure of what they can acquire with 24 cans of Red Bull.

“We are most afraid of having to eat day old pizza out of a trashcan in a back alleyway in Rome after having spent all our Red Bull,” Hung said jokingly. “But, I’m not too worried about it.”

If the team ever finds itself in danger or facing starvation, they have the option of pulling out their phones or wallets, but that would disqualify them from the challenge. Students said they are not very concerned about dire circumstances, though.

As for worries about work piling up back in Cambridge, Kusunoki said he is doing his best to finish as much as possible before he goes. He has spoken with his professors, who he said are all supportive of his undertaking.

Hung, Hooper, and Evensen said they are especially excited for the chance to compete against a Yale team, “the Red Bull Dogs,” who also qualified for the challenge. The two teams have been in communication with each other, and the competition is heating up.

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