First Day in Munich!
15 May 2016
Today was our first official day of the program in Munich. We took an afternoon tour of the city, under the lovely guidance of our tour guide Hildrun. We saw sites such as the Glockenspiel, the Angel of Peace (both pictured below), and the Palace of the Nymphs. We also passed by the surfers on the beautiful Isar river, where they surf one wave year round! A stop at BMW headquarters allowed us to experience one of the most well-known car brands of today and see how they cater toward their target consumer. Strategic space and product placement were discussed in several of our classes within the program, and it was interesting to see the whole experience at their headquarters.
After the tour, we had the rest of the evening free. Some of the group left and enjoyed some beers at the Hofbrauhaus while others went back to the hotel to rest after long flights. Tomorrow we are heading to Dachau, a concentration camp memorial site. Until then, gute Nacht!
Trip to Dachau
16 May 2016
Today we visited the concentration camp at Dachau, which was the first camp the National Socialist (Nazi) Party built. It was created to hold political opponents, but by the end of 1945 held people from over 30 different nationalities & groups. It was expanded to include many members of minority groups, such as Jews, Jehovah’s, homosexuals, and gypsies. Also, Russian prisoners of war were brought to the camp.
There are no words to describe the camp. To clarify, concentration camps were also called work camps. Death camps were the camps where extermination (mainly by gas) occurred. Nevertheless, over the course of the camp, around 42,000 people died by starvation, disease, exhaustion, etc. While it was very difficult to experience, it is important to remember the history of this time to make sure it doesn’t occur again. We will always remember those who died at these camps.
Tomorrow, most of the group will be visiting the famous Neuschwanstein castle and enjoying the lake and scenery nearby.
The German on the memorial of the Unknown Soldier (shown above) roughly translates to: “To Honor the Dead, to Warn the Living.”
17 May 2016
Since it was our free day in Munich due to Whit Monday, most of the group ventured to the beautiful Neuschwantstein Castle. We planned ahead, and got a tour guide to lead us around before our tour at 2PM. The train ride took around two hours to arrive in Fussen, a town nearby the castle. Keith (our guide) was able to give some excellent history about Ludwig II and how he came to create the castle. After a lengthy trek up the hill, we arrived at the castle gates. Construction on the castle started in 1869, and ran to 1886 at the time of Ludwig’s death. It was interesting to think about how this castle was constructed around the same time as the United State’s Civil War.
Ludwig II was a very interesting king, and was often in his own little fairytale. He hated being king, and would often retire to the area of the country where he ultimately decided to build this castle. The inside tour of the castle was beautiful, and you could see Gothic, Medieval, and contemporary architecture throughout. It was very exquisite, with some pieces like his bed frame taking over four years to make! Now, the castle is far from finished since Ludwig died, but there was a great cinema you could see after the tour that showed his future plans for the castle and area, which included a monastery, courtyards, etc.
While it wasn’t the nicest of days, our group thoroughly enjoyed the castle and surrounding areas. Tomorrow, we start our business visits! Gute Nacht!
Let’s Get Technical: Research Business Visits
18 May 2016
Our first day of business visits in Munich focused on two research places: iwb (an institute that does research in five different manufacturing areas, allowing students to participate in subjects such as Robotics, Cutting Technology, etc.) and GE Global R&D. During our iwb visit we learned a lot about not only the culture there at the institute, which is part of the broader TUM (Technical University of München), but of schooling in Germany in general. It is vastly different from the United States in that you are separated into three different tiers at the end of your 4th grade year; these tiers determine your path for the rest of your schooling. Tier 1 students are the ones that end up going to colleges, and generally those focused more towards STEM fields. While you can move tiers, it is very hard to do so. While schooling is free in Germany (or at the highest 1,000€ a semester), it is considerably harder in some regards. Most classes have 500 students to a professor, and the professors don’t make much effort to help students who are struggling; you are tasked with learning the material yourself. The labs we were able to tour at the Institute were amazing and took us back to our Lean Six Sigma class we took during the spring semester. One research fellow was collaborating with various German companies to incorporate Lean tools into their production processes.
After our meeting, we had a long lunch at a typical Bavarian restaurant in a nearby town. Shown below is just a plate that one of us had for our meal!
Next stop was a lovely discussion with Dietmar Tourbier, the head of the Electrical Systems division of Global Research in Munich. He gave us a brief history lesson on GE, then dove into his primary interest which is renewable energy. It was a great talk, and blended Engineering topics with Business ones quite well. He touched on mergers some in his talk, as GE has acquired several companies throughout their history. Mergers and acquisitions were examined in several of our classes, from case studies in Finance to strategic recommendations in Holbein’s strategy class, so it was engaging to hear someone who had witnessed a merger firsthand.
At the conclusion of the visit, we headed back to the hotel, and then to our welcome dinner! We went to the famous Ratskeller restaurant, and were treated to an amazing three course meal. After very full stomachs, the group split off with some going back to the hotel to hang out, while others did some laundry, and others still took a walk along the river and saw some beautiful buildings! (one shown below). Munich treated us well; tomorrow we have one last business visit in the city before traveling to Prague.
Next Stop: Prague!
19 May 2016
Today was our last official day in Munich, with a free morning and one final business visit in the afternoon. Some of the group spent their morning in the English Garden, seeing sites such as the Chinese Tower (pictured below), while others slept in. Our visit in the afternoon was with Hetras, a startup company that specializes in providing cloud based services to hotels, allowing them to cut IT costs greatly. It was a stark difference from the business environment we saw yesterday at GE, and would be similar to the look and feel of business startups in the U.S. One of the employees we met was actually a software engineer from Southern California; it was interesting to hear how he made his transition to Germany and what big differences he noticed in cultures. Overall, the visit was very informative as several members of the group are interested in (or have already) starting their own businesses. They provided valuable insight into the world of startups, what are some big hurdles, etc.
After Hetras, we headed straight to the Munich airport for a quick (less than a hour) flight to Prague. Tomorrow, we hop right into business visits in the City.
Prague Business Visits!
19 May 2016
Today was our first full day in Prague; it was centered on two business visits. Our morning visit was to a company called LA Composites, s.r.o., which manufactures various composite parts for the aviation and transportation industries. Some of their customers include Airbus and Boeing. They also partner with nearby universities to collaborate on technical research projects, such as a fully composite “jet” weighing just around 650 pounds! We were able to tour their facilities, and get a feel for the difficulty of the manufacturing process.
For lunch, we ate at a nice cantina nearby, where most food was around $3! After a quick transfer to the Prague airport, we had our second business visit with Bell Helicopter. Bell is mainly an American company, but realized they needed to be global in order to compete effectively in the helicopter business. Our talk focused a lot on culture, and really brought home how varying cultures are in Europe. We received a tour after the discussion, which showcased their two hangars, paint shops, and even a special area that displays the helicopter when completed so the customer can see it when they arrive.
The group has gotten more acquainted with the city since getting in last night, and have been enjoying the warmer weather. Tomorrow, we will have our final business visit for Prague, along with a cultural tour of famous places within the city centre.
One of models at Bell Helicopter
Magic Prague: The Heart of Europe
20 May 2016
Today we had our last business visit for Prague, which was to ELI Beamlines, the largest scientific facility in the history of the Czech Republic. It is a high-power laser facility, where (starting in 2018) users will be able to utilize the different lasers for basic and applied research. The building was amazing, and we were able to get a tour of a small part of the laser facility even though it is not complete; however, we were able to take a virtual tour through the aforementioned area using Oculus headsets to see what the facility will be like when finished. The whole business visit was very insightful, and is part of a European business plan to maintain global competitiveness by developing top research centers.
In the afternoon, we took a walking city tour of some of the main sites in Prague: St. Vitus Cathedral, the Prague Castle, Golden Lane, and several others. We could clearly see why people call Prague the Magic City. One of the most impressive buildings, St. Vitus Cathedral, has taken over 600 years to complete and is definitely a marvel of the world. There were several amazing views overlooking the city, and walking down cobblestone streets felt like a walk through time. Tomorrow, we travel to Kutna Hora and “the bone church”!
21 May 2016
Today we visited the lovely town of Kutna Hora, around a hour and a half from Prague. Our stop included the “Bone Church”, which houses bones from various difference groups of people. It was definitely an experience! We also visited Saint Barbara’s Cathedral, which had a gothic feel outside (with flying buttresses), but a mix of medieval and gothic inside. We enjoyed a good lunch at a restaurant within the town, and then proceeded to the Italian courts and royal mint to understand the minting process that was used in the 14th-17th centuries in this area. Overall, it was a very good day with beautiful weather. Tomorrow, we have a free day to explore the city before heading off to Paris!
The group in front of St. Barbara’s Cathedral
Prague Free Day
22 May 2016
Today was a day of relaxation and individual exploration of Prague. A couple of us got up early to see the Charles Bridge before the crowds, while others slept in. A Czech beer festival was going on in a nearby park, so several of the group went to that and thoroughly enjoyed their day. It was a beautiful day in the low 80s and was just what we needed before heading off to Paris early tomorrow morning. From the business visits to the tours, Prague was definitely a city of magic.
23 May 2016
After an early start to the morning, we boarded our flight to Paris and arrived shortly after 11:30AM. We met up with the head of HR for the Paris Aéroport, and she guided us to a press room where we could leave our luggage for the course of the business visit. The Charles De Gaulle airport was massive, and we got an amazing behind the scenes tour of the airport in general, but also saw how their distribution system works for checked bags. In addition, we got to see a hotel that was being constructed within the airport. Its purpose is to be utilized by guests that have longer layovers (4+ hours) in order to rest, recover, and relax. They have small hotel rooms that can be purchased, as well as showers that can be rented by the hour. We were thankful to be some of the first people to go through the construction, as it is opening next month. Our tour concluded with a short discussion on security in relation to the EgyptAir event. Overall, it was an amazing visit to the Charles De Gaulle airport!
After our business visit, we took a coach bus from the airport to Paris and arrived at our hotel around 6PM. Since tomorrow is a free day for us, most of the group spent the evening exploring the area around us and relaxing. Tomorrow, most of the group is going to see the Catacombs while some are going to Roland Garros (the French Open)!
Exploration in Paris
25 May 2016
Today was one of our free days in Paris, and much of the group went and visited the Catacombs and various sites nearby. There were also a couple of people who took the metro to the Roland Garros (French Open)! It was a great day overall with no rain and provided a nice day to explore the city on our own. Some even went to see the Eiffel Tower at night!
A Tour of Paris
25 May 2016
Our tour of Paris started along the Saint-Martin Canal and we drove around places like the Eiffel Tower, Opera House, Republic place, Notre Dame, and the Louvre! We were able to walk into Notre Dame and see the various stained glass and sculptures within the building. After Notre Dame, we went to a creperie for lunch! Each of us were treated to both savory and sweet crêpes; they were delicious! With very full stomachs, we proceeded to the Louvre for a guided tour. The sheer size of the museum was amazing… we learned that if you stop at every piece of art for a minute it would take you three months to get through the whole place! We saw famous pieces such as the Mona Lisa, Aphrodite, Liberty Leading the People, and several others.
A model of Notre Dame
The group enjoying their crepes
After our tour, some of the group stayed behind to see more pieces of art. A small group of us went to the Egyptian wing and saw the sarcophagi, jewelry, and various artworks of the time. It was an awesome experience and great day. Tomorrow, we have a visit at Thales. Until then, goodnight!
Ten-Four Big Chief!
26 May 2016
Today was our all day visit to Thales University and qualified as our last business visit of the trip. It is hard to believe that the two weeks we have spent together is coming to a close! It has been an amazing experience and is definitely a highlight of the dual degree program. In the morning session, we learned about Design Thinking, a method to approach solving problems by involving users (consumers) in the business model network. It was very informative from an entrepreneurial viewpoint! We enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria they had there, and learned that France offers many assistance programs for their citizens; whether it be paying for part of their lunch, providing childcare to mothers once they go back to work, or even paying for continuing education, France offers various means of help to their citizens. After lunch, we ran a leadership simulation that Thales offers to university students, outside businesses, etc. It was a flight simulation program where we worked in groups of 4-5 flying a helicopter to rescue people trapped in locations on a map. It involved a lot of strategic thinking, clear communication, and challenged us to work together within set time frames and against another team. The leader from Thales called himself “Big Chief”, and was very lively and fun! It was a great way to end our business visits; tomorrow we have another free day in Paris.
Debriefing the simulation
We enjoyed a nice farewell dinner tonight as well, consisting of three traditional French dishes. And with that, the Engineering/MBA international study is at a close. There will be one more post tomorrow outlining the events of our free day. Bottom line: we learned an enormous amount about international culture, business, and language. Our eyes were opened to the day-to-day workings of the three cities, and we are all incredibly thankful for this opportunity. Good night!
Last Day in Paris
28 May 2016
For our last day in Paris, several people enjoyed going to Versailles and exploring the castle and gardens there. Others went to some of the many museums Paris has to offer. It was a great last day to have, and ended with a nighttime ride up to the Eiffel Tower. Many of us stayed to watch the tower light up at 10PM as well. It gave us some amazing views of the city and was definitely magical. With that, we all are splitting up with some heading back to the states, while others are continuing their travels to places like Rome, London, Dublin, etc. Our trip together was full of great memories: we will never forget Prague, Munich, or Paris!
Gardens and part of Palace at Versailles
View of Seine River from top of Eiffel Tower