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2019 Engineering/MBA Student Blog

Engineering/MBA Dual Degree International Study on Global Business 2019 Itinerary

Copenhagen, Denmark

May 8 – WED: Tour of City
May 9 – TH: Business Visits: Rockwool International and Teknologisk Institut
May 10 – FRI: Business visit ABB; Cultural Tour
May 11 – SAT: Free Day Explore

Tallinn, Estonia

May 12 – SUN: Travel and Short City Tour
May 13 – MON: Cultural TourMay 14 – TUE: Business Visits: Enterprise Estonia and Starship Technologies
May 15 – WED: Free Day to Explore
May 16 – TH: Business Visits: FLIR Systems and Telia Eesti AS
May 17 – FRI: Travel

Budapest, Hungary

May 18 – SAT: Cultural Tour
May 19 – SUN: Day trip to Vienna, Austria
May 20 – MON: Free Day to Explore
May 21 – TUE: Business Visits: Legrand Group and GE Power & Water
May 22 – WED: Program Concludes

Day 14 - Final Day: Legrand & GE

Today was our last full day together and we had our final two company visits with Legrand Group and GE Power - Hungary. We first met with Legrand, a French electronic controller, switch, and outlet manufacturer, who also makes smart home systems. They outlined their strategy as a company. Legrand focuses on development, engagement, and diversity with and for their employees. They also value what potential employees think of them and work to be an attractive employer. In order to stay competitive, relevant, and to maintain growth, Legrand works hard to balance new and different ways of doing things with established solutions. Legrand does this by ‘crenchmarking’ or creative benchmarking, this allows them to innovate. We also had the pleasure of being shown some of Legrand’s products. They make a few systems that can protect buildings during power outages and surges. Their most interesting set of systems is their smart home systems which link all of the homes controls: blinds, lights, stereo, and air conditioning. We followed this visit with lunch at a burger spot recommended by our guide. 

After lunch, we made our way to GE Power - Hungary. In this manufacturing plant, they build and assemble power supplies for remote areas in need of electricity. We were welcomed and given a presentation about global business and implementing LEAN. Our speaker has quite the international experience with GE, having worked in 5 countries. He provided advice to us as young people entering the workforce: be open-minded, ask questions, and be a lifelong learner. Following the presentation, we were given a tour of their manufacturing floor. We saw different sizes of jet engines being built and converted into generators. GE implements LEAN manufacturing principles in order to stay as efficient as possible. This plant also does repairs for customers. The repair segment of their manufacturing floor was totally separate from the standard line in order to prevent mix ups and excess motion within the productions processes.

We are concluding our time together with a dinner cruise on the Danube. These two weeks have been an informative and growing experience for us all. Taking in different cultures and getting to see how businesses function across Europe will serve well throughout our careers.

Day 13 – Budapest Free Day

Today was our free day for our time in Budapest; however, the majority of us spent it in Vienna!  With the day trip to Vienna yesterday, many of us decided to get an Airbnb to spend the night so we could enjoy more time there before the 2.5 hr train trip back to Budapest.  In the morning, three of us went back to Budapest to continue to explore Hungary (and one person returned yesterday), but the rest of us awoke to enjoy some Viennese coffee and pastries.  After breakfast, two of us decided to go for a long run, while the other seven began our adventure by heading to the Wien Tiergarten – or the Vienna Zoo.  The zoo lies in the beautiful gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace, which are full of roses and neatly trimmed bushes and trees.  The zoo is ranked best in Europe and we enjoyed wandering through the paths which passed many species from Pandas to Penguins.  The zoo is one of the best many of us had ever been to.  

After the zoo, we spent some time wandering around the grounds of the palace and enjoying the scenery.  One thing we greatly appreciated about Vienna was the efficiency of public transit.  You could easily go anywhere in the city in a reasonable amount of time at an affordable price.  Many U.S. cities could benefit from improved metro systems similar to those in Vienna.  Later in the afternoon we headed back to the Hauptbahnhof and met up with those who went running.  On the ride back we enjoyed watching the sun set across the scenic Austrian and Hungarian countryside.  Tomorrow we are looking forward to company visits with Legrand and GE Power! 

Day 12 – Budapest to Vienna

We traveled by train from Budapest to Vienna, this morning. The police came through and checked our passports twice, this was more identification security than we encountered on both our flights within the EU combined. Once we arrived in Vienna, those of us staying the night checked into our Airbnb then we all went for lunch. The rest of our day was filled with an informative, cultural, walking tour of Vienna. Austria embraces their history well: learning from and accepting their prior faults while being proud of their triumphs. Our tour guide lead us by the Hapsburg (the ruling family for about 600 years) residence with a portion dating back to the 13th century, some of the ~160 churches in Vienna, Mozart’s last standing residence, a beautiful rose garden, and the birthplace of the croissant. Our tour concluded in the Vienna forests on a hill overlooking Vienna. For the evening, everyone took in Vienna in their own way: either going to an opera, concert, mass, or just wandering around.

Day 11 – Budapest Cultural Tour

After spending most of the day getting to Budapest yesterday, today we started out by hopping on a bus to head to the castle district of Budapest.  To provide a bit of context, Budapest is made up of two parts, Buda and Pest.  Traditionally, Buda was the area of the nobility and wealthy, and Pest developed as the city for commoners.  The Danube River separates the two, and over time the city grew together, with movements such as placing the parliament building in Pest being done to help unite the cities.  After taking in great views from Buda castle, we visited Matthias Church.  This beautifully decorated church served as the place for coronations for the rulers of Hungary starting in the 14th century.  Our last stop on the Buda side was at the Hospital in the Rock.  A system of labyrinths under the city was previously used for living and food storage in ancient times, but at the beginning of the second World War a hospital was built in the caves.  With expansions during the war, the hospital served up to 600 patients, even though it was designed for 200.  After the war, Soviets took control of Hungary and outfitted the hospital to serve as a bunker for nuclear fallout.  Today, the museum aims to send a message of avoiding war if possible due to the high number of causalities a war, especially one nuclear in nature, would cause.

Next we enjoyed lunch in the area around Erzsébet Square and even had the chance to enjoy some gelato in the park there before resuming our tour.  St. Stephen’s Basilica was our next stop, which is named after St. Stephen, who brought Christianity to the Hungarian empire.  This church was more modern, being built in the late 1800s, and we were able to get an impressive view of the city from the top of the dome.  After the church, we walked to the Parliament building and ran into a statue of Ronald Reagan on the way.  The Parliament building is the second largest in Europe and this was to account for the previously much larger territory that Hungary controlled.  Today, however, Hungary has lost two-thirds of its original size.  In the evening, we enjoyed a traditional hearty Hungarian meal and we were all surprise how affordable the food was! 

Day 9 – FLIR and Telia Eesti AS

Today we met with two interesting companies in Tallinn: FLIR and Telia Eesti AS. FLIR makes infrared and thermal imaging devices. Their product line ranges from smartphone add-ons to multi-thousand dollar imaging tools used by governments and fire & rescue. FLIR Estonia manufactures more consumer-based products. The FLIR Method is something they developed and implemented in order to emphasized customer-driven innovation and talent utilization/development. FLIR wants to make sure any changes they make to products will serve a purpose and increase value in the eyes of their customers. They also want to make sure all their workers are appreciated and utilized. We toured their manufacturing and testing facility, they implement LEAN principles: something we all can appreciate having taken the LEAN Six Sigma Certification course through LeanCor as a part of our MBA. Telia, being a telecom service provider for Estonia and other Baltic countries, focuses on providing quality service for their customers and doing their best to improve the life of Estonians. Our speaker led a discussion about Estonia and how being such a young and small country has allowed them to provide many privileges to the all the citizens as a private entity. Both these companies emphasized the importance they place on their employees’ and customers’ happiness and well-being, which is encouraging and motivating as recent graduates

After our meetings with these companies, we returned to the hotel with some free time before dinner. We ventured out on our own and got one good last look of Tallinn before celebrating our time here with a group dinner at Platz Restaurant.

Day 8 - Tallinn Free Day

Today some of us headed for an early ferry to Helsinki, Finland.  Helsinki lies a short 2-hour boat ride across the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn, and it is common for people and goods to transfer between these two trading partners.  Upon arrival, we spent time walking throughout the city.  We stumbled across a movie being filmed at the Helsinki Cathedral and then headed to the Botanical Gardens for an enjoyable picnic lunch in the sun.  Enjoying time outdoors like this is popular among the locals!  One of us also had a friend from the US studying here who told us about how Finland uses both Finnish and Swedish as official languages.  We enjoyed learning about a variety of topics ranging from the education system to the rivalry between Swedes and the Finnish.  After experiencing a couple local dishes like an odd version of a cinnamon roll and reindeer hamburger, we went back to the ferries to return to Tallinn.  Some of us even saw some whales on the journey home!

Some of the other students enjoyed going for a run around Tallinn and visiting the museums of the area.  Another group also spent some time walking on the beach to enjoy the sun.  Tomorrow we will be doing some more company visits in Tallinn!

Day 7 – Enterprise Estonia and Starship Technologies

This morning we met our guide, Lina, and headed out for Enterprise Estonia after breakfast at the hotel.  Enterprise Estonia works to promote investment in Estonian start-up companies and help foreign nationals to start companies based in Estonia, without ever having to step foot in the country.  When we first arrived, we learned about how the government uses web based technology to keep track of individuals’ data on everything from healthcare to voting and retirement.  By using one portal and a two factor authentication system, citizens, as well as appropriate agencies can access relevant information to help simplify the bureaucratic process.  Citizens always retain the final say of what happens with their data and can report any suspicious activity, which comes with serious penalties.  Additionally, we learned that many aspects of Estonia make it favorable for start-up companies such as a 0% corporate tax rate (on reinvested profits), 20% flat income tax, and 0% property tax.

After lunch at a nearby mall, we visited Starship Technologies, a logistics company which uses delivery robots which were developed in-house to work to solve last-mile delivery problems.  The autonomous robots are able to carry a sufficient payload and aim to provide deliveries such as hot meals and last minute groceries to residents of suburban neighborhoods.  It was awesome to learn about the cutting edge technology used by the company and the innovative solutions they have found to help reduce the high costs associated with last mile delivery.  In a world where people want their deliveries as fast as possible, these robots can be used to transform current delivery systems to make them more efficient and eco-friendly.  This evening we enjoyed a dinner as a group and then some of us went on to experience another Nordic tradition, the sauna, which was conveniently available at the hotel. 

Day 6 - Tallinn Cultural Tour

Today our guide took us on a walking tour through Old Town of Tallinn. Starting from Viru Gate, we made our way to the city hall and town square, home of the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in Europe (open since 1422). We made our way past more interesting landmarks and historical areas, it is easy to see the differing influences on architecture from Estonia’s time under the rule of different kingdoms, empires, and republics. St. Mary’s Cathedral exhibits influence from 13th-century Danish rule and, just down the road, Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral illustrates the rule of the Russian Empire during the 19th and 20th century. We also saw The Church of the Holy Ghost, which houses the oldest working clock in Estonia with carvings and decorations dating back to the 15th century and working since 1684.

After grabbing some lunch around the square, we made our way to Estonia’s Parliament. We received a tour from one of their guides and learned about Estonia’s Government & Politics. The Republic of Estonia has a 101-seat Parliament, Prime Minister, and President. The Parliament chambers were built with one large door for the Speaker and two smaller doors for the Prime Minister and President to emphasize the delegation of power the three. Estonia’s President must not be affiliated with any of their political parties and is elected by the Parliament. After Estonia gained independence the most recent time in 1990, Parliament was redecorated back to its original colors from 1918: blue walls, a yellow ceiling that looks more white when lit up, and black seats.

Following the tour of Parliament, we continued our walking tour and finished it where we began. We perused some of the local shops and vendors before returning back to our hotel.

Day 5 – Travelling to Tallinn

Today we enjoyed a bit of a later start at the hotel before meeting our guide to head to the airport in Copenhagen.  On the way, we briefly stopped at the beach to see how Dane’s may typically enjoy a weekend, and from there you could also see Malmö, Sweden across the bay. We made it through the airport with only slight difficulty, as the flight was oversold, but everything worked out smoothly.  It was interesting to note that no one asked for or checked any identification during the security process.  

After a smooth one-hour flight with sunny skies, we arrived in Tallinn and met our new guide.  Once loaded in our Mercedes Van, we set out on a two hour driving tour to gain a feel for the area.  We saw the palace Peter the Great built when Tallinn fell to Russia in the 18th century, which is the Kadriorg Art Museum today. We also stopped by the outside of the office of the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, who is the first woman and youngest person ever to hold the position.  We also visited a neighborhood with a clear Soviet influence from the time of the U.S.S.R.  Estonia has been ruled by other countries for much of its life, which started with Denmark in the 13th century, however, they have maintained a sense of national identity, which has been further strengthened by the Estonian Song Festival, where citizens gather to share community and patriotism.  We finished the day off with a nice dinner that allowed us to try traditional Estonian dishes.  We are looking forward to our company visits in this growing tech hub of Europe after more cultural experiences tomorrow.

Day 4, May 11: Free Day in Copenhagen

Today was our first free day and we all wanted to make the most of it! After a light breakfast, a small group of us went on a run through the city. We explored a few gardens & paths, found a couple of pop up street fairs & markets, went shopping in a few stores. Later in the day we went back out into the city just to take in as much of Copenhagen as we could. We went to a shop called Wasteland where we saw many younger Danes searching for the perfect accessories and items to complete their weekend outfits. We continued on to one of the street fairs we passed earlier on the run. There were food, clothing, and jewelry vendors as well as a band playing many covers of American songs. This event reminded us of Thursday Night Live in Lexington during the summer. We grabbed some snacks before heading to one of the ponds to relax, just like many other Danes. It was interesting to see that we all enjoyed the same things: good food, company, music, and scenery. We finished the evening with dinner at MaMeMi, a rather upscale Italian restaurant known for their pizzas and desserts. We all really enjoyed our time exploring this beautiful city and getting to experience more Danish culture first-hand.

Day 3 – ABB Denmark and Copenhagen

We started off this morning with a company visit to ABB Denmark, who focuses on the optimization of energy systems.  We learned about a project the company has been working on for several years in a former port and industrial area known as Nordhavn.  This area has transitioned to residential, and ABB has been working on innovative energy solutions to aid in the transformation to renewable energy use.  District heating is used for cooling and warming the buildings, using energy that would otherwise be lost during power generation at the garbage incineration plant.  Additionally, they have implemented a lithium-ion battery bank to help with managing power at peak periods and to close the gap between renewable energy generation and demand.  The company has been able to use this project to showcase their solutions and offerings to people from around the world, and we found it very interesting to learn how well the renewable energy sources work in Denmark, even though they were only implement around 30 years ago.   

After the company visit, we traveled to Nordhavn to see the projects that ABB is undertaking.  We enjoyed a quick break on a playground on top of one of the buildings before heading to the National Art Museum.  At the art museum we learned about both Danish and French artists and works.  Next, we took a canal cruise through Copenhagen, seeing many of the historic buildings from a new perspective.  This evening, most of us are heading to Tivoli Gardens, which served as Walt Disney’s inspiration for his theme parks.  There is also a free Danish hip hop concert that will help us learn more Danish culture.  Tomorrow is our free day, and plans vary from heading to Sweden for the day to biking around the city!

Day 2, May 9: Rockwool, outlets, tech institute, welcome dinner

We began our day with a business visit to Rockwool International. Rockwool makes an array of products from stone by breaking it down, spinning it into fibers, and reassembling it using a binding agent & heat. Their products include a variety of insulations, acoustic ceiling tiles, and substrates for horticulture, all of which are incombustible. They emphasized their business model is driven by sustainability and environmental responsibility. Our second business visit was to the Denmark Technology Institute. We met with environmental scientists who specialize in water resources. They explained how they are attacking issues faced by people across the globe. One of their systems was installed on a full scale in 2018 after about 17 years of research and development. Environmental responsibility and sustainability, as we learned in our time in the MBA, are becoming more important issues in business and it was great to see how businesses are placing these at the core of their business strategy.

Day 1

Nyhavn was once were sailors returned from long journeys

Hej fra København (Hello from Copenhagen),

Everyone else arrived early this afternoon in Copenhagen after a long journey and many hours spent waiting at JFK in New York City!

After checking in to our hotel and taking a little time to refresh, we enjoyed a walking tour of Copenhagen to get a layout for the city and learn about some of the city’s history.  Interestingly, most of today’s buildings were rebuilt after a couple of fires during the 1700s, making them relatively young compared to some European cities. Additionally, the significant international commodity trade of Copenhagen’s past can be readily observed, with many canals running throughout the city.  The city also served as the career home of Hans Christian Andersen, the fairytale author who has been cited as the inspiration for many Disney movies such as The Little Mermaid and Frozen.  

Today Copenhagen is a major design hub for furniture and fashion, as well as renewable industry, especially with wind energy, which already makes up 40% of the countries power supply.  Tomorrow we will be visiting two companies: Rockwool who utilizes stone in unique ways in the building industry and the Teknologisk Institut, which works with water management.  

Day -1 & 0

Travel and Adjust

Frederiksberg Palace Gardens

In an attempt to get ahead of the timezone adjustments and beat the jet lag before the program starts, I came over a day early. The rest of the group arrives tomorrow.

Traveling out of Cincinnati the day after Flying Pig Marathon and two days after the Kentucky Derby meant my first flight was filled with big hats and limping runners. After arriving in Copenhagen and getting settled in, I was able to go for a run and see a lot of the area from a different perspective.