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2010 Engineering/MBA Student Blog

Let's do this

May 31, 2010

By Zach Hatfield

Hello world! This is the first of many informative yet amusing posts following the comings and goings of a group of Engineering/MBA grads as they trek through the European countryside experiencing all that the EU has to offer.


What’s coming next

21 Jun 2010

by Tim Riley

We have hardly been in Manchester, England for a day, but it already feels like we have been here for a week from what we have experienced. The amount of new and interesting things we have been exposed to already is staggering. Trying to figure everything out, from how to get from place to place to whether of not to tip in a given restaurant, has been endless fun.

We are currently getting ready for our introduction dinner for the program, but we have a very busy week ahead. While here in the United Kingdom over the next week we will be learning about the EU as a whole and managing on a cross-cultural basis,  but we will also be taking a visit to Royal Brewery among other places. It should be quite an experience.

While we are leaving for Prague next Sunday, we will be returning to Manchester later in the trip. It should be interesting to see how our perspectives about and our confidence dealing with the EU has changed when we return. If the last day is any indication of what’s to come, it should be extraordinary.


Pounds, pences & the Quays

21 Jun 2010

by Zach Hatfield

The first six upon arrival from the tram with 6 weeks worth of luggage each.

Arrival at last! As it currently is only a few hours away from the arrival dinner here in Manchester, the excitement is most certainly building. After very long and turbulent travels, especially through customs, the group is almost entirely here and ready to begin what feels like the most exciting trip any of us have been a part of. Based out of Salford Quays (pronounced Keys), the group which now includes 8 out of the 9 BS/MBAs, a fellow SECer in an international business student from Florida and a student from Vancouver. We have taken in much of the sights and sounds that the city has to offer. It has been a great trip despite the challenging culture shock of not tipping 30% at restaurants, currency exchanges and excessive use of public transportation. All seem of good spirits and full of anticipation to see what the days to follow bring.

The lone downfall at this point seems to be lack of text messaging throughout the group, making communication essential in keeping the group together and fully enjoying the city, for it is far too big and foreign for most to tackle alone. I personally am already in love with the city. The old-timey architecture, slightly milder weather (really wish I would have packed a jacket) and friendly locals (despite the current struggles of both the English and US soccer — I mean football — teams in the world cup), lend this place to something foreign yet amazingly enjoyable. I am happy to bring you the first of many posts throughout this trip and look forward to what tomorrow brings. Cheers.


Welcome to the EU!

22 Jun 2010

by Luke Avery

Our first full day of classes is on the books! We were up early this morning to catch the bus to the University of Manchester Business School by 9 a.m. Today was an introduction to the European Union: why it was formed, its organization, function and where the best place to find to US soccer game on Wednesday is! Would you believe that England plays the same time we do?! Good luck to us finding the match on TV anywhere. In all seriousness, our professor was very entertaining and extremely knowledgeable. There are some individuals whom you can listen to for only a moment and know you should listen to every word they speak. Instant credibility!

I’ll reiterate what the others have already posted: we’re having a great time, the city/scenery is beautiful, and experience priceless! I look forward to future posts, where more information will be available to share. Until then, good night from Manchester.


We’re finally getting the hang of things

23 Jun 2010

by Sarah

I can’t believe day two is already over and done with! We’re starting to get the hang of things over here across the pond, but there are some things I don’t think we’ll ever get used to. No matter how long we’re over here, driving on the left side of the street is always going to seem weird. Every time we cross the street, we still look the wrong way to see if cars are coming. You think crossing the street on UK’s campus is difficult, try crossing the street in England where the cars are on the opposite side of the road!

But besides those few minor dilemmas, things are going great over here. In our second day of classes we discussed the European Union’s economy and monetary policies. We learned about the history of the EU, the past and current European financial conditions, and the value of the Euro over time. We’ve talked about these topics in our International Finance elective at UK; however, it was interesting to learn about the topics from the European perspective.

After five hours of class time, our professor decided to let us out early to catch some of the World Cup games. We decided to help support Mexico’s soccer team with some of our fellow classmates from Mexico. We wandered down the street just a few blocks from the university and found a nice little restaurant to watch the game. The locals gave us weird looks when we cheered and booed at the game, but we didn’t care. Unfortunately they lost, but at least we still have the U.S. to cheer on tomorrow after class. Luckily, after several hours of searching, we were able to find a restaurant in Manchester that will actually put the U.S. game on one TV for us to watch tomorrow. We’re all looking forward to relaxing after class tomorrow and watching the game! Let’s just hope we don’t get in trouble with any locals when we’re cheering on the United States!


Classes have kicked in, but looking the right way crossing the street has not

23 Jun 2010

by Zach Hatfield

Tram boarding station in front of Manchester Library at St. Peters Square

Today was a little more low-key than the days past, which ventured more near vacation status than anything else. But now that classes are in full swing a lot of us are beginning to realize how little we actually knew about the EU, the politics of it and how it relates to business. Business in the classroom thus far has been introductory and has set the stage for the rest of the week’s lectures, which are very easy to sit through. I must at this point mention that I greatly enjoy the professors we have and they do seem very similar to what we have grown accustomed to in the States, yet are very much enjoyable and love to interact with us, especially about our comings and goings around the city. It will be very beneficial to hear what each has to say as we broach topics such as Euro cross-cultural management and the EMU, which is the Economic and Monetary Union.

Now to the more light-hearted affairs. What a better time to ship nine noticeably American looking students into the biggest football city in the world during the World Cup. From walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk to constantly looking the wrong direction at intersections and the constant picture taking, we could not be any more the typical tourists and I do believe the greater Manchester area knows it. The running joke among the group has turned from light-hearted harassment about one member constantly eating American food, which is much easier to find than I had anticipated, and has transitioned to stop looking like such a tourist. As students studying abroad, much to the chagrin of the very nice woman at customs, we are here to hit the books and better enlighten ourselves intellectually and experience as much of this foreign local as possible. We have stumbled into so great places and seen a lot of the city – including the oldest building and what appears to be an incredibly enticing oyster bar, a chop house that was established in 1872 and is still cooking and Hyundai park where all the football matches are broadcast in an outdoor amphitheater – just by hoping on the tram and wandering around. Despite already starting to talk like the locals, and even throwing a few “Eh”s into conversations with the fairly large Canadian contingent among us, we have learned a great deal about the city, met some great people and seem to enjoy all that this city has to offer.

Before closing this post out I must mention the struggles this group had to overcome to locate a “telly” that would allow us to watch the United States’ final match in the group stage tomorrow. Unfortunately for us, the World Cup officials decided to schedule the U.S. and England to play simultaneously and finding a British pub or any place with a television that welcomes the bloody Yanks is quite the anomaly. We luckily found the lone Aussie bar in the city that has control to change TVs and despite throwing a few pounds their way to hold a spot for us, we are very excited to get out of class early make the 30 minute walk across the city to the U.S. embassy for the night and enjoy the U.S. moving on to the group stage. During our process of locating this bar we realized that this place is as into football as the Big Blue Nation is to basketball. We were literally forced to ask every bar keep, random local on the streets and even involve a professor to try and assist in locating an ally willing to sacrifice a screen on the day England takes the pitch, which has become a holiday for all people in this nation. It’s like trying to go to a sports bar in Lexington to watch Louisville play in the NIT at the same time Calipari and the Cats play in the Final Four. My projections for next year aside, this trip is well worth all the work it took to get here. Eleven months of grueling classroom learning about business and economics has been a great experience in itself, but this definitely a once in a life time opportunity that this blogger is not about to take for granted.


On remembering one’s bus pass

24 Jun 2010

by Tim Riley

Thanks to not remembering to place my bus pass back into my wallet instead of into my backpack (and therefore missing a bus I ran 100 yards for) the honor of writing today’s post falls to me. Which, while not ideal from my side of things, is at least OK because today’s classroom topic was definitely worthy of reporting on.

Currently the euro, the dominant currency in Europe, is undergoing a major crisis thanks to the effects of the worldwide financial crisis. Countries such as Greece and Spain have developed skyrocketing debt and budget deficits in the last few years, and because they share their currency with so many other countries in the European Union it has become a problem for the entire continent. The in-class debate did not limit itself to just ideas about how to fix the current problems — it also confronted the very idea of the European Union itself.

While there are movements by groups in the UK to turn away from the EU (such as the UK Independence Party), it is a much greater problem for those countries which use the euro as their currency. Because they are all tied to a single currency, these countries do not have independent control on a country-by-country level to manage their money supply like the United States and the UK do. Hence, numerous problems arise that would not normally exist for more independent currency holding countries. Additionally, outside of the economics of currency, the EU has often been seen by many as growing more and more important in terms of helping to shape legislation across Europe, which many groups see as negative.

There were arguments in class for and against the continuation of the euro and EU membership for various different countries and, as expected, no consensus could really be reached. It was still an amazing chance to learn about a subject I knew very little about.

Tomorrow, we head to Edinburgh, Scotland, after taking a tour of a local company in the morning. Should be another exciting day on our trip through Europe.


Find me if you need anything…

28 Jun 2010

by Luke Avery

Waiting for the flight to Prague, I finally have a chance to recap one of the more surreal experiences of my life to date: cheering on the U.S. side in a pub overloaded with Brits.

Words cannot describe my experience on Wednesday, but I suppose I can try. First some background: 1) The U.S. played Algeria the same time England played Slovenia. 2) Englishmen love football more than Kentuckians love basketball…crazy. I know. 3) We searched for a place for four full days that would show the match, but there were a few problems which would not permit any pub, hotel, or university TV to show the game. After days of searching we secured a spot in the ONLY pub in the city who would accommodate us, after paying a reservation fee, of course.

When class ended Wednesday at 2:30, we ran a couple miles to the pub where we were ushered to the table by a barbarian of a bouncer, wading through hundreds of rabid Englishmen waiting for their countrymen to take the pitch. After the bouncer roughly dispatched vagrants from our table, we were left to fend for ourselves, with a harsh warning, “Find me if you need anything!” I prayed we didn’t need anything. We posted up at the end of the bar in front of the one TV playing the U.S. game in the whole city. Eventually, we were joined by other Americans from the program, as well as Canadians, Mexicans, Hondurans, Chinese…you get the picture. Quite an odd bunch we were in a place like this.

The atmosphere was electric to say the least! Curses flew simultaneously with hugs and chants for the home team. We made friends with the locals surrounding our table, especially after England went up 1-0. U.S. scored only to be disallowed by the ref for offsides, wrongly. The entire place took a breath, and were momentarily confused when we let a cheer loose for the goal, the locals not knowing we were amongst them until that point. From there it was a bit amusing watching the various reactions from the crowd; some were for us, most against us, and some too drunk to care. Every cheer we’d let fly made the Brits turn to our corner to see the fuss. Attention was fully focused on us after the English side had dispatched Slovenia. We needed a goal to avoid elimination. Time was running short, when in the 92nd minute the Yanks finally netted an improbable goal. I erupted, yelling at the top of my lungs! My head was somehow in the rafters, though I’m not sure how, such was the celebration. I must have been standing on a chair! All the Brits celebrated with our group of 25+. As the match concluded we all shared in the glory as both teams made it through to the next round.

Until next time!


BS/MBAs live and unplugged in Prague

29 Jun 2010

by Zach Hatfield

Outside Prague Castle at the beginning of the three-hour, on-foot tour of the city.

Thus far the biggest challenge to the whole lot of us has been a lack of internet access. The generation that is always connected has had the “wireless-ness” taken away like what Calipari has done to recruits of Louisville and Washington recently. Bad puns aside, the whole gamut of challenges that the group has had to endure compares not one iota to the lack of a WiFi signal. Faced with significant language barriers, dull and egg-less breakfasts and a lack personal space and air conditioning in our living quarters, nothing seems relevant compared to the plight of not being connected to the rest of the world.

Currently at the hotel Krystal in Praha, Prague, we again are stuck without any form of internet access. That makes two, or possibly three, countries this group of students has had to conquer without being able to check our bloody Facebook messages. AHHH! I need to know the latest news from the States, like what John Wall’s first commercial is like and who drafted Patrick Patterson, not to mention the strain it puts on the four of us bloggers to make posts about our journey. Drastic measures have been taken and each new place of arrival can be associated with small search parties being sent out by foot to roam the streets, iPhone in hand, in search of a free signal like early navigators used compasses to travel the open seas. Interesting indeed, but not unmanageable for us intellectually enlightened students of higher learning institutions from all over the Western Hemisphere.

Despite the overall dissatisfaction with the quality of hotel servers in Europe, I must admit the group is most certainly enjoying the trip, if not just each other’s company. It is truly amazing how 75 students, from the U.S., Canada and Mexico can be on the same page from the get-go. Even more amazing is that, outside the nine of us from the MBA program, I’d dare to venture that 90% of the group had no significant interactions with one another leading up to the start of the program. So you can take away our privileges as tech-savvy youngsters, but you cannot take away our ability to enjoy ourselves from across the pond. Not a bad way to spend five weeks, eh? Cheers.


Long walks and air conditioning…

29 Jun 2010

by Tim Riley

Europe is an amazing place. So many cool things to see and do. A new adventure to be had everyday. But it’s not all perfect. If our experience is any indication, Europe does not mind sweating a little. If you love air conditioning, then be prepared to run for the shade because you are not going to find it.

Flora Baumlin, an member of our MBA class from France, had previously warned me to be prepared, but after a lifetime of hanging out in nice, cool buildings, dealing with the constant elevated temperatures of all places in Europe has been quite interesting. I feel like we are all slowly dealing with the difference, but it was definitely tough to adjust to during the early going.

When not sticking our heads into a refrigerator to stay cool, we have found time to explore Prague in the Czech Republic. Yesterday we went on quite a long walking tour throughout Prague and saw many of the major sights in town. We saw the presidential residence, the large cathedral near it and some amazing views of the town as a whole.

Being in the Czech Republic is the first time we have had to deal with a language barrier on this trip, but thankfully English signs and information is still easy to come by. It will be interesting to see how we feel about dealing with it after three weeks. I am sure we will be much better with the process, but we will most likely begin to yearn just to be able to speak to an employee who’s guaranteed to have some idea of what exactly we are trying to buy.




Three countries in 24 hours

29 Jun 2010

by Sarah

The past few days have been a whirlwind! Friday morning we had our first company visit to Royal Brewery in Manchester. They manufacture Heinken, Kronenburg 1664 and several other beers served worldwide. Learning the history of the company, the brewing process and the bottling process was extremely interesting. The best part of the whole visit was the ridiculous outfits we had to wear to tour the plant. Bright orange safety vests and baseball caps didn’t exactly complement our business attire. Unfortunately, at the end of the tour we didn’t get any free samples. I guess they don’t plan on giving samples at noon. It was probably a good thing we didn’t get samples because we certainly didn’t have time to. As soon as the tour was over, a large group of us booked it back to the hotel to pack and leave to catch our train to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Our entire MBA group, along with other students from Mexico, Canada, and Ecuador, were heading to Edinburgh for the night to enjoy our weekend off before we jetted off to Prague. We had the time of our lives in Edinburgh. After we survived the 3-hour crowded train ride, where the majority of us spent a lot of our time standing and waiting to find unreserved seats, we arrived in one of the most beautiful cities I have seen thus far. The second you walk out of the train station, you are surrounded by beautiful old architecture, parks and culture. We finally felt like we were in Europe. Due to our inner tourists, we stopped several times along the way to our hotel to take pictures and just take in the city. Finally, about an hour later walking, we arrived to our hotel. We had never been more excited to spend the night at a Holiday Inn. You forget how much you appreciate the basic American amenities. Even just the little things made our stay in Edinburgh much better than our past stay at the European Etap hotel. No bunk beds, a full bathroom, more than one plug and AC had never sounded so good. Unfortunately we were only in our “luxurious” hotel to change and sleep. We spent the rest of the night enjoying wonderful Scottish food, drinks and culture. On Saturday we woke up bright and early to see the castle, enjoy a tour of the underground city, enjoy the culture and shopping and indulge ourselves in one last meal before we headed back to Manchester.

We arrived back in Manchester late that night, packed our bags, and left for the airport early Sunday morning to fly to Prague. Trying to get 70 college students with 6 weeks worth of luggage to the airport is a job in itself. We eventually made it though safely to Prague and almost landed ourselves in a 5 star hotel until the bus driver realized he was taking us to the Krystal Palace (a 5 star hotel) instead of the Hotel Krystal (our hotel). It’s a shame he realized it! After we finally made it to our hotel, we ventured down to the city center with one of our professors and realized why everyone says Prague is their favorite city in Europe. It is absolutely breathtaking with old buildings, street cafes and small shops. However, we did learn at dinner that night that there might be a slight language barrier while here in Prague! We started off the week on Monday with our first class here in Prague and learned about the Czech Republic’s history and economy. We were lucky enough to take a 5 hour tour of the city and see the castle, old town and old town square and learn all about the history of Prague. It has been amazing here and we can’t wait to see what other adventures we can encounter here in Prague!


$1 = 20 Coronas??

27 Jun 2010

by Luke Avery

We just arrived in Prague and we’re about to exchange currency for Coronas, but we’re really confused. First, we don’t know how we can carry so many Coronas and furthermore they’re likely to get warm before we can spend them. Depreciation must be a problem here.

In all seriousness, the Czech Republic uses KORUNAS as its currency. Even though the Czech Republic is part of the European Union, it is not part of the euro-using Eurozone. In fact only 16 of the 27 EU members are part of the Eurozone. The are several criteria that must be met as prior to joining, mostly related to economic stability: debt/GDP, inflation rates, etc. The founding assumption is that each member will eventually join. However, the United Kingdom will likely never be a member of the Eurozone, which is making the Brits seem pretty sharp right about now. The economic troubles in Greece, Spain and Portugal as well as the addition of eastern European countries as of late is dragging the price of the euro down and the stronger countries (i.e. Germany, France) down with it.

There is great debate right now about what the future holds for the euro. Most supporters dismiss the recent troubles as growing pains, but others such as the great George Soros predict far worse consequences, even hinting at the possibility of another great war. Soros has made billions speculating on the rise and fall of currency. If you’re interested in the financial world, especially short selling or international trading, take a look at George Soros or the Financial Times.

Until next time, I’ve got some Coronas to spend before they get too hot!


Cuando llegamos

2 Jul 2010

by Zach Hatfield

Imitating the Kafka statue outside of Old Town Square.

I cannot properly express how excited I am about the upcoming trip to Barcelona. But before I get started explaining what is ahead of us, I need to reiterate that the experience in Prague was amazing. The sights, the sounds, the hustle and bustle of the city was something so different from Manchester that you couldn’t help but be blown away by it. Prague is very tourist-centric, but the group had the best of both worlds by staying outside the city limits and hopping the tram and train into and out of the city every day. If not anything else, everyone most certainly will have gained a keen insight on the mastery of using public transportation during this trek through the EU. For those of you out there who haven’t seen the capitol of the Czech Republic, I suggest getting out here to visit. Prague Castle, Old Town Square and the Prague Clock are in themselves worth the trip.

On to the next one. Three countries down, and only one flight stands between us and Barcelona. As we are currently sitting in the Prague airport desperately trying to get the free WiFi to run a bit faster, the excitement for Spain builds. Personally I am ecstatic to get to a country where I can “speak” the language. It’s hard to not be able to communicate effectively and was quite a headache for me to not be able to properly say “please” and “thank you.” So I am happy to be headed somewhere I will be able to communicate in the native tongue. I will now put all my Spanish schooling to use and I do believe that my minor will come in handy and allow for smooth sailing this next week. As I have been brushing up on my Español with the students from Mexico, this leg of the voyage lends itself to be yet another great chapter in this trip across the pond.

On the menu for Barcelona is a tour of the city by coach, a company visit and two lectures. With a few days of downtime this Fourth of July weekend, the group plans to see as many of the sights as possible and take in a fútbol match or two. But since it is the weekend of our great country’s independence I need to ask a favor of everyone back home: would everyone take the time to light a sparkler and eat a hot dog for me, because although I will be having a great time, I hesitate to say this but, it does tend to make me a little homesick. Until next time, salud.


Want to start your own business? Move to Barcelona.

5 Jul 2010

by Luke Avery

One of the primary sources of municipal and state growth is accomplished through entrepreneurialism. Kentucky and Lexington have admittedly struggled in these areas in past years, but recently they have begun a cultural change in order to foster innovation, especially in the high-tech sector, including engineering.

When you think of innovation in the highest levels, you might think of Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Tokyo and maybe a few more places in the States and in the rest of the world. One city which doesn’t come to mind now, but likely will in the future, is Barcelona. Today we visited Aramiento de Barcelona (Barcelona City Council) where the model/system for urging entrepreneurship in the city, known as BarcelonActiva, was presented to us. Imagine for a minute you have an idea for a business in Kentucky. Where do you go? Who do you turn to for guidance? What are the necessary steps that need to be taken? What paperwork needs to be on file? And with whom? Where can funding be acquired? Etc. When I was ready to start my own business in the commonwealth, I had all of these questions and no one to answer them. BarcelonActive was established for the sole purpose of providing these answers and more. A staff of professionals with backgrounds in various fields provides mentoring, evaluation and advice through a series of seminars and open office hours — for free! Professional advice is only one of the many services available free of charge to city residents.

Barcelona’s model for fostering start-ups may be the premier entrepreneurial support environment in the world and could be implemented in any city. Actually, other cities have already begun to take notice. Cape Town, South Africa, and a few others have undertaken joint ventures with the Barcelona City Council.

I don’t like to insert my own opinion into this University sponsored blog, but wow what a place Lexington would become if this type of system was put into practice. Take a look for yourself!

It sounds nice, you say, but what are the results? Well, 76% of the businesses started with help from the program were still in business four years later. I’d say that makes this model worth a look by any American city.


Getting ready for our project

6 Jul 2010

by Tim Riley

Today, the class split in half. Some went on a tour while others stayed behind to learn more skills for our upcoming industry analysis project. Unfortunately for the UK group, today we got the honor of sitting in the classroom. (We go on the tour tomorrow.)

A big portion of our grade for this study abroad program is a group paper wherein we analysis different industries in Europe. Some groups choose to focus on areas like beer and wine, while others are looking into things such as renewable energy. For each area of focus we were handed a large, complete European industry analysis and asked to answer a number of in-depth questions about its details. While not having the outside research to worry about, the size of the analysis plopped in front of us was quite daunting.

In order to facilitate our efforts, we spent today going over types of analysis we could use to inform our paper. We reviewed concepts such as SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and Porter’s five forces that were covered in-depth during our study in the MBA program over the last year. After hearing about each for only a few moments, all we had done with them almost instantly came pouring back into my mind.

With the beaches of Barcelona only a train ride away it can sometimes be hard to focus on our work, but classes like today help keep us focused on our various tasks during this study abroad opportunity. That’s not to say I won’t be heading to the beach as soon as this is posted; however, I will not be doing so without being mentally challenged by trying to remember what exactly those five forces of Porter were.


Finishing up in Barcelona

7 Jul 2010

by Sarah

Well, I am sad to say we are wrapping up our trip in Barcelona. It has been amazing here. Not only are our hotel, location, and amenities way above those of the other cities, but the city itself has so much to offer. We spent almost six full days here in the city with plenty of free time, and I still feel as though we didn’t get to do everything this city has to offer. There’s sight seeing, delicious Spanish cuisine, beaches, history, and of course cheap shopping for the girls! In between all that, we were able to squeeze in some educational activities as well.

Today, we got out of the classroom and took a trip to Mercabarna, a wholesale distributor of produce, fish, flowers, and meat products. It is the largest food product center in the south of Europe. We were able to tour a few of their pavilions housing their fresh fruits and vegetables, and learn about their supply and distribution of their products. We had toured a few distribution warehouses throughout our MBA program, but never one this large. It was interesting to see how similar the setup and operations of their warehouses is to those back in the US. The best part of the entire tour was the opportunity to buy their produce. If we had access to a kitchen and a place to store the food, I definitely would have purchased some of their products. Their fruit was delicious!

After our tour of Mercabarna, we had the rest of the day free to explore the city one last time. We decided to head to the city center and watch the Spain vs. Germany World Cup game with the rest of the locals. We have been lucky the past few weeks. Every city we have been in to watch the World Cup games, the team has won! Tonight was no different! Spain won and is going to the final game. But based on the way the locals filled the streets and celebrated all night, you would have thought they had won the finals! It’s too bad we won’t be here to cheer them on in the finals! Instead, we are heading to Grenoble, France, tomorrow morning. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are not ready to leave Barcelona, but we are ready for a change of scenery. Hopefully Grenoble can live up to Barcelona.


Grenoble here we come

8 Jul 2010

by Zach Hatfield

The four amigos and the massive Barcelona skyline

Hello and buenos tardes from across the pond. Sorry for the long absence but the city of Barcelona proved a valiant opponent to the group’s free time over the past six days. Tours of the city, plenty of time at the beach and a couple of interesting lectures and presentations sprinkled in with a few troubled days of poor internet signals made the stay here seem to fly by. Generally accepted as the best of the cities visited, it became clear that it was going to be hard to leave. It was very enjoyable to see how active the city is in promoting the creation and growth of its entrepreneurs — as much as it was to take in a bull fight — and generally find out that my Spanish is not as good as advertised. Although the general consensus was that we could stay there the rest of our trip, we at least got to end it with a bang. What could have been better than being able to again take in the sights and sounds of a major city during the world cup. Not as unique an experience as the England match weeks back, but it was still very entertaining to watch España move on their first appearance in the championship of the world cup.

Next up is a long trip via coach through Spain into Grenoble, France. A very jam-packed next few days await us as we have multiple company visits, lectures and even a little wine tasting excursion. With two free days in both Grenoble and in Paris, the thought is to sit back, relax and take in the French culture and continue building upon the success and enjoyment of this excursion thus far. It will be hard to top seeing a bull fight, finding the two best restaurants of my life and the ocean, but I am optimistic that I will enjoy France because it is a change of scenery. The great thing about this trip is that we get to experience so much variety that we hardly have time to think about not enjoying ourselves. The challenge has been and will continue to be finding enough time in the day to write down what we saw and make the mandatory phone calls back home. (Sorry mom, but it’s a challenge that I think everyone has willingly accepted.) Shew..what a hard life we have over here. Well, I could most certainly speak for hours about what we’ve seen thus far, but I think it best to spare you and just say I am excited for what the future holds. Until next time. Au revoir.


Mountain climbing, Swiss banks and generally butchering the French language

14 Jul 2010

by Zach Hatfield

Halfway up the mountain to the Bastille in Grenoble

Today was yet again another trek through the French countryside en route from Grenoble to Paris, France. France has been quite a change of pace from the previous two destinations and was a very entertaining and at the same time relaxing stop for us. The group was introduced to its first classroom setting since Manchester at the Grenoble Graduate School of Business, with a lecture on the current state of the EU and some of the current happenings with expansion and a short but interesting discussion on the defiance of Switzerland to join. Also included in the days agenda was a crash course in French society. Who would have thought the French were somewhat stuck up and sarcastic? It was although very interesting to hear some of the happenings with the society and government and then experience it first hand as we struggled to communicate our food and drink orders the entire week. Forced to revert back to pointing like a child who yet has a grasp of communicating its thoughts, it was very humbling and a bit embarrassing to not be able to read a menu and even say what we desired. Thank goodness the McEmbassy was right around the corner from the hotel for I fear some would have gone a little hungry through this leg.

Up next is Paris for the celebration of the country’s Republic Day and lots and lots of sightseeing. It really is amazing to think that this journey is almost over. We are hitting what some would call the back stretch of this race and we get to spend it enjoying the sights and sounds of two of the biggest tourist destinations in both France and England. The big date though that everyone is regretting is Monday, June 19. That unfortunate day is when we return back to Manchester and are set to work tirelessly until our presentations, final paper and exam are completed and this wonderful trip can be concluded. Simply put this trip has been a blast. Everyone seems to have made some very close acquaintances and despite the massive amounts of pounds, euros, franks and crowns spent, it has been worth every penny. I have greatly enjoyed every aspect of not always having internet, air conditioning and Sportscenter to watch while I eat my cereal every morning, and it has most certainly been a pleasure to bring it to you. Until next time.


Goodbye Grenoble, we hardly even knew ye

14 Jul 2010

by Luke Avery

On our last night in Grenoble, France, I’ll give you a rapid overview of our time here. We arrived overheated and somewhat exhausted after a 9-10 hour bus ride from Barcelona on Thursday. After learning a bit of the city, Friday marked our first and only lecture for our time here through the Grenoble school of Business. Grenoble is a “college town.” There are somewhere between 60-80k students in a town of 400k+. Quite a large percentage. Which makes the atmosphere and the energy of the city pretty fun. Our lecture lasted about 7 hours and consisted of two distinct topics.

  1. France and the EU – attitudes, positions, moving forward.
  2. French culture – home life, work environment, and social norms.

For better or for worse, France is a very different place from the United States! Moving on, that evening we had a wine tasting for the Manchester Business School students as well as some foreign exchange students from Grenoble. See it with your eyes, smell the aroma, and dissect it with your mouth….And make up some words to describe it! I got pretty good by the end. “This one’s high alcohol content is balanced by the amount of sugars, which compliments the low acidity and fruits. -or- This one smells like cooked fruit.” Lets just say the instructor pulled it off. He even mentioned something about rusty carrots??

We had the weekend free. A bunch of us hopped up to Annecy to see the town and enjoy a day on the lake. The water was unbelievably clear and the most beautiful blue. There are mountains springing up from three sides, right out of the water. And it was so refreshing as hot as it has been! After spending a few hours there, myself and four friends drove into the Alps to catch a stage of the Tour de France. What an experience! The race I watched on TV for the last ten years was right in front of me!

On Sunday was an optional trip to Geneva. All but one of us ended up going, but man it was hard to get out of bed! We saw so many sights in just a few hours there, and we were back on the bus headed to Grenoble. We were able to secure a spot at an outdoor restaurant in Pace de Grennett with TVs to watch the World Cup Finals that evening. Some great food with great company at a great location.

This morning we had a company visit with Soitec. Originally, the company began operations producing SOI (silicon on insulator) wafers. As opposed to just silicon wafers, the insulator layer allows for higher performance with less energy consumption. Soitec’s growth has been nothing short of tremendous. Starting operations in 1992, Soitec enjoyed revenue of 4.6 million euros by 1996-1997, and just 10 years later, revenues sky rocketed to 372 million euros! In an effort to extend this growth trend, Soitec acquired Concentrix Solar, a producer of Concentrated Photovoltaic Cells. They hope to achieve 50% cell efficiency in the few years, which translates into roughly 30% system efficiency.

This should be our view in a few hours

A few or us are going for a hike up to La Bastille, a fort on the hillside overlooking the town. Tomorrow we’ll be crammed on the bus for another 6-8 hours.

Next stop, Paris!


Welcome to Paris

14 Jul 2010

by Tim Riley

We arrived in Paris, France, yesterday afternoon and began exploring the town immediately. after making making a quick hop onto the subway, we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe. This famous monument is a mammoth to behold in person and seems to attract large crowds all hours of the day. Trying to fit the entire structure into a picture along with oneself and still be able to see your face is a monumental task. For many, the night ended after seeing the Arc and eating dinner nearby, while others went to a fair that we found while journeying about the area. Either way, people needed to rest for today, Bastille Day.

This morning featured a plane show and military parade near the Arc de Triomphe and tonight will feature a spectacular firework show around the Eiffel Tower. At the moment, the weather is keeping down the festivities (hence the mid-day blogging), but it likely to clear up in time for us to enjoy the festivities tonight. In the mean time, we are resting and preparing for tonight and the upcoming events of the week.

Tomorrow we will be going to vineyard, which should be an interesting experience to compare to the various breweries we have seen. I expect a lot less industrial equipment and a quieter atmosphere, but I could be wrong. Either way, the next day we will be visiting the farmer’s market in Paris, which will include a 4 a.m. wake-up call for all of us. It will definitely be weird to start the day at what would be 10 p.m. back in Kentucky. Just another interesting experience in our long journey across Europe.


Paris, our last stop

15 Jul 2010

by Sarah

Well, we’ve reached our final city during our three weeks traveling before we head back to wrap up the program in Manchester. And man have these past few weeks flown by. We had our first scheduled event in Paris today and it was probably my favorite company visit so far. We took a visit to Moet and Chandon, the famous champagne maker. It started off with a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride through the countryside of France, which was absolutely beautiful. Although flying down small two-lane roads through the hills of the countryside on a large bus was nervewracking, it was definitely worth it. We learned the history and prestige of the company, how champagne is made, their secrets to perfecting their champagne, toured their wine cellars, and had a tasting at the end. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the entire wine cellar because it spanned 18 miles of underground caves! But it was mindblowing to see all the thousands and thousands of bottles of champagne below ground, and the entire process each bottle goes through. Just the basic champagne they make sits two to three years before it is sold, and the high end line of Dom Perignon can sit anywhere from seven to 40 years! No wonder these bottles can be so pricey! But the expensive prices didn’t stop most of the group from buying souvenirs and presents from the gift shop. I mean how many times can you say you visited the prestigious Moet and Chandon and bought an expensive bottle of champagne. Now the question is how we’re going to get all our bottles back home!

Tomorrow we have an early start to our day. We head out at 4 a.m. to visit the famous Rungis market, the largest fresh market in the world. It sells everything from meats and cheeses to flowers and vegetables. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to buy some souvenirs from there as well, but for a lot cheaper than the champagne today!


Back to work!

19 Jul 2010

by Luke Avery

We’re back in our home city of Manchester for another week before heading to London to wrap it up. This week is devoted to preparation of an industry analysis of our choice. The Kentucky contingent is split between two industries. One group is covering Renewable Energy Sources in the EU, and the other, Automotive. To be perfectly honest, for our group, after our Masters education, this assignment is a breeze. We are able to utilize concepts and tools learned over the past year. On a personal note, I’m excited to learn about the renewable energy climate in Europe. As a member of the Solar House team I had a taste of Photovoltaics and Solar Thermal energy, and its a topic I have interest in for my future career, either developing new technologies or designing and implementing energy systems. In general, Europe has led the United States in economic trends, especially in the renewable energy sector. The EU has set a goal of achieving 20% renewable energy usage by 2020. A lofty goal, as only 8% of energy consumption currently comes from renewable sources. New legislation and rapid innovation will be needed in the coming years, so it should be an exciting time for European companies in the renewable market space.

This is just a taste of what we’ll be working on this week. Its been a wild ride the past 4 weeks and I think I speak for all of us when I say that returning to a sense of normalcy is well received, even if it is in the form of writing an industry analysis! Stay tuned the rest of the week as we should be updating you on the state of our projects, as well as any side-bar posts we may dream up. If everything goes as planned, I will be writing a post on the European rail industry, its advantages/disadvantages to the US highway system, etc. (mostly its advantages) Until next time


My energy could use some renewing at this point

20 Jul 2010

by Zach Hatfield

After the group changed our potential energy by 710 steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower

Hello and good morning to everyone back home and welcome to the next edition of trekking through the EU BSMBA style.  It has been a crazy couple of days for us as we have tackled Paris in three days, London in one and after a few gut wrenching hours on bus, we are now back to work and in the final stages of our schooling.  The whole lot of us sans Mr. Riley, are about to finally give up our ranks as students of higher learning and exchange them for paying insurance, taxes and other miscellaneous grown up things.  For me, this feeling of being close to never paying tuition again is a little overshadowed by the fact that Europe has been a blast and it will be hard to leave.  Granted most have been bitten by the homesick bug at this point, we still would not have traded this experience for anything.   We have basically been chauffeured  through six countries, given room and one meal a day, in exchange for two weeks worth of schooling and a plethora of interesting and worthwhile company visits and talks.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself.  The only thing that now remains is the continual progress towards completing 7,000 words amongst our groups and 60 multiple choice questions on the European Union.  Not quite as intimidating as a basketball team walking into 24,000 strong at Rupp to take on our Cats, but still a challenge to get back to work after all we have been through these past several weeks.

As Luke previously mentioned the groups have been divided into squads, sorry for the soccer analogy during baseball season, of four to six people matched with an industry report of around two hundred pages, in search of arranging thousands of words together to share our thoughts and impressions of said industry.   I myself, like Luke, was very interested in the renewable energy industry here in the EU because of my experiences back at UK.  I was a part of the solar car team, and actually worked with the team as part of my senior design project.  So having a little insight on PV and other solar and even geothermal energies, I was more than excited to delve into what other forms of energy was in the works for generating heat and electricity across the pond.  Also from my work experience as a HVAC and plumbing designer, I know how important energy efficiency is and that it is of the utmost importance to reuse as much energy as possible in any system.  Within the RES group, I have been tasked with researching the driving factors of the industry and spent much of my day yesterday, we spent almost seven hours working on campus without batting an eye, researching the current technologies and where they were going, not to mention the political, social and economic factors that will drive this industry in the future.  It was so interesting to see the numerous methods that are being used and or are in the developmental stages of generating renewable energy.  The most interesting technology I found was the salinity gradient method.  This is a method that collects the energy associated with the salinity gradient and harnessing it using a pressure-retarded reverse osmosis process where fresh water mixes with salt water at the mouth of rivers.  I am very excited to tackle this project because it is very relevant to my studies back at school and because it is of great importance to our generation as a whole.  This week will be full of days like yesterday I am sure, but it is almost relaxing to get back into work mode before we close out this trip.  I myself need it because I have all of one day off before getting back to work when this trip is all said and done.   Until next time.  Cheers.


Papers and Tests!

21 Jul 2010

by Sarah

We’re finishing our last few days here in Manchester and it’s a bittersweet feeling.  On one hand we want this week to be over with so we can be done with our test and our paper.  On the other hand, once this week is over with, we know that means the Manchester study program is over and everyone will head their separate ways.  Some people will head back home and some, like us, will continue their travels across Europe another few weeks.  So even though we are ready for Friday to get here so we can have our farewell dinner and party, we have all been working extremely hard these past few days.  We haven’t had any formal class time or scheduled events for the program this week, but we have still been at the school almost all day, every day working on our final papers.  It’s like we are back in undergrad in the RGAN lobby working through the night on homework or cramming for a test. 

I, along with five other of the engineers/MBA students from Kentucky, and a graduate student from Florida, have been assigned the topic of the automobile industry in Europe for our industry analysis.  It has been very interesting to see how the financial crisis and American car companies’ struggles have affected the European automobile industry.   They are encountering a lot of the same challenges as the US industry, including environmental sustainability and economic instability issues.  Our group, being full of engineers who have worked for car manufacturers, already knew a lot of information about the industry, making our paper come along very quickly.  After a group discussion of our thoughts on the topic and how to divide up the paper on Monday, we all immediately went to work writing our parts and putting the paper together.  So now we have finished our paper with three days to spare!  This gave us all more time today to relax this morning and then start studying for our test tomorrow.  And by studying I mean frantically memorizing all the dates and facts we need to know about the European Union.  However, I can’t complain since this is the first and only test we have during this 5 week European Study abroad program.  Even though we haven’t had any formal school work (i.e. tests, papers, presentations) until this week, we still have learned a lot about the EU and its economy and culture just by travelling to the different countries the past 3 weeks and sitting in on lectures and company visits in each country.

So tonight I’m sure everyone is finishing up their study sessions for our test tomorrow.  Then there will be the last minute crammers who get in a few more hours of studying tomorrow morning before the exam in the afternoon.  Once the exam is over tomorrow, I am done with the program and can relax and enjoy my last two days in Manchester!  Unfortunately, some students still have to finish up their papers for Friday.  But overall, I can’t believe this program is winding down.  The past 5 weeks have flown by.  Luckily, I have an extra week in London to enjoy after Manchester, with no added weight of tests or papers on my shoulders!


are you still there?

28 Jul 2010

by Luke Avery

Hello everyone! Sorry for the blog’s absence! Internet is hard to come by in London believe it or not. Everywhere has a pay-scheme set in place. The one cafe we have found close to our hotel closes fairly early in the evening, so getting here and posting something has been difficult. And unfortunately, the sickness bug has hit our group a little bit. Nothing too serious! Apparently, running non-stop for 6 weeks, eating mostly fast food, and sleeping very little is bad for the immune system. Who knew??

But don’t worry, we’re back on track, ready to finish the week with some quality posts. In addition, each of the 4 bloggers will be posting a ‘wrap-up’ or summary of the trip in the coming days!



Foggy London-town part II

28 Jul 2010

by Zach Hatfield

Inside the Tower of London after viewing the Crown Jewels

The final week is among us.  As the group valiantly struggles through thoughts of home and the now departed majority of the MBS group, we are finding London part II to be very exhausting.  During the past two company visits, Lloyd’s Insurance and FA Wembley, as reluctant  as I am to say, I struggled to stay as attentive as I would have liked.  Despite my struggles, I feel very confident in saying, as a group, we feel they are two of the most influential visits we’ve had during this amazing journey.  The building alone at Lloyd’s is something unforgettable, not to mention the amazing business plan and inter-workings of the “marketplace” from day to day.  When you think of underwriters, insurance brokers and 85 syndicates within one remarkable building, is it just me, or do you think of worker bees within a beehive?   If that image doesn’t come to mind, make a trip to foggy London-town, visit Lloyd’s and see for yourself.  Paired with that, throw in the English National football team stadium, and you have two of the most recognizable structures in all of London, sorry Big Ben.  FA Wembley, wow, words evade the tongue when thinking about this magnificent structure.  Let me start by saying as a design mechanical engineer, a structure like Lloyd’s that has all of the mechanical systems outside the shell of the building, is more than just a building, it’s a masterpiece.  But as an avid follower of most sports, and yes dad sorry to say soccer will now be a part of my repertoire, FA Wembley is almost unfathomable.  Imagine a house built to entertain 90,000 of the world’s most energetic and die-hard fans, that is not supported by the cement pillars that we have come to know back in the states.  The stadium off the Wembley park stop on the underground, is actually held upright by a system of cables and an arch that stands 133 meters tall.  It is amazing to see what we as current citizens of the globe can design and build in modern times, especially since I have been immersed in some of the oldest and most beautiful architecture that exists in all the world.

I have already thrown a lot at you and I do apologize for that, and not to mention the long wait between posts, but the last test of our college careers, a karaoke night with 63 new friends, and transport to London has finally awarded the group a few days of relaxation.  Even though the accommodations here in London are generally regarded as the best of the trip, we again lack a direct connection to the internet.  Luckily we have found the local Panera, a cafe called Pret a Manger, who has unwillingly accepted our presence so that we may share our travels with everyone back home.  So as I sit here amongst the hustle and bustle of the evening train traffic, at this very nice establishment,  I want to close by saying this trip has definitely has been one of the highlights of my young life and I again feel privileged to be able to share my insights with you.  I will be back one last time to wrap up the trip as a whole and I promise I will try and keep it as short as possible, quite the challenge for me if you haven’t already noticed.  So until next time.  Cheers.


Only a Few Days to Go

29 Jul 2010

by Tim Riley

After over a month of travel across Europe, things are finally beginning to draw to a close on our journey. After having been so many places and seen so many things, we are all exhausted but still trying to enjoy what time we have left. With much of our classwork drawn to a close and an extended period of time in London, the group has really had a chance to explore throughout London to see many of its famous highlights in addition to simply learning about the city itself.

For our school duties we have been to Lloyd’s of London and seen the world’s largest insurance market in action, but we have also had the opportunity to spend what little money we had left traveling throughout London’s extensive shopping district. While we all spent yesterday morning traveling through the same doors as famous athletes and musicians at Wembley stadium, I personally spent the afternoon getting lost trying to find London’s most famous comic book store, The Forbidden Planet. It was a great time upon arrival, but it would have been an even better time had the London town commission created any sort of logical road marking system.

In any event, the group as a whole is excited about returning to the states, but well aware that it is still vital to enjoy the time we have left here. Anything left undone in the next few days is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. We spend tomorrow away from London at a winery before returning for dinner at a Medieval themed restaurant. After that, some of group departs while some still have the weekend. Either way, the clock is ticking, and it is time to get moving.


Waiting Game

1 Aug 2010

by Luke Avery

The program is officially over, and the waiting game to come home starts! Two, Daniel and Sarah, have already left, and the rest of the UK group flies out in the wee-hours Monday morning. This trip has been so amazing, its hard to put into words. Our last official day saw the group travel to Denbie winery for a specialized tour. English Wine. I doubt you’ve ever heard that term before. Our first presentation, after the wine tasting and brief tour, was conducted by the Marketing Manager. Her job, in so many words, is to add ‘English Wine’ to your vocabulary. No easy task. One of the most important aspects of Denbie’s business model is tourism, visits, gift shops, events, etc. etc. Anything you think a winery could possibly do besides wine, Denbies does. In fact, about half of their revenue comes from other sources than sales of wine! Pretty incredible. Next the vineyard master took us out in the fields to talk about the physical aspect of the business. We all want to start our own winery now!

That night, the group was treated to an authentic Medieval Dinner! It was set-up like we were the esteemed guests of the King himself, entertained, fed, and served as such, complete with a sword fight, a juggling jester, singing minstrels, and wenches to serve! It was quite to way to end a terrific 6 weeks!


Back in the States

3 Aug 2010

by Sarah

I’m writing this final post from the comforts of my own home back in the U.S.  You don’t realize how much you take for granted every day until you are away from home.   Air conditioning, hundreds of TV channels, unlimited refills, country music, and free ketchup/condiments are just a few of the little things that I have taken advantage of since I have been home.  However, there are a lot of things that I already miss about Europe, such as the street side cafes on every corner, the mild weather, the delicious food and drinks, and of course everyone we met during the program.  I can’t believe how fast the past 6 weeks have flown by.  It seems like just yesterday I was stressing trying to determine how I was going to fit 6 weeks worth of clothes and shoes into two suitcases!  Now I’m unpacking still trying to figure out how I fit 6 weeks worth of clothing plus all my Europe purchases home in two suitcases!!

Looking back, there are a lot of things that I am going to remember about this trip.  Yes, I will remember the sites that I saw, the people I met, the classes and company visits we attended, and the hotels we stayed in.  But I think the most important thing that I will remember during out travels was experiencing the cultures of all the different countries.  We learned about the tangible aspects of each country during lectures (i.e. history, economy, politics, and business structure), but we learned more about the countries themselves by simply living there and immersing ourselves in their culture for a few days.  We explored the cities, interacted with locals, visited their top businesses, learned some of the languages, and tried their local food/drinks.  This helped us to understand the different lifestyles, values, and standards that Europeans have as compared to Americans.  Understanding these differences is a huge asset to have when job searching because it puts us one step ahead of others.  We have the international business and cultural skills/experience to work globally.  So this program has been fun, but it has been educationally beneficial as well. 

I want to thank everyone for following our blog for the past 6 weeks.  I hope you all have enjoyed our posts are now inspired to embark on a European adventure of your own!