Posted April 18th, 2010 by robert_icsman
The first quarter of the semester is over, and tomorrow we start the last 6 weeks of school. I arrived in Breda on Jan. 28th, so it’s been almost 3 months abroad now. My time here has been very enjoyable thus far, and I look forward to my remaining time here.
The first quarter of school was wrapped up with presentations from every group in the IBV minor. There are 16 groups, split into 8 project groups. The quarter so far has consisted of some lectures, business trainings, group case discussions, and group work for the case projects that are assigned. Our main project this quarter was to explore the potential for Foster’s Group to export their wines from Australia into different countries in Europe. Each project group was assigned a different country, and after turning in a report, two people from each group were required to present their findings in front of the entire IBV student population, with teachers acting as the Foster’s Management Team. Students and staff were able to ask questions and make criticisms during the presentation. For some of the students from other countries, including myself, this was a new and strange thing to not give a presenter complete attention and hold questions and comments until the end. However, I believe it provides more of a business environment setting.
Matt and I, being American and speaking the best English of most of the students here, of course gave the presentations for our respective groups. We have a bit more responsibility in our roles during group work, as we are relied upon to make sure our group’s paper is properly written. It’s a challenge that I don’t mind to take on, and I’m sure Matt feels the same way.
This next quarter, each project group is working on a new external project with a real company. My group’s assignment is to look into the possibility of a cooperation being set up by lobster catchers in Nova Scotia, Canada, and exporting their lobsters in Europe, with Hungary, France, and the Netherlands being the first three countries that we will look into. This project should prove to be even more challenging than the last. It’s exciting because if we actually find out that this export plan is viable, we are going to take steps to actually start the business up.
There are a lot less exams here at Avans, as I’ve only taken two so far! However, I feel that school over here is challenging in a different way. Problem-based learning places a lot of emphasis on self-learning, something I’m not used to from going to school in the states.
Matt and I are also taking part in a graduation preparation course, in which we start a research proposal paper looking into a problem or the current conditions of an area of business. We are expected to write the paper so that it would be a helpful research for the company that we will intern for. We meet once a week (Friday morning… not cool after getting used to the BTC no Friday classes), and attend a lecture from one of the professors, and then split into small groups to critique each others papers and seek guidance from the other profs.
It’s been a wild ride here so far. I’ll try to stay updated with this blog, but for now I’ve got to get back to work on my above mentioned research paper.
Posted April 14th, 2010 by matthew_robinson64
Thanks Kenna and Butch sorry to keep you guys waiting so long between posts, I’ve been kinda lazy feeling, the atmosphere is much more laid back than EKU so it is easy to procrastinate ha ha. I actually wrote this post on my birthday but never posted it. Well… Anyways… Check it out!
March 22, 2010.
Today I am twenty-three years old! The international community of students here has gotten quite strong and my group of friends are great. On Saturday about fifteen of my friends organized a birthday dinner for me at a restaurant in the city center called Gaucho’s. Gaucho’s is a pretty pricey Argentinian steak house, and the food was seriously delicious. My friends asked me earlier in the week what type of food I wanted to eat on my birthday, and I said that I wanted a BIG steak, so it was perfect. The dinner went really well, and it was nice to have a decent meal. I really appreciated the gesture especially being so far from home. After dinner, it was raining, but we still rode our bike’s back to my apartment, which is only about five minutes away from the center. The rain didn’t seem to stop anybody that night. I had made a facebook event letting everyone know that they could come over to have a drink with me for my birthday and that we would go to this “hole-in-the-wall” bar in the center of town called Cafe Friends. Within an hour my apartment was packed. They sung happy birthday to me, and signed my wall in the kitchen; both in about 10 different languages.
Today on my actual birthday, Avans took all of the international students to visit Antwerp, Belgium. Antwerp is the 3rd largest port in Europe, and includes over 1,150km of railway track. In addition to the enormous amount of sea-trade coming in and out of the port, 80% of the worlds diamonds pass through Antwerp. The regulations and standards that govern the diamond trade are determined here as well. We started the day at eight in the morning when we met at Avans. After a 2-hour bus ride , we arrived in Antwerp where we met at a local business school for a lecture on differences in business culture within the US and Europe. The lecture highlighted punctuality, rapport, procedure, methods of problem solving, and the strengths associated with both the Us and European culture. The presenter was an American so I was really surprised to see how he had presented the information to make it seem like Americans were all lazy, wasteful, fat, and ignorantly self centered. The lecture was supposed to be about business and all it talked about was stereotypes of Americans and Chinese people. To say the least I was disappointed, and almost approached the speaker afterwards. For the next 30 min to 1 hour I was bombarded by jokes about how bad the US sucks. I never let it get to me though because everyone always wants to get the guys who are in 1st place, so I understand their jealousy because compared to Europe the US really does a great job at just about everything. Honestly Europe is just a different place all around and it is hard to compare something on a fair scale when things are just so different. Europe is a great place, and my opinion is as bias as theirs though so I guess you’ll just have to come make up your own mind. There is alot to be learned from all of the different cultures your surrounded by in Europe. The adaptations people have made here are awesome. I am jealous over and over again about their ability to speak so many languages with relative ease. I’ve heard conversations start in Dutch, switch to English, and finish in Spanish. If you drive 2-6 hours in any direction there is a whole different language, culture, architecture, history, and people, so adaptation is crucial. Ok back to my Antwerp story ha ha! After the awful lecture we collected in the city center and then divided up into small groups for a city tour. The tour included some beautiful churches, typical side street cafes, a three hundred year old slaughter house, a view of the harbor, the town hall, and my personal favorite, the first official stock exchange in the world. From the street you approact a common looking, arch shaped, green door which is propped halfway open during the day. You walk through the doorway and through a short hallway. It appears as if a building had been built around the old exchange because once you are though the hallway it leads to an open air type structure that appeared much older than the surrounding building. The stock exchange itself was in the shape of a square with pillars supporting an awning on 3 of the 4 sides. Vines climbed the fourth side, which was simply a verticle brick wall with some old looking windows. Cobblestone layed in a circular pattern constituted the majority of the floor in the exchange with mud and sand coming through the cracks as evidence of the age. I had my picture taken standing directly in the middle, where I imagine men yelling and trading hundreds of years ago. After the tour, we stopped for about a half hour to have lunch in the center of the city before we got back on to the busses.
Next on our trip we arrived at a company that handles the logistics of distribution for Roxy and Hurley clothing brands. There we toured their facility observing modern methods of inventory control, safety innovations, space management, as well as other logistical innovations. I was able to introduce myself to the plant’s operational manager. He was a down to earth guy about thirty years old. We discussed an internship over the summer too which would be great. Some of the things I noticed about their facilities included the fact that all incoming goods come in one side and outgoing leave from the other, the shape of the shipping and recieving walls was a diagonal stair step to allow more trucks to dock at a time, the warehouse was divided into 4 equal sections of 32,000 square meters divided by fire doors to minimize the loss in a fire, the warehouse shelves were placed very close together with a special forklift that can run on a track system between the shelves, every so often the concrete that the tires of the forklift ran on in the aisles was flattened to ensure stability when carrying a load, an elevated conveyor system could scan and direct specific boxes to their appropriate location for shipping, a picture of an employee was laminated and hung at the end of each rack to show who was responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the aisle.
Posted February 21st, 2010 by matthew_robinson64
We didn’t have school this past week, not because of snow, not because of administrative days, but because of a traditional carnival that literally takes over the city. It is absolutely crazy from an outsider’s point of view, everyone dresses up like Halloween for 5-6 days, and the otherwise modest Dutch people throw most rules and responsibility to the wind. Young and old people from the South of the country gather in the cities to party, but the northern part of the country looks down on this practice. It is simply called carnival, pronounced like carnivaal. The week festival is based partly on catholic tradition and partly on pagan rituals. As you may or may not know this past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church. Lent is a time of fasting, and will last 40 days and nights until Easter. In preparation for fasting, the people decide to go crazy for the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. In the US we have a similar celebration during this pre-Lenten time called Mardi gras! Both Carnival and Mardi gras end on Fat Tuesday. On Tuesday night in Breda the whole town gathers as two puppets dressed as a traditional Dutch farming couple are hoisted via crane over part of the canal. Once they are hoisted they are set a flame, this ritual is said to be left over from the pagan traditions that existed before Catholicism came to the Netherlands. Today most Dutch people do not follow any religion, and the churches have all been converted into public areas or school buildings, and even office buildings. Here in the Netherlands during the Carnival everything closes for about 6 days, Thursday through Tuesday. Future students, be careful to go to the grocery and stock up before this time. The stores here already have insanely short business hours; it’s easy to get caught without anything in your fridge if you are not careful. I had to pedal my bike clear across town to find a convenient store that was still selling bread, milk, deli meat, and cheese, but I had to pay a pretty penny too.
In school the week before, my task group and I completed a 20 page report in which we researched business opportunities in Russia, China, and India to determine where Dell’s direct business model would be the most successful without looking at previously existing sales statistics. The project was very interesting for me especially since my part of the task was to write about India, a country that I didn’t know much about. I learned a good deal about the similarities and differences of the Indian business culture and economy and that of the US. Since I am a native English speaker, my group was really excited to have me revise each part for errors in English. When I revised each part I could hear their accents in their writing. In my group I have a new member, she is a Dutch student. She has the best English out of the group with exception of me, so she is nice to talk to. It’s pretty funny because she sounds like she has an accent from Minnesota or Wisconsin, but she has never been to either. One thing I miss more than anything is having a clear conversation. Most people I encounter can speak and understand English, but it isn’t the same at all. I find myself simplifying my vocabulary, and slowing my speech down to get the content of my conversations across more effectively. I am lucky my group and I get along so well, their English is pretty good overall so it isn’t difficult with them.
I have met a few more Americans while I have been here too so that is always nice. When I hear someone speaking clear English across the room, I always make my way over to introduce myself. The weirdest part of being here is probably the language issues. I only understand a few Dutch phrases so far so I never know if people are talking about me or the weather. I try to blend in as much as I can by not opening my American mouth. Customer service is much better when everyone just thinks I’m from Holland, and that’s fine by me for now. Don’t get me wrong though the people are helpful and nice, but there is just a different etiquette here for everything. Definitely will still take some getting used to, but I’m adapting well so far I guess.
If you’ve made it this far reading my blog I appreciate your support and I hope it is interesting and informational. Feel free to leave me comments and even questions and I will respond in my next blog post to your questions.
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Posted February 3rd, 2010 by matthew_robinson64
Today is Wednesday, Febuary 3, 2010. I have been the Netherlands now since January 23, 2010. My initial thoughts of the country itself are mostly positive in nature. Though different in many ways, I have developed a respect for the country and the dutch people. The people are encouraging in many ways. Almost everyone rides a bike at some point or another in their day. There are plenty of cars here and public transportation exists on a much larger scale than in the US, but still, rain, sleet or snow they can be found outside. The weather here is similar in temperature to that of Kentucky, however, the wind makes it seem so much colder. Either way, the Dutch would never tell you that it is too cold to walk somewhere even across town.
My first week here I was with my parents. I was thankful that they were willing and able to come with me. Along with Marlies’s parents, my parents and I used the first week here to set up a dutch bank account, move into my “flat” or apartment, find the closest grocery, and buy a bike. A bike is a must when you come here. You can buy a second hand bike here, but it isn’t as cheap as everyone led me to believe. It is true that you can find bikes for 40 or 50 Euros, but they are not in good working order. A good used bike starts at around 100 Euro. Every US dollar is only worth approximatly 60 Euro cents, and everything is more expensive, so it is hard to estimate before you’re actually here how much money you are actually going to need. A few hundred dollars won’t get you very far especially in the first few weeks during the adjustment period.
Almost everyone speaks english well enough to carry a conversation, and even the international students from around the world are multilingual. As Americans, Robert and I only know English unfortunatly. I am jealous that our educational system does not force a second language to be taught from a young age. Some people here know 4 or 5 languages and can go from one to the other like it is nothing. They are jealous of how well we speak english though. I really hope I can pick up some dutch while I’m here, but everyone always wants to talk in English to practice.
The classes are not difficult yet, but I would imagine they will pick up in intensity soon. The style of learning here is very different than I am used to. We work in goups with other international students completing 2 tasks a week. The tasks are real life issues that companies deal with in regards to becoming international. My small group consists of about 6 people, 1 from France, 1 from China, 3 Hungarians, then myself. This week our first task was to determine the core strengths of a fashion shoe manufacturer to determine their areas of competitive advantage. The shoe manufacturer is considering working with a vietnamese partner and the board is going back and forth over the decision. So basically as a group we will determine the areas of competitive advantage that keep the manufacturer profitable and decide wether or not any of those areas will become jeapordized by a strategic move towards outsourcing their production.
I’ll Try to leave at least one blog per week, and I will also leave pictures when I can.
I had planned on leaving pictures with this blog, but their file size is too large, I have to figure out how to keep their file size below 1500kb, any suggestions to convert my current photos to a smaller size?
Posted December 16th, 2009 by cbt
EKUBusiness students studying at AVANS Hogeschool in The Netherlands share their experiences. AVANS University has campuses in Breda, ‘S-Hertogenbosch and Tilburg, with each location offering a different range of study programs. Similar to EKU, AVANS has approximately 16,000 students and offers study programs in International Business, Technology, Economics, and Art & Design. EKUBusiness students may choose to study for one semester or to pursue the Dual Degree Option. All Business courses are taught in English.
Follow the EKUBusiness students through their international experiences here in this blog.
Tags: AVANS, International, study abroad