Our cohort returned from our Spring Break study trip to Germany and Luxembourg. We had the opportunity to visit several companies in both countries as well as network with professors from FOM in Germany and EUFOM in Luxembourg. We saw so many things and learned more than could ever fit in one blog, but here are some highlights!
Friday, March 1: We arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany. We met our bus driver Günther at the airport and took our first ride on the Autobahn to Cologne. Günther has been the bus driver for the cohorts since the first trip to Germany, and has become somewhat of a legend among the alumni and students. Our first day was fairly uneventful since we were all a bit jetlagged, but some of us toured the Lindor Chocolate Museum, and we all tested our German language skills at our first German restaurant.
Saturday, March 2: After some refreshing sleep, we were ready for our walking tour of Cologne. Our host was Dr. Gert Schweitzer, a retired executive whose distinguished global career with Bayer Corporation included a stint in a senior role at Bayer’s North American headquarters in Pittsburgh. Gert, a native of Cologne, shared pre- and post-war insight from his childhood. The first part of our tour was Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral). The cathedral took 600 years to build and is the only one in Europe that was completed based on the original plans. It is also among the few buildings in the city that was not destroyed by extensive bombing in World War II. We visited several other churches as well as the town hall. Our tour included an underground archaeology museum, where we toured a Roman villa that was uncovered in the bombed ruins. In the evening, some students braved public transportation to visit Dusseldorf’s historic downtown or watch Bayer’s soccer team play against Stuttgard in Leverkusen. We learned that navigating trains in a foreign language can be a bit of an adventure, but we were impressed by the transportation system in Germany!
Sunday, March 3: We drove 45 minutes to Aachen. We visited the town hall where Charlemagne was crowned in 800 AD and a museum with artifacts from his time, including his bones. Aachen is also home to a church built in 719 AD. Some of the buildings in Aachen were 1000 years older than the oldest structures in the United States!
Monday, March 4: In the morning, we visited Bayer’s ChemPark campus in Leverkusen and met with the VP of strategy and sustainability planning. We toured their communication center as well as their waste and recycling center. Although Bayer is typically associated with Aspirin, they produce far more products than we realized. The company is heavily involved in agricultural products and is developing new methods to make plastics from the CO2 waste generated in their production process. In the afternoon, we visited Sparkasse, a regional savings bank, and met with the bank’s sustainability manager. This bank has done a very good job of emphasizing the three key areas of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. We all enjoyed seeing the concepts we have been learning in class being put into practice at both of the companies. We also were impressed with the level of long term planning taking place in these companies. Sparkasse also houses the world’s largest art collection of Käthe Kollwitz artwork. Kollwitz is a German artist who made a career painting the struggles of the working class during the turn of the century through World War II. Her artwork is very dark, but it shows a difficult part of Germany’s history and was very interesting to see!
Tuesday, March 5: Tuesday’s focus was energy. We visited an RWE lignite (soft coal) mine. RWE is Germany’s largest energy producer. They also invest in several other forms of energy including solar and wind, however the majority of Germany’s energy is produced by coal. Our RWE tour guide had Günther drive our tour bus right down into the bottom of the mine and we were able to see the mining process up close. Günther was concerned the bus would get stuck and told us that if we stopped hearing the guide talking it was because he had killed him. We all made it out in one piece, bus and all!
Wednesday, March 6: Our last day in Germany was spent at FOM University of Business Administration. We heard from several professors and students who talked about sustainability, a university research project on new business models, and a new farming model for cotton in Africa. In the afternoon we had a lecture on the structure of law, especially environmental law, in the EU.
Thursday, March 7: We arrived in Luxembourg! Our bus ride took three hours and included an adventurous lunch at a truck stop. Our waitress was very confident about taking 21 lunch orders in English and a little over confident about our ability to speak German. She learned the word “Pumpkin” (after several attempts which included using words such as “Bumpkin” and “Humpkin”). We began our visit in Luxembourg with a walking tour of the city. Luxembourg has a remarkable culture. Throughout their history, the country has been a part of Germany, France, Holland, Spain, Belgium, and several other countries. These countries have all contributed to the architecture, culture, cuisine and language. The official language is “Luxembourgish” which sounds like a mix of German and French, but on the streets most people speak French.
Friday, March 8: We toured the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. This campus is continuously expanding to grow along with the European Union. In the evening, we attended a conference at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce. We heard from a panel of professors and students and professionals who spoke on the European financial crisis. We hear about this often in the news, but we all enjoyed hearing European’s viewpoint on this!
Saturday, March 9: Back in Pittsburgh. This trip was a unique cultural experience for the entire cohort! We are so grateful to our professors and the people we were able to meet in Europe for providing this opportunity for us!