Saturday, March 19, 2011

Our Final Day

Here we are at the end of our final day in Hungary. In some ways it seems as if we just got here and yet, I think we’re all ready to go home. Since this was Saturday there were not many offices open so our only visit was at Grayling which I mentioned yesterday. They are indeed a huge PR and consulting group with 70 offices in Europe, Asia and the U.S. It was an interesting presentation and the people there were so nice and interested in why our students wanted to visit their firm.

After our one visit we were taken on a 4 hour tour of Budapest. I was a little nervous because I still remember what happened to Gilligan on just a 3 hour tour. (I know that was bad, but I couldn’t help it) We had the chance to see the Heroes Square where they have monuments to the greats of Hungarian history. It was an impressive area that apparently was used for many events by the Soviets when they had control of Hungary.

I should mention that the weather today was not conducive to wandering around outdoor sites. It was very cold, overcast and rainy. Our guide kept giving us more time to stroll around and take pictures, but most of us ran back to the bus long before his deadline. We also got to see 2 of the castles of Budapest – the Fisherman’s Bastion and the old Royal Palace. The castles were amazing. They are not still intact, but it was easy to see how impressive they must have been back when they were in use.

These pictures do not do justice to the palaces, but it can give you an idea of how much fun we had being able to see these.

Tonight will be filled with packing and trying to get a good night’s sleep because I know I won’t get any rest on the plane. Someone told me to stay up all night and then I would be able to sleep on the plane, but I tried that on a trip to India and all it did was put me in a very bad mood from sleep deprivation on the plane.
All things considered, this has been a great trip. It has been educational for all of us in a variety of ways. We learned about two countries that none of us have ever visited before. We learned about different cultures and economies and we also learned something about ourselves and how we can or cannot adept to new cultures. I also learned, once again, how much I can miss my wife in one week’s time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 6 - Exhaustion

Today was different than most of our other days have been. It might have been coming down from our enjoyable group dinner the night before. It might have been watching 3 members of our group each eat 3 eyeballs from a goat just to get their picture on the wall. One other member gave it a great effort with more courage (or lack of good judgment) than I would have shown and none of them actually got sick, though several did come close at times. It never amazes me what a little peer pressure can accomplish.

I think the fatigue of the trip is catching up to all of us. Being on the go constantly each day can wear a person down. Now that I think about it, the reason for my exhaustion is that I’m just old and the student’s reason is that they stay up until 3am each night, but you almost have to if you want to experience all of Budapest that you can in such a short time.

Anyway, today was rainy and very cold. We took a ride on the Budapest subway to the stock exchange to see what happens there in relation to the Hungarian economy. I must say this, the subway system here is so much cleaner than it is in New York or Chicago that it is hard to believe. It is also far deeper. The escalator we had to ride was the longest and steepest one I have ever been on. You almost had to lean back as you descended to ensure you did not go tumbling forward.

In the afternoon we went to Habitat for Humanity in Hungary which was really very interesting. Because of the differences in their culture they don’t build houses for people. In Hungary owning a home is not as important as in America. What they do is try to provide the same experience by making repairs in existing apartments or other living quarters that make the quality of life better for the people. By doing this, they hope to provide hope for people who are in the poorer sections of Hungary and inspire them to work harder to achieve some financial success for themselves.
One thing I could not help noticing is that cultures all over the world are the same in many ways with one that I thought about in particular. We all have a prejudice against one part of our society and form a bias against them. In Hungary it is the Roma or the Gypsies. These are the nomads of society who have no education, no real opportunities and therefore no hope. We were told that the government demonizes this group and blames all the ills of society on them and people here cannot stand the Gypsies. I could not help recalling Hitler and his hatred of the Jews in this way, especially since we are in the part of the world where it all took place. I wonder if it is human nature to want to blame someone else for our problems.

Tomorrow, though, is a new day with a visit to one of the largest marketing and consulting firms in the world (which is what I was told) and some of our students are extremely excited about this visit. Included in here today are a few shots of the Hungarian Parliment interior, the Chain Bridge over the Danube and a view of a museum across the Danube from our hotel. They are not the best, but I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 5 - Amazing

I woke up this morning thinking that I’d have a pretty interesting day. We were, after all, going to Parliament, but I had no idea the adventure I was about to embark on. After enjoying a wonderful breakfast (buffet style) we headed toward the St. Stephen’s Basilica. That place was amazing! It was wonderful seeing the architecture and artistry in not only the walls and glass windows but the ceilings as well. It was breathtaking. We also saw the sacred hand of St Stephen, first king of Hungary. According to legend, when they reopened his tomb the hand was in perfect condition. Everyone viewed it as a miracle. We later learned from our Parliament tour guide that it was due to a self mummification process based on how he was buried.

Our next stop was the American Chamber of Commerce, aka AmCham. The organization has grown from its start of only 35 individuals to nearly 450 members. One of the organizations main goals is to establish business opportunities and marketing to its many members. One of the many things I loved about this organization was the openness that the presenters had with us. They weren’t afraid to acknowledge the fact that the country has its fair share of corruption issues, but they also shared their goals and reasons for why and how they planned to combat it and help Hungary’s overall economy. One of our amazing presenters, Willy Benko, gave us insight about our future workforce and goals that we could set for our self to stay morally and ethically well grounded.

We then set out for Parliament. Not before the rain of course, and when it rains here it truly pours. Glad I made that last minute stop to Target to buy an umbrella. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable of the building, its history, and the architecture. The building is massive, and it, like the church, is a testament to what time and dedication bring about. It was an honor to see a building with so much history behind it.

That was the end of our “business” day, but we also got to ride on the subway, bus, and meet Peter’s, (our Hungarian teacher’s) grandfather. We ended the night with a group dinner to a Mongolian Barbeque restaurant. The food was amazing and it really gave the group a chance to connect with one another. I doubt we will ever forget this day especially given that at the restaurant Phil, Michael, Diego, and Amy ate goat eyeballs to get their picture on the wall of fame.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Days 3 & 4

Today you get two for the price of one. We had such a busy day yesterday and we all needed to pack because we left Croatia early this morning so we did not get the blog posted. We are also running into some serious problems getting a good internet connection. It's something we take for granted back in the states, but I have had problems almost every night trying to get a connection. I finally gave up on the free Wi-Fi and I'm paying for this connection so we can get something new posted.

You can see the picture of our first illustrious student blogger, Diego. Here are some of his thoughts on the trip.

So far, Croatia has been amazing! Last night we were able to meet some locals our age, who were able to give us their views on the current situation of the country. It was interesting being able to compare and contrast to what they were dealing with against other sources, such as the media or the older generation.

Later on, when we went walking around the city, when noticed a few anti-EU posters. This was the first time that I personally have seen a movement against joining the EU. I feel like it is a good sign though, showing that there is opportunity in Croatia to speak out, showing democracy in the state.

The experience here in general has been absolutely amazing. Not only do we meet with some of the largest and most important companies in Croatia, but we also get a mix of free time in which we are able to explore the city. This is without a doubt an excellent decision taking this course.

Diego Rodriguez

Next up is Brianna who liked having the day we traveled as her day to blog. Here is what she had to say.

Day 4
It was our last day in Zagreb this morning, so Tyler, Adam and I made the extra effort and began our last minute adventures around 6:30am. As we walked the streets of Zagreb to find the perfect backgrounds for our most “touristy” pictures we soon realized that there was so much we hadn’t seen, however, we did finally make it to the local farmer’s market. Watching locals set up their stands with all sorts of fresh produce was so refreshing. It seems that no matter how much they modernize the city the people seem to maintain their traditions and keep their true culture alive.

In addition to some last minute site-seeing, we made sure to pick up a few remaining souvenirs for those closest to us that weren’t lucky enough to experience Zagreb for themselves. With our postcards, mugs, key chains, and local chocolate packed away, we ate out last delicious hotel breakfast and boarded the bus to Budapest.
It was only a matter of time before the bus ride became an official nap time. We all agreed that there would be much to do once we arrived in Budapest so recharging our batteries was a priority. But even those of us that were out cold managed to wake up as we approached the bridge that crosses the Danube River. We were surrounded by the gorgeous city of Budapest, and no picture could possibly capture the depth of its beauty.
As soon as we had checked in we were off exploring in all directions. Our hotel is located right off of the river and there are shops, restaurants, and grand structures everywhere. The group seemed to focus primarily on shopping today and it didn’t take long to find out that Budapest is a slightly pricier experience than Zagreb. Within just a few hours the difference in culture between Zagreb and Budapest was easy to not only see but feel.

Later this evening we headed out to enjoy some traditional Hungarian food. We chose a restaurant suggested to us by the hotel that was only a few blocks away. It was a small location and had a very traditional feel. I went for a lighter dish, Hungarian Gulash and many others ordered Chicken with red pepper (paprika) or Beef Gulash. Overall, we were very satisfied with our first official Hungarian dining experience and I sure I can speak for the rest of the group when I say we are very excited to try even more Hungarian cuisine especially the dessert!
I am off to find the group, and hopefully get some rest because tomorrow we are visiting Parliament!

Brianna Bartok

In closing, I told the students today on the bus that I could not be more proud of them. The have handled themselves as true professionals in every meeting we have attended and asked very good questions. They are all fun and enjoy the evenings after the business is done (like normal students), but they know when to turn on the professional image and they do it well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Three - Down to Business

Today we got started on the reason we are all here - visiting businesses in Croatia. Our first stop was the Zagreb Chamber of Economy where we learned about all the beautiful places here as well as the economy and how things are going. It truly was an interesting presentation but it felt strange to keep hearing about the European Union instead of the U.S. After that we were at Coca Cola and Ericcson Nikola Tesla corporations. They were all informative, but I fear jet lag was plaguing our group. That and the fact that we skipped lunch to make each of the presentations.

In our short two days here we have already learned a great deal about Nikola Tesla, the man. He was more responsible for electricity than Thomas Edison and invented over 700 things that were patented in America. He is even considered one of the greatest geniuses of the millennium. One little item of information that I found interesting is that Tesla predicted in 1925 that man would be able to get the news, not from a paper, but over the airways. He also said that it would be possible to see events in real time. He sounds like a man ahead of his time.

The architecture here is amazing. I am including a few shots here with more to come tomorrow. I have tried to get the entire group to pose for a photo outside one of the businesses we visited, but our schedule today was so hectic that we never had the time to stop and get everyone together for a photo. Tomorrow is another day and I'll give it shot once again. The plan for today was to post a video of one of our students telling his reaction to the visits and what he thought of them and what he learned. Unfortunately, the videos would not upload to the blog. It seemed the computer was giving it a mighty effort, but after 2 hours of watching the "video uploading" sign, I decided it was never going to happen. Just in case, I plan to have Phil Hall and Diego Rodriguez write some things so you won't have to listen to only my ideas of what is going on.

It doesn't seem possible that we only have tomorrow here in Zagreb before we move on to Budapest. Time really does fly when you're having fun.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day Two - Arrival

We are finally in Croatia and if I never see the inside of an airplane I would die a happy man. Of course that will make it hard for me to get home, but that is another story. If you have ever had trouble sleeping and your spouse is out cold you know how frustrating it can be. Imagine having over 300 people sleeping peacefully while you wander the darkened airplane. The students all say they only got a few hours of sleep, but trust me, I saw them out like a light and I think they are only complaining because they did not get a full 8 hours.

Anyway, we are here in Zagreb and are excited about the rest of the trip. We got a bus and walking tour of the city which was fantastic. There were so many flashes going off I was sure there was a news conference going on around us. Zagreb is such an interesting mix of old and new that you keep staring with your mouth open. The evidences of the war here are still plain to see on the buildings and thez serve as a reminder of how far Croatia has come from a very scary past.

We will have our first business meetings tomorrow and our first student will be talking about the day. I can guarantee you it will be interesting. Phil Hall will be the student in charge and he is both talkative and creative so it should be interesting. Tomorrow we will all be human again so the blog will be much more interesting.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day One - Anticipation

Today is the day. By now everyone is frantically trying to finish their packing ( I know the students did not use their Friday night to get everything packed) and are making sure their bags meet the weight limits for either carry on or checking. I know I have weighed mine at least three times to make sure it isn't too heavy. It looks good, but this is on the same scale that tells me I'm 15 pounds lighter than the scale at the Doctor's office. You can see why I'm still nervous.

We will be meeting at the business school in just a couple of hours for our trip to Indianapolis, then on to Chicago, Munich and finally, Zagreb. Just thinking about all those flights and running to various gates makes me exhausted. I hope they have some quality in flight movies because getting any sleep in an airplane seat is more difficult than getting through airport security without having to remove most of my clothes.

This initial post will be different than the rest. There are four different students who will be contributing during the trip. Their posts will be much more interesting because they are young, excited and will have much to say about their experiences, both as tourists and students learning about international business. I will simply be trying to survive and keep tabs on everyone.

Sorry this post is rather short, but I promise we will have more interesting info, pictures and movies for the rest of the trip.