Friday, June 13, 2014

Exam Time

Some last minute studying in the cafe before the final exam.

The last two days of the Hanze summer program are for students to show what they have learned in the previous three weeks.  Thursday was spent debriefing the Grolsch and Hooghoudt business visits, conducting individual sales presentations using a case they were given, and small group presentations on their market research project (for which they had to develop and conduct a survey and analyze the data for their market entry plan).  Today (Friday) began with a 2 1/2 hour written exam covering material from the intercultural management track, financial and economic aspects of the Eurozone, and the general European business environment including real estate management.  (Note to future students: Bring a calculator with you as you will need it for the final exam and you are not allowed to use your phone.)

  Tu is ready....
                                            and Yiran has begun.                                                        

This afternoon each small group will present the market entry plan they have been working on for the last three weeks (Google glasses, smart watches, or electric cars for the Dutch market), and then finish with a presentation on the history of the EU, EU competition laws, and other legal aspects of the internal EU market.

Tonight students get to celebrate with a farewell dinner in the city center (at a Mexican restaurant).  The dinner was scheduled early in order to be over in time to watch the Netherlands playing Spain in their opening match of the World Cup.  Soccer fever is rampant here with everyone displaying their "orange" in support of the Dutch team.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we leave Groningen, some to return to home and others to travel a bit more. A note to future students regarding return travel: If you want to enjoy the farewell dinner it's best to schedule your flight out of Amsterdam no earlier than Saturday afternoon.  You are required to arrive at Schiphol three hours before your flight leaves and the train from Groningen to the airport takes a minimum of 2 hrs 15 minutes. Or, you may want to just stay an extra day in Groningen - Hanze is OK with you staying in your apartment for an extra day or two. 

Good-bye to Hanze....
                      and to Groningen - it's been great!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Business Visits

Two business visits were scheduled for our last day before final exams and presentations.  (Our previous business visits were Meyer Werft, the cruise ship manufacturer in Germany, and Philips, the large conglomerate in Amsterdam.) 

Today's companies were both in the brewing/distillery industry, one large and multi-national (Grolsch, owned by SAB-Miller) and one small and domestic (Hooghoudt).

The Grolsch visit was a combination of a tour of their very efficient production operations and a presentation on their creative marketing strategy.

The Hooghoudt visit was interesting because of the contrast to Grolsch: it is a small, family-owned company with what appeared to be very inefficient production operations and a presentation from a young marketing manager who had only been with the company for 3 months: Their whole marketing team is new as the company is planning to develop a strategy to increase the market for their main product, which is seen as an old-fashioned drink for old men (jenever - a type of gin with lots of different herbs added).

Interesting, for me, was that all four of the companies we visited on this program are over 100 years old (and Meyer Werft and Hooghoudt are still owned by the founding family).  The presentations we received reinforced the common factors my research has identified regarding the culture of old companies.  They all talked about a creative/innovative/entrepreneurial culture, the 'ownership' mentality they cultivate with employees, and a conservative approach to financing that keeps debt levels low.

Since Grolsch is located in Enschede, we had a pleasant 2-hour ride through the provinces of Drenthe and Overijssel to get there. Those who stayed awake - the bus left at 6:45 a.m., a little early for many of the students - had great views of the flat farmland of the area.

Monday, June 9, 2014



"Whit Monday," or Pentecost Monday, is the holiday celebrated the day after Pentecost and the University as well as almost all stores and many restaurants are closed.  This is our second holiday (the first was Ascension Day, which is always celebrated on a Thursday, so we had Friday off as well).  These breaks provide a time for students to either catch up on their studies or take short trips to other cities.  Several have gone to Brussels or Amsterdam.

This is Tu in Belgium, where she found a "Hope" anchor

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Each Saturday of this program the people from Hanze have arranged a cultural/social trip.  Our third (and last) trip was to Amsterdam and was combined with our Friday business visit to Philips in a two-day bus trip.

I'll start with our visit to Philips, the 23.3 billion Euro international electronics firm.  "Electronics" might be a misnomer: they sold their TV division and now are organized around three main units: healthcare, consumer lifestyle, and lighting.

Yiran, Tony, and Tu ready for the Philips visit.
Philips' stated mission is "to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation" and they have a goal of improving the lives of 3 billion people by 2025.  Several of the people who made presentations said "innovation is in our DNA."  We had the great privilege of meeting with their impressive CEO, Franz van Houten, who gave a presentation on his vision for Philips and also spent a half hour answering student questions.
Student groups then "pitched" the new product ideas they had been working on to some Philips executives.  While they deliberated over which was the winner (a solar oven with a sun-charged battery pack attached to enable cooking when the sun isn't shining), we were served Dutch snacks and had the opportunity for informal conversations with some of their young professionals.  This was a great business visit.

After a group dinner at a restaurant in the center of Amsterdam,

Hanze arranged for us all to stay in a hostel outside of Amsterdam. Not just any ordinary hostel, but a castle turned into a hostel.  (Note: everything on this trip is included in the program fee students pay.)
We arrived around 10 p.m. (it stays light quite late here) but had time the next morning to walk the grounds. (Note: This is a hostel, not a hotel.  Bedding is provided, but you must bring your own towel and toiletries.)

After breakfast (quite the breakfast room),  we were off once again to Amsterdam.
We started with a canal boat tour.
then had free time to enjoy Amsterdam.  Small groups of students did various things: some made a quick trip to one of the museums, others took advantage of the gorgeous weather to wander around this U.N. World Heritage City.   

Tony and Yiran at the Begijnhof, a beautiful quiet courtyard in the middle of the busy city....and sampling some of the city's famous 'frites' with mayonnaise.
They day ended with a group tour of the very moving Anne Frank House.
Since Monday is a holiday in the Netherlands (Whit Monday), some of the students who are caught up on their assignments decided to take a little side trip to Brussels.  The rest of us returned to Groningen on Saturday evening, either to study or continue to explore this great little city. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bikes are the mode of transportation

Students should be warned that this program may not be for them if they are not comfortable on a bicycle.  Hanze provides students with a bike as part of the program fee and besides using the bike to get to campus from their apartments, they are also used for several of the social/cultural activities. Cycling is the mode of transportation in Groningen, for students, professors, businesspeople, parents taking their children to school or going shopping - everyone rides a bike.  (Perhaps this is why all the locals look so slim and fit.) There are buses, but to truly feel part of the culture one needs to ride a bike.  Cars are quite careful of bicycles, but one does need to watch out for buses (and motorbikes, which use the bike lanes, not the roads).
Did I mention that we bike come rain or shine?  The buses are so crowded and backed up on rainy days that you would end up waiting in the rain longer than it takes to just go ahead and use your bike.  Coming back from class today it was pouring rain, so - despite a raincoat with a hood - I was soaked through after my 20-minute ride back the the city center, but I didn't melt. Students' apartments are closer to campus, so they could walk if they wanted to but it's much more fun to use the bikes.  Note to future students: Bring a raincoat with a hood, preferable a light one you can roll up into your backpack since it's best to always have it on hand - you never know when you'll run into a shower.

Speaking of the student apartments:  they each have a private room with shared kitchen and shower facilities.  Bedding and kitchen utensils, pots & pans are provided.  However, students should remember to pack a towel(s) and washcloth as these are not provided. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Typical Class Day

Today (Monday) started with a country cultural profile: today's was France.  Most of the country cultural profiles reference Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions (power distance, collectivism/individualism, etc.) especially as they relate to doing business in that country.  For instance, France scores high on Hofstede's power distance scale, so when doing business with a French firm you need to send someone at the same hierarchy/status level as the person you are working with.  The woman teaching the class is French and now teaching at Hanze University.  (All the professors giving the country profiles have either been born or raised in the country for which they are presenting the cultural profile.)

The second session of the morning focused on pitching an entrepreneurial idea.  Groups of 4-5 students had to come up with an idea and develop a "pitch" to present to a Philips executive when we visit there later this week.

After lunch we went to a lecture on the Financial Systems in the EU (the first of two 2-hour sessions).  The topics covered here include: What is money? Money demand & supply; Inflation and monetary policy; Europe's financial system and the Euro; Financial markets; Foreign exchange markets; exchange rate determination; Risk management and hedging; Euro crisis and financial crises of the past.  The discussion on "What is money?" began with productivity and comparative advantage, specialization and division of labor, bartering and transaction costs, the need for undifferentiated purchase power, leading to the invention of money as one of mankind's most notable social inventions.  We got into discussions about what determines money demand, inflation, quantitative easing, the need for an independent central bank, and the benefits of the Euro. (The final exam at the end of this course will include questions on these topics.)

The school day ended with our second session on the European Business Environment.  This one was an overview of the various ways of market entry, their advantages and disadvantages: Export houses, brokers, and trading companies; Direct export through local agents; Direct export (DIY); Joint ventures; and Foreign Direct Investment.  This lecture ended with a caution about having the right terms and conditions and tools in place to get paid, regardless of which method one uses to enter a market.  The lecturer had several interesting stories from his personal experience that illustrated how you can't just assume every country's culture is to automatically 'follow the rules' and pay according to what you thought was the agreement or contract.

This day ended with a social activity in which the students all gathered at their dorm/apartment building for a potluck dinner where every student made a dish from their local culture, so they will feast on dishes from the U.S., Canada, Guatemala, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, China, Viet Nam, South Africa, Tanzania, and ?????

And that was just Monday!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Trip to Schiermonnikoog Island

This Saturday's cultural/social event was a trip to "the smallest and most serene of the Frisian Islands" Schiermonnikoog (ask us to say it when we get home - it took a while to learn).  A 1-hour bus ride and 1-hour ferry trip brought us to the long, skinny island with the fantastic beach you see above.  Fortunately we had beautiful weather (cool and sunny) since one gets around the island on rental bikes. 

Students had fun on the beach, visiting an old WWII bunker, lunch at a cafe in the woods, and then relaxing in the adorable little town.
Most of the houses in the town have the date they were built indicated on the front.

Since the church services here are in Dutch, our Sunday worship becomes individual meditation and devotions. The Prinsenhof Gardens - a quiet, walled park in the city adjacent to the main church, Martinikerk - is a particularly nice spot for this:  The church bells and organ are a lovely accompaniment to a peaceful respite.

Tomorrow we are back to the class schedule.  Monday evening there will be a potluck group dinner where students are to cook a dish native to their culture.(The students all have cooking facilities in their dorm/apartments.)