Thursday, May 29, 2014

First Week at Hanze

Most of us arrived in Groningen on Wednesday to get settled into our "homes" for the next 3 1/2 weeks.  The students are housed in individual rooms in apartment/dorm type buildings with cooking facilities, close to campus (about a 5-minute bike ride).

On Thursday classes began:  8:30 for orientation followed by two 2-hour lectures, one on intercultural management and the second on developing market entry plans.  This program has three tracks:  Intercultural Management; Marketing; and the Eurozone.  As part of the intercultural management we will be receiving lectures on doing business in all the major countries of Europe.  The marketing track consists of lectures and group projects in market research, market entry plans, and sales "pitches."  The Eurozone track covers the economic and legal aspects of the European Union.  I am very impressed with the quality of the professors and the interactive nature of the classes.  Students come from universities in the U.S., Canada, Africa, and Hong Kong.  Other countries are represented, as well, with students' home countries of Brazil, Guatemala, China, Germany, and Viet Nam.  

At right, the main building for the business school at Hanze - easy to spot when trying to navigate the bike ride to campus. There is a lot of interesting new and old architecture both on campus and in town.

After grabbing some lunch at the cafeteria, (note to future students: classes start at 8:30 and often don't break for lunch until 1:30, so eat breakfast, or bring food to snack on between classes - eating in class is frowned upon) we received our bikes.  Almost everyone in Groningen, professionals and students alike, use bikes for transportation regardless of the weather.  After an introductory bike trip into the city center (about 20 minutes) we rode out to the Groningen soccer stadium for a tour.  Then back into town for a welcome dinner - at a Chinese buffet restaurant!  The program leaders said Dutch food isn't any good, so most group meals will be at ethnic restaurants.  Hmmmm.
 A few other buildings on the Hanze campus.

On Friday, Monday and Wednesday of this first week we had classes from 8:30 until 4:30 or 5:30.  On Tuesday we had a bus trip to Papenburg, Germany to visit a ship building company, Meyer Werft.  (One class on Monday was preparing for this visit by learning a bit about the company and developing questions to ask during the visit.)  This is a very impressive 200-year-old company that builds massive cruise ships.  In addition to a tour of the "factory" we met with their corporate head of R&D for a very interesting look into the company culture and strategies for the future.
Upon return from this trip, the students spent three hours working with a sales training professional to develop their "pitches" to deliver to an executive at Philips later in the program.  (Wednesday's classes included time to formally "debrief" lessons from the Meyer Werft visit.)

For our first weekend in the Netherlands, Hanze arranged a tour through Groningen, Friesland, and North Holland provinces on Saturday to learn about the various types of dikes and the Dutch water management expertise.

 I was surprised to see several thatched roofs on building during our tour of the provinces.

After a drive across the long Afsluitdijk (which cut off the Zuiderzee from the North Sea, turning it into the brackish freshwater IJsselmeer), we visited the city of Enkhuizen and the Zuiderzee open-air historical museum. One of the treats here was to taste old-fashioned smoked herring:

Sunday was our first free day and it was a beautiful, sunny day - perfect for exploring the city. (Though most people speak English here, since it isn't a tourist city very little is printed or presented in English.  So signs, menus, and church service are in Dutch.  There is an English service at the Catholic church on Sunday evening.) 

So that's been our first week.  More later!

A preparation note for future students:  Groningen is not a large tourist city.  This means many restaurants and stores do not accept U.S. credit cards (they use chip and PIN cards that the U.S. hasn't adopted as of 2014).  If students choose to obtain Euros ahead of time, be aware that any bills larger than a 50 Euro bill are not accepted at most places.  (Even the local bank wouldn't change one student's 500 Euro bill!  Only the money exchange at the train station would break a large bill - for a fee.)  Best solution is to have an ATM card that will work here to obtain Euros without a foreign exchange fee - check with your bank ahead of time. We even ran into a few places that didn't accept cash or U.S. credit cards, only the European PIN & chip cards, so let's hope the U.S. banks catch up soon.

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