Deutschland: A Fascinating Transition

Taking the step to study abroad for the entire 2016 autumn semester at the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management, Colleen Sauer talks about her preparations and initial transition to her time in Germany.

When I used to picture myself studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program, I anticipated that I would eventually adjust and have wonderful adventures, but only a few weeks of a lot of fear and culture shock. Yes, I had a bit of that the first few weeks that I’ve been here, but I can now tell you that starting my time here has been so exciting and full of growth.

For today’s post, I want to start by talking a little bit about my preparations before arriving and how I’ve navigated so far. The first lesson I learned was to use my network, and to not be afraid to ask for help. Months leading up to my departure, I started reaching out to friends who either live in Germany currently or spent some time there, even if I hadn’t spoken to them in some time. After some digging I even found out that my friend Dominic who was an exchange student at my high school currently attends WHU (Crazy coincidence!). In other cases, I had friends who heard I was going to Germany and contacted me. Talking to people with experience was the best preparation I could have had, from learning more about WHU, to simple things like how to navigate the grocery store. Plus, it was amazing to hear their stories! It made me so excited to come to Germany.

One thing that has made my transition much easier was being able to meet all of the other “tauschies” (the term they use at WHU to refer to an exchange student here), early on through events put on by WHU. It’s amazing to now have friends from all over the world, who have the same excitement for Germany and to meeting new people! At the International Dinner tauschie event last week, we were able to share our cultures through food, where we introduced ourselves and presented a typical food from our country—I made mac and cheese. A few German students also come to our tauschie events, so it’s also been really nice to get to know the locals and feel more integrated within the WHU community.

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The International Dinner took place in WHU’s vaulted cellar

Aside from talking about normal life here, I’ve also traveled every weekend thus far! Before coming here I pictured myself not feeling comfortable enough to travel until the third weekend or so, but with the help of my adventurous tauschie friends I proved myself wrong. The first weekend I went for a day trip to Frankfurt, Germany, which was a really neat city and a great way to make new friends. On Monday I returned from Luxembourg (And no, I didn’t have class that day) which was so beautiful!

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Day trip to Frankfurt, Germany the first weekend.
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A beautiful view of Luxembourg city

I’m excited to continue to add to the list of countries I’ve visited. This transition into life in Germany has had its set of challenges, from the language barrier to learning the transportation system, but through the support of WHU, my friends and family, I’ve had a much easier time adjusting than I anticipated. I expect I’ll have many more adventures to write about in the future, as I explore the Deutsches Eck (the German Corner—aka Koblenz) and the surrounding cities and countries. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more posts!

Thanks, Europe: Solidifying My Major

Freshman Global Lab 2016 in Switzerland & Italy. Immersing herself in both the business culture and social tendencies of Switzerland and Italy, Tori Weiner discusses how Freshman Global Lab helped her solidify her major.

Standing atop Mount Titlis in the Swiss Alps, about half way through my first trip to Europe, I realized the power of travel, the power of business, and the power of networking.  Hopping on a mini sled down the side of the Alps, screaming with excitement and lack of air due to high altitude with my friend and classmate, Madie, brought a feeling of ultimate euphoria and a bond to the cohort of students on The Fisher College of Business’s Freshman Global Lab.  From Zurich to Bern to Lucerne, Switzerland’s picturesque cities embody the exact image of Europe.  Walking the streets and taking the trams to restaurants and city centers allowed me to envision myself as a working adult in the real world.  Only 10 days away from the excessive monotony of America opened my eyes to the power of travel and the effects it can have on one’s personal and career-related choices.

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Students pose for a classic “O-H-I-O” at the top of Mount Titlis.

Because Switzerland is one of the financial capitals of the world, we met with investment and accounting firms to wet our palettes with that aspect of business.  Reflecting back on the trip, those 2-hour company visits ignited the reality of college, deciding on a major, and creating the start to my future.  To truly immerse myself in the experience, I asked at least one question at each company we visited to show my appreciation for their time and to enrich my interest and understanding of the interconnectedness of international and domestic business.  Seeing the variety of options and reliable career paths inspired me to further research finance once back at school and picture myself in one of those investment firms.

Torino and Milan brought gelato, sports cars, pasta, and fashion.  When I found out we were going on a food tour of Torino’s main square, Piazza San Carlo, my dreams came true.  The first solid food I ate as a child was pasta, so to truly experience a 5 course Italian meal (with the best pasta I have ever eaten, ever) really brought the trip full circle.

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During their time in country students met with trendsetters in the field of automotive design, Italdesign and Pinifarina Extra.

Visiting Pininfarina, a household name in sports car design known for servicing Ferrari, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo, brought my childhood conversations with my father about our shared love for cars to life.  Learning how the owners transformed their experience with designing cars into designing hotels, yachts, headphones, and more was fascinating.  As they went into detail about the relationships between the design teams and marketing teams of both themselves and the companies that were requesting their services reminded me of my draw to marketing, but didn’t give me the same feeling I had in the investment and financial firms.  Some of my friends became entranced at the prospect of interning for such a prestigious house of design; when I didn’t share those feelings, I knew marketing wasn’t for me.  Without this trip and catching snapshots of real world business, I would always be wondering if I enjoyed another aspect of business enough to switch my focus.  I found myself dreaming about the New York Stock Exchange and real estate investments rather than ad campaigns and digital media.

Without the ingenuity of design houses, the risks of financial investment firms, and the technological efficiency of supply chain companies, the world would not go round.  I could not be more thankful for studying abroad through Fisher; without FGL, I would not be applying into a different major or have the confidence to pursue what I want in life.  Meeting over 30 new friends, whom all share similar goals and interests, was a definitive highlight of the trip.  Being able to say goodbye at the Milan airport after approximately 4 hours of sleep, due to an epic final night in Italy, and know the friendships I made will continue inside and outside of the classroom bumped going abroad up to the best decision I made as a freshman.

Top 5 – Tips for Traveling on a Global Lab

Freshman Global Lab 2016 in Switzerland & Italy. Alexandria Jackson, a rising sophomore in the business school, gives her top 5 “To Do’s” for students when traveling on Freshman Global Lab.

Traveling with the Freshman Global Lab was not my first time out of the country, actually visiting these two countries I was able to visit my fifth continent! But traveling on a Global Lab was a little different than my previous travel experiences. Here are my tips to make sure your time goes by as smoothly and productively as possible.

Tip 1: Packing

A tip for deciding what to pack on a business trip like this is to make sure you have the essentials—your business clothes. The next thing to consider when packing is to bring versatile pieces. This makes it easy for you to fit more things in your suitcase and the ability to mix and match when in country! Another tip for packing, specifically for the girls, is to not forget to toss in a sundress! It will come in handy when you get to go on a night out or to dinner. Lastly, make sure you have comfortable walking shoes for both your business shoes and causal shoes. We walked so much in Europe around different cities that having comfortable shoes is a must!

Tip 2: Traveling

Wear comfortable clothing and easy to slip off shoes to the airport! Nothing is more frustrating than someone who cannot get their shoes off in security. Also, keep your ID and passport handy you will have to present it to multiple people. On the plane, try to get some sleep because the time change when traveling internationally can be hard to adjust to. When in the country make sure you enjoy every minute of it, this may be your only time visiting these countries! On this trip we had a lot of long bus rides so try not to fall asleep during those long bus rides and listen to the tour guides. You will get to see and experience some great things while in country such as the beautiful scenery.

Tip 3: The Business Visits

The main reason for the trip is business, therefore pay a lot of attention in the business visits. Not only can you gain valuable information about how businesses operate in Europe but also you are able to figure out which business specializations you are and are not interested in. In this trip we visited many logistics and finance companies, and I realized that these are two specializations I am not interested in. However, I realized during the chocolate factory tour that I was interested in marketing. As we were touring the facility I was able to talk to our tour guide about why they package their chocolate the way they do, such as the packaging color and font. This affirmed my interest in the marketing specialization and allowed me to look more into marketing. The chocolate factory just so happened to be the best business visit on the trip!

At the factory we were able to tour the facility and pour our own chocolate!

Tip 4: Keep an Open Mind

I know that going into international travel with people you barely know seems crazy, but don’t go in with any pre-conceived notions about them! Enjoy the trip and get to know everyone, you will meet some great people on this trip! I made great friends on this trip and we still get together even though the trip has ended! Depending on the country you will be visiting you will most likely experience some sort of culture shock. I think it is a good idea to understand a little bit about the country’s culture and customs before you travel the country. Also, fully immerse yourself in the culture! Try new foods, talk to the people, and to get the most out of the trip!

Tip 5: Enjoy the Trip

Although business is the main objective of the trip you have to enjoy the country from perspective of a tourist! When we were in Switzerland and Italy we asked the locals for the best places to eat and shop! The people in both countries were very friendly and helpful when we asked them questions. In Switzerland we actually met a group of college students who sat and ate with us where we both shared what it was like to be a college student in our home country. When in country make sure you eat all you can! In Italy we ate gelato every day and sometimes twice a day!

I hope these tips gave you a piece of mind about the Freshman Global Lab trip! By following these tips, the most daunting parts of the trip should become a breeze! Enjoy your trip!

What Comes Next? Life after Sustainable Business Global Lab

Senior Colleen Magee reflects on how her time in Denmark and The Netherlands continues to shape her life and future career in sustainability.

Returning home from Denmark and The Netherlands, I felt re-inspired to help bring sustainability to the corporate world. Everyone I met on Sustainable Business Global Lab was driven and fun, the business sites were unique and informative, and the guest lectures at other international schools were enlightening. The confidence I felt returning home made me into a go-getter.

So what did I do once I came home?

Went straight to my internship eager to learn and also give back. After two weeks at my internship, I saw an opportunity to present to the company I interned with, IGS Energy, on Sustainability and Sustainable business. Long story short, that’s exactly what I did this summer, applied what I learned abroad, back home in a professional manner. I approached my manager with an idea that I felt would be extremely useful for the company, and immediately was given support. Then I created a presentation about sustainability, presented in 3 separate sessions to a classroom of 18 professionals and received incredible feedback, scoring letters of recommendation from my study abroad professor and my internship manager who highlighted on my project. The inspiration I felt coming home, gave me the courage to follow through with this project, which ended up being an amazing experience that aided my growth as a professional.

One more perk to this Global Lab, the food is awesome…especially the breakfast.

What you can take from my story? Study abroad, but more importantly, go on a trip that will inspire you to be successful in your future career. This trip was highly engaging, and offered cutting edge information that’s not always an available resource on campus. Take it from me that Sustainable Business Global Lab helped me become a much more driven and knowledgeable individual in my field.

Intro to Ireland – My first few weeks adventuring in Ireland

As Grace Hutchinson starts her semester at Trinity College in Ireland, she shares her first adventures landing on the Irish island. From starting at her new school to traveling to amazing sites in Ireland.

For Fall Semester 2016 I decided to embark on the adventure on the Student Exchange Program. I chose Trinity College Dublin, located not surprisingly in Dublin, Ireland. I should tell you this is not my first visit to Ireland so I didn’t experience the usual culture shock (i.e. outlets must be switched on for them to work and driving on the other side of the road.) I actually have dual citizenship with the U.S. and Ireland as my father moved to the states for work, were in an adorable fashion he meet my mom. I have traveled to Ireland throughout my life visiting family, but I really wanted the chance to experience what normal long-term everyday life was like. You never really see the whole story of a city’s when you are a tourist. I was kind of shocked to find that a few students also studying abroad here were in the same situation as me, and had similar stories of visiting family throughout the years.

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Croke Park: the national stadium where all GAA finals are or the All Irelands. GAA sports include Hurling and Gaelic football.

When I got my acceptance letter I started to worry about the logistics of finding classes and how to register for them, knowing that the European school system would be very different from what I am used to at OSU. How would I get to campus and navigate the paper-based registration system? I was directed by past exchange students to take a look at the Semester Startup Program (SSP) and would recommend it for anyone thinking of exchanging to Trinity. The SSP program helps international students not only get a good intro to Trinity, before the mass of students arrive, but also includes lectures that cover Ireland’s history, culture, and global connections. I have learned some things that even my dad didn’t know. For example, did you know that Ireland was one of the only countries in Europe to consistently have gender equal migration? We also visited some amazing sights including Croke Park, Trim castle and the Hill of Tara. Those are all must see places for anyone venturing to Ireland. (Croke Park: the national stadium where all GAA finals are or the All Irelands. GAA sports include Hurling and Gaelic football.)

Some of the work you will have to do in SSP is the graded assignments, three papers to be exact, as well as lectures every day. They haven’t been too overwhelming and I have to admit they have been a great introductory to U.K. spelling and Trinity’s Citation Policy as well as prepare me for school to start. My papers so far have been on W.B. Yeats and Robert Emmet, two people I really didn’t know about until this class. But don’t worry there has been plenty of time to explore and we have already wondered outside Dublin to the seaside town of Dalkey. We saw castles and boats but no dolphins. It also was not raining for our day of exploration which in Ireland is a very rare thing indeed.

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Taught my new friends O-H-I-O, taken in the small town of Dalkey right outside Dublin

When I first saw Trinity as a kid I though it looked like a castle, I really couldn’t imagine it as a school. Now that I am here and classes are about to start I still can’t see how people stay focused when the campus is so pretty and historical. Trinity is a lot smaller than OSU and it is completely fenced in with about three ways in, so I am really looking forward to the day when I learn how to avoid the many tourists that come to Trinity daily. I must now accidently be in so many trip photos. As of now, though, I’m currently working on my final paper for SSP and trying not to worry about signing up for classes, which I can’t do until the week before they start.

Ready for Delivery: Project with DHL Supply Chain

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Lauren Barry, Devin Horton, Shelby Smith, Mack Watts, and MBA mentor Paul Webb explain their project deliverable for DHL Supply Chain.

Entering Singapore, our team was tasked by DHL Supply Chain to research the manufacturing opportunity that was being created by the newly formed ASEAN Economic Community and how DHL may be able to capitalize on that opportunity. After seven weeks of thorough research, our team was ready to provide our progressive recommendations that we found.

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FCOB undergraduate participants in Marketing Global Lab take to the stage to present their recommendations to DHL Supply Chain.

Going into Tuesday, the team was ready to go. We had spent the previous night rehearsing and felt confident in our preparation. Upon waking up, we all met downstairs to have a team breakfast and present one last time in front of Dr. Matta to gain his seal of confidence prior to getting in front of DHL’s executives. We were relaxed and had pep in our step as we rode the bus out to DHL’s office.

Upon arrival, we were thrilled to find that we would be presenting in the newly built, Asia Pacific Innovation Center, a space that DHL uses as a think tank and community center for its thriving business partners. The center was one of the coolest places that any of us have ever been, and what followed was nothing short of exciting.

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With a new pep in their step, members of Team DHL Supply Chain celebrate a job well down with faculty Dr. Shashi Matta.

Ross Ballantyne, the head of marketing of the Asia Pacific region at DHL, took the floor and set the stage for the whole morning. After DHL’s presentation, our team took the stage and spoke to both Ross and his colleague Nidhi. Shelby and Lauren started the presentation with a bang, allowing Devin and Mack to finish with progressive recommendations for DHL to take going forward into the development of the AEC. This experience provided team DHL with an amazing opportunity to showcase what we learned in professor Matta’s class and apply it to a real business solution.

Wendy’s for the Win: Team Wendy’s Presents to Executives

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Alexis Lambos, Olivia Chancellor, Max Olberding, Andy Landaverde, and MBA mentor Elena Pipino recount the morning they presented to Wendy’s executives.

Our fourth day of Singapore began by waking up slightly earlier than the other teams to begin final preparation for our presentation to the Wendy’s Asia Pacific team. We were all a little nervous but also so excited because we had spent the last three months working hard on the project.

We all boarded the bus and arrived at the meeting location—the American Club in Singapore.

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Members of the Wendy’s Team show their OSU pride by posing with a Block O following their presentation to company executives.

The Wendy’s team welcomed us with a warm greeting. John Pain, the VP & Managing Director for Asia Pacific & EMEA, and his team began by introducing themselves and sharing more about their roles within the company. John continued by presenting insights about the Asian consumers and how Wendy’s has been able to successfully adapt the brand within this market.

After John’s presentation we took a brief break and then set up our PowerPoint.

We shared with the Wendy’s team research and recommendations that we had collected over the last few months, specifically regarding the way better burger chains could threaten Wendy’s in the Asian market. While the project was challenging, the experience of presenting to John and his team and hearing their positive feedback was extremely rewarding. After we concluded our presentation, we had a bit of free time to mingle and network with the Wendy’s team.

Marketing through a New Lens: Presenting to Johnson & Johnson

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Cory Bonda, Kyle Hubbard, Amelia Gulick, and MBA mentor Lindsey Durham describe what it means to have time with multiple top-tier marketing executives at Johnson & Johnson.

Thursday morning was the visit to Johnson & Johnson’s Asia Pacific headquarters. We presented a project on Acuvue define contact lenses to multiple top-tier executives. They provided great feedback on our presentation and asked quite a few questions to gain more insight and detail on our ideas. This discussion was actually held with the president of the Acuvue brand in the Asia Pacific, who was very impressed and engaged with our work.

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FCOB students and Johnson & Johnson executives pose for a picture follow student recommendations.

Due to other obligations and a busy schedule, he only had 20 minutes to hear us present but chose to stay for over an hour to finish the conversation and then share his personal background with us all in a Q&A session. It was also encouraging that some of the executives actually followed up with our group members during an intermission to gain more insight on our thoughts and ideas.

The feeling of being engaged with top professionals in a company like J&J was intimidating and exciting simultaneously; even better was how genuinely interested and impressed they were with our ideas. The weight off of our shoulders when the whole thing was done was phenomenal. To finally cross the finish line for the project we’d spent so much time and effort, so many ups and downs and turnarounds, on left huge smiles plastered on our face for the rest of the day.

Private Thoughts: A Question of Motivation

Alex Rhodes, junior in Public Policy Analysis & Political Science, gains new appreciation for private sector profit maximization in the decision making process during his participation in the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab.

As a student studying public policy, I must admit I was quite interested in the implication of public actors in achieving the level of sustainability that I and many others had presumed Denmark and The Netherlands to have. I believed that private actors, or firms, were quite limited in their ability to widen the scope of their analysis of their own functions to incorporate or internalize negative externalities like pollution. I was taught that it is often only the government that can force businesses to consider the environment.

I was entirely mistaken.

Certainly the role of government cannot be overlooked. When we went to Aalborg University, several presenters fused sustainability ideas with application of public policy. We discussed a previous project one of presenters had worked on: a public biking path. We discussed how a cost benefit analysis of the path was created, how the argument for its construction was created and changed throughout the process of its enactment, and we learned how its effectiveness was statistically measured and analyzed. It was one of the most interesting discussion lectures I’ve attended in my undergraduate career.

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SBGL students visit SolaRoad, the first road surface that absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity.

However, I soon realized I hadn’t given enough credit to potential of the private sector. I realized that under very unique circumstances, circumstances like those experienced by Kalundborg Symbiosis Eco-Industrial Park, firms can create radically innovative business models with sustainability and profitability to boot.

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SBGL students on a tour of Kalundborg Symbiosis Eco-Industrial Park, an industrial network where companies collaborate to use each other’s by-products.

The Eco-Industrial park consists of a host of factories and firms that have assembled themselves in one location based off of one principle: their inputs are the same another’s outputs, or vice versa. That means less dumping of waste materials into landfills, less pollution from trucks transporting waste material to its resting place, etc.

But don’t mistake this park as being created to be “green”; I quickly learned after arriving that it was created almost solely for monetary reasons. Having only to ship outputs/inputs of a factory down a street instead of across a city means less cost to the business. These businesses just wanted to add a few more dollars to their bottom line. Surprisingly, similar to American businesses, the most sustainable businesses in the country I once recognized as one of the most eco-friendly countries didn’t prioritize the environment in their business model; they just wanted an easier way to maximize profits.

I truly believe that there must exist a catalyst to speed up the creation of unique circumstances that lead to profitable and relatively environmentally-friendly businesses. Perhaps due to their nature, businesses will always prioritize profits. They may just need to augment how they go about earning their profits. Perhaps the government can help them do this.

What to Expect from 2017 SBGL

In preparation for his 2017 program, Dr. Neil Drobny reflects on his experience directing the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab in Denmark and The Netherlands.

The opportunity to develop and lead the Global Lab in sustainability is one of the highlights of my teaching career at Ohio State.  And the decision to concentrate the experience on sustainable business practices in Denmark and The Netherlands was icing on the cake.

I have known for many years that physical, cultural and other factors in Europe have intersected to create conditions ripe for innovation and development of sustainable business practice.  The Global Lab experience was an opportunity to validate and observe what I had come to know only through reading and second hand information.  Similarly it was an opportunity to reinforce with students information that I had presented in the classroom.

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During their time in Rotterdam, 2016 SBGL students met with representatives of Unilever to discuss the implications of sustainability in new product development.

The mix of visits to diverse business and cultural sites worked well together in conveying that sustainable practices are well integrated into everyone’s work and non-work lives.  We learned for example from Unilever, whose world headquarters in Rotterdam we visited, that an early consideration of all new product development is what the sustainability benefits and footprint will be.   If a new product idea does not score well on sustainability metrics, it is not pursued.

In Amsterdam we saw the world’s first (experimental) solar road, a roadway with solar cells built into it.  At this point it carries only bicycles and very lightweight vehicles, but there is every reason to believe that the technology will someday be incorporated into major roadways.  It was like visiting with Thomas Edison in his lab as he worked on the first light bulb

In Copenhagen we saw the benefits of sustainability-driven thinking in city planning.  In the older part of the city building height was limited to five stories and streets were exceptionally wide. With a latitude comparable to southern Alaska, sunshine is limited.  The wide streets and limited building heights enhance the penetration of sunlight in the urban core which is well-established as a key ingredient to overall well-being and productivity.  Today the wide streets help with accommodating bicycles and street cars in addition to automobiles and pedestrians.

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Interior of Pilgrim Fathers’ Church – a church in Rotterdam where passengers of the Speedwell departed for America in 1620.

Seeing the robust construction and results of careful maintenance of a 600-year old church in Rotterdam underscored that in the region things are “built to last” – a key element of sustainability.  Considerable interest was also added by the fact that the church was where the Pilgrims stayed the night before they “shoved off” for their voyage across the Atlantic.

For 2017 we will build on the success of the 2016 program by adding a visit to Lund University in Sweden and working with visit hosts to fine tune visits in coordination with course material in advance of the trip.