Addio Italia! Last week in Italy, last week in Europe

Our last week in Italy was spent with morning lectures and afternoon group work. It was more stressing in finalizing our presentation during the last few days. Our group members, including myself, were faced with conflict and chaos at times. Most members’ work, in the end, was eliminated from the presentation all together. This meant for many, three months of hard work going down the drain. However, the main lesson from this experience was learning to put at top priority what the customer or consumer wanted and to accept change and make amendments as the project progressed. Fortunately, we were able to finalize and present on Friday, the last day of the program. The presentation was a success and PratoRosso was happy with the recommendations given.

In between group meeting and lectures, we were able to visit for an afternoon at Verona and at Lake Garda, and make one last site visit at Lonati, a sock manufacturer. Apparently, Verona was not as packed with tourists as it was in Venice. Also, according to my taste buds, I had the best Margarita pizza during my whole stay in Italy, in Verona. Best of all, my pizza was on fire when it was served. Our trip ended with a last dinner with our Italian classmates and professors.

These three weeks in Europe, one week in Germany and two weeks in Italy were one in a life-time experience I will cherish forever. With all its ups and downs during the trip, I learned much not only from a business aspect, but also from an international perspective. Doing business with a country is not at all easy, and in fact it is a challenge. Being able to learn a country’s culture and integrate it in a business proposal is important. Also respecting and being conscious of the differences in cultures is vital in doing business abroad. The world of business is not limited to the U.S.; it is international, in result making it even more important to learn how to do international business.

I also learned that both Italy and Germany have similar values regarding recycling. For instance, the Germans find it very important to recycle both plastic and glass bottles. In fact, they serve their beer in glass and charge an extra fee on customers for the deposit, which they can get back if the glass is returned. The Italians are the same. Coffee is never served in to go cups and in fact must be sipped at the cafe. The U.S. has such a fast paced culture that our food consumption is revolved around this aspect. Everything is to go: paper cups, plates, silverware, etc. All of which create unneeded waste that cannot be recycled. I am assuming this is why recycling is a part of the German and Italian way of living, because their lifestyle does not revolve around a fast-paced lifestyle.

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Ciao Italia! First Week in Brescia

My first week in Italy was filled with both excitement and anxieties. I traveled along with a group of other students from Wiesbaden, Germany to Brescia, Italy. It was an 8 hour long train ride with a stop in Switzerland to check passports and a stop in Milan, Italy to switch trains. However, one of the students realized she had lost her passport once we arrived in Switzerland. It was an excruciating few hours waiting for our passports to be checked and to see what would happen to our friend. Fortunately, it wasn’t until crossing the border and getting close to Milan that our passports were checked by the Italian police. I guess they couldn’t really send her back to Switzerland on Italian soil for not having a passport (because Italy is part of the European Union, there is no need for a passport if you travel between member countries). In the end she was able to cross with us.

Our first day was spent on our own, however, I couldn’t spend it how I wanted it for the first part of the day. It would have been helpful to know that Italian restrooms have the tendency to get stuck, thus locking the occupant in, which happened to me. My prison time in the restroom would not have lasted two hours if I would have been told that a tiny red ball tied to the ceiling was a switch to call for help (which, anyways, would not have worked for someone as short as me to grab and pull). However, the day ended well when I was finally able to jam the door open and was able to get on time to the walking tour of Brescia.

The rest of the week consisted of lectures in the morning and group project meetings in the afternoons. Our main assignment during the whole two weeks in Italy was to prepare a presentation for PratoRosso, an Italian Brewery, on how to use social media to their advantage by offering them recommendations. We had in advance finalized our presentation, but at our client meeting with PratoRosso we realized how wrong we were in our assumption of Italian culture and business. Our recommendations were too advanced and irrelevant at the stage the business was at that moment. During our two weeks in Italy we spent most of the afternoons restructuring our presentations and changing our content. It was truly a real life scenario of how working for an “international” business is more complicated than it seemed.

During the first week we made two site visits to Beretta, an Italian international weapons manufacturer and Ca del Bosco, a Prosecco (champagne) producer. FYI: The Italians take serious offense if you consider Prosecco as champagne (although it obviously is the same in taste and texture, my professors and all the students agreed privately), and according to the Italians, the French stole their idea and renamed it champagne.

The week ended with a team building activity at Lake Iseo and a day trip to Venice. At Lake Iseo we were taught team building through learning how to sail. Sailing in a small boat is truly team work. All members had an assigned task to oversee and execute when the captain (leader) commanded an order. If not all members cooperated, the result was the capsizing the boat. The last section of the team building activity was to get the sail boat back into sailing position if the boat did capsize.

I noticed that the Italians organize their waste according to categories. The food goes to the food waste, the styrofoam and plastic goes in another bin, carton in another, and so forth. However, the Italians are not as enthusiastic as the Germans in regard to recycling bottles. That does not mean they don’t recycle bottles, just that they are not as verbal to foreigners about leaving behind empty water bottles to be recycled. They do, however, have many beautiful water fountains that are safe to drink from, which my be the reason why not many natives purchase water bottles.

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Guten Tag! A week in South-West Germany

One week in Germany seemed to short of a trip to explore its cities, yet it was long enough for me to appreciate the amalgam of both old world features and 21st century characteristics. With a thriving economy and one of the founding members of the European Union, Germany was the perfect place to visit and learn about how businesses thrive in Germany, in comparison with the U.S. Our stay and travels were limited to the south-western part of Germany, staying in Wiesbaden and visiting cities such as Frankfurt, Neckarsulm, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wurttemberg, and many other small towns in between.      IMG_0158      IMG_0148

Our host, the EBS Universität Business School, meticulously organized a one week schedule packed with company tours, site visits, lectures taught by German professors, and plenty of travel and sight-seeing in between. Day one was started off with an intense German survival course from 10 am to 1pm, and with less than 30 minutes to eat and hop on the train towards Frankfurt to visit Deutsche Bundesbank, the Central Bank of the Federal Republic of Germany for a speech and a tour of its Money Museum. Afterwards we were able to sight-see most of Frankfurt with our professor as our guide.  IMG_0220            Heidelberg2

Day two started with a one hour bus ride to Neckarsulm to visit the Audi car manufacturer. It was amazing to see how clean and organized the AUDI plant was and how efficient they were in manufacturing these luxury cars in a timely manner. Afterwards we were transferred to Heidelberg for some free time exploring of the castle and town.

Day three was an all lecture day focused on supply chain management methodology used in Germany. We also participated in a “Beer Game” simulation where we played the parts of distributors, wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers. After an all-day lecture we were treated with dinner at a well-known microbrewery and pub in Eisgrub in Mainz.

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Day four was a public holiday, Christi Himmelfahrt, which according to our professor is the equivalent to the U.S.’s Father’s Day. That day was spent on a Rüdesheim Boat tour that took us sightseeing of all the small castles located along the river. Our last location was hiking to Burg Rheinstein castle for lunch and a tour of the castle.

Day five, the last day, was spent with a half day lecture of Retailing in Europe. Case studies such as Wal-Mart and Euro Disneyland were used as main examples of the troubles U.S. companies have had trying to grow in Europe. Some were not as successful, such as Wal-Mart in Germany, due to various factors that were discussed during class. Lastly the day was spent visiting Eberbach Abbey with a tour of the monetary and wine tasting. The tour was focused on the business aspect of the monetary and how through the centuries it had survived financially, such as being a wine cellar business for the monks to now being a location for wedding or business receptions along with hosting wine tastings.

All in all, this experience was full of activity and a lot of learning of just how different Germany is from the U.S. Cultural differences and different methods of operation were the main focus of this trip, which opened my perspective on international business to a whole different level. I learned that these differences are so important to consider that if disregarded, companies can fail in these international markets due to avoidable ignorance. I also noticed throughout this week that there was not a single empty bottle lying around the streets. The Germans have a thing for recycling both plastic and glass bottles. According to our professor, there is a deposit fee paid for each bottle purchased. So, if businesses want to keep that deposit, they have to return it to their distributor. I am assuming that fee must be high if it gets many to recycle.

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