Study abroad in Germany, Spring 2015
This Spring twelve MBA and MSHRM students spent nine weeks at ESB Business School in Reutlingen, Germany. ESB is located in the southwest region of Germany, about 25 miles from Stuttgart (home of Bosch, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche). The students were the second cohort from Krannert to take part in this program. Besides taking classes about the economic situation and entrepreneurship in Europe they had to opportunity to learn more about the culture and travelled to many different countries. Let's listen to what some of our students think about their experience:
- Norihiko Hosokawa, 2nd Year MBA from Japan: This trip gives me confidences as an international business professional
- Peter Jacobson, 2nd Year MBA from the US: This experience will forever leave a mark on me, and has reinforced my desire to work abroad
Norihiko Hosokawa, 2nd Year MBA from Japan: This trip gives me confidences as an international business professional
I’ve been studying abroad at ESB Business School in Reutlingen University since March, 2015. This is a one module program and I’d like to report on my studies and life.
The way of study in Europe differs from that in the US. First, the duration of a class is different. We’ve taken three classes, Entrepreneurship, International Product Management, and Negotiation and all of them have two-week period. Thus, we have a class all day long; from 8 am to 3 pm. Second, class is intensive. While each class is only two weeks long, professors give large amounts of content and we have to do challenging assignments. For example, in our Entrepreneurship class, we submitted a 10 to 15-page paper and made a presentation. The assignment was interesting because we had to decide theme of the paper and research it by ourselves. My team decided to research “Internationalization of Small and Middle-size Entrepreneurship in Europe” but we had difficulty defining what our focus should be. Since most of Krannert class assignments have guidelines, it is not so hard to decide what to do. However, the assignment in Entrepreneurship did not have these guidelines and, therefore, our team took a long time to decide the focus of our research. The assignment was challenging, but we learned a lot from it.
To live in Germany is a nice experience. First, weather is getting better. It was a little bit chilly in March but it is getting warmer and warmer in April; hence, we enjoy exercising and having meals outside. Second, the food tastes good. Reutlingen is not a big city but it has a lot of kinds of restaurants not only German but also Italian, Mexican, and Chinese etc. In addition, German bread tastes good. I’ve been to the bakery shops in the city many times but I’ve never had bad tasting bread. Third, trips in Europe are convenient because of the public transportation. Not only flights but trains are also available. For example, I used trains to visit Belgium and Netherland from Reutlingen.
Last but not least, I’d like to address quality of Krannert students. International Product Management required us to do a thirty-minute presentation and submit a paper. I formed a team with Krannert students and I realized the quality. Our presentation was evaluated by the professor as “very convincing”. Although we had limited time for preparation, we worked intensively and did not compromise about our presentation’s quality. In addition to the experience, Krannet students’ active class participation shows the quality of Krannert students. This is one of the most important findings from the program because it gives me confidence as an international business professional.
MBA Class of 2015
Peter Jacobson, 2nd Year MBA from the US: This experience will forever leave a mark on me, and has reinforced my desire to work abroad
I took part in this experience because I wanted a taste of what it is like to live abroad. It has been a goal of mine to work overseas at some point in my career. I recognized that this program would provide me with the opportunity to better understand why German and European people think and behave in the ways they do, and how this culture manifests itself in the firms and governments of Europe. I felt such insight would be very beneficial to me as I start my career with Shell Oil Company, which is headquartered in The Netherlands.
During this nine-week experience, my highlights included:
- Completing three courses that provided me with a European perspective on business and economics;
- Experiencing some amazing natural and man-made wonders by visiting 7 countries and 18 cities/towns/islands;
- Improving my basic German skills;
- Tasting some incredible foods and trying many new dishes;
- Making new connections with people from throughout Europe and the world;
- Making countless numbers of mistakes and learning a tremendous amount about myself.
My life in Germany can be split into three categories: classes at ESB Business School, travel throughout Europe, and everyday life in Reutlingen. Each part has left a tremendous impact on me, which I will describe further in the sections below.
Classes at ESB Business School
ESB Business School is ranks as one of the top business schools in Germany. It is part of Reutlingen University, a university of applied sciences with enrollment of about 1/6 of Purdue. As an international business school, all classes were taught in English, and our classmates came from throughout the world. Our three required classes were split into blocks of two weeks. These courses were a great way to round out the curriculum I experienced at Krannert, as they were taught from a German/European perspective and focused on topics and skills not emphasized at Krannert.
Our first class was Entrepreneurship. In this class, we explored the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs and their startup ventures. A focus on small firms was different than the large firms we typically study at Krannert. Students split into groups to dive deeper into concepts related to entrepreneurship. My group explored how startups are driving digital innovation in the world of business-to-business (B2B). We concluded that we are likely to see a wave of disruption in B2B in the near future, following the path B2C has seen over the past two decades.
Our second class was International Product Management. The first half of the course focused on managing products throughout international markets, and the second half focused on key account management. This culminated with a final case analysis, paper, and presentation. Our group solved a case on Apple’s strategic restructuring with the launch of the iPod in 2001, where we studied how Apple has derived sustainable competitive advantage and through a product diversification strategy.
Our third and final class was International Negotiations and the European Union. The first part of this course focused on the current state of the European Union, Germany’s role within it, and what might be done to solve the problems the EU currently faces. Personally, this was the most interesting concept we explored in our classes. In 2008 as an undergraduate, I took a class on the EU and was able to visit with officials at the EU in Brussels. It was fascinating to see how the outlook of governments and the European people has changed as a result of the financial crisis that has plagued Europe. This discussion led into our international negotiations class, where we developed our abilities to inform, convince and persuade through simulation activities.
Travel Throughout Europe
When we weren’t in class, we took advantage of the opportunity to explore Germany and Europe. In a few short months I was able to see some of the world’s greatest wonders and make many incredible memories. Some of the highlights include:
- Exploring the natural beauty of Europe with incredible hikes through Gorges du Verdon (southern France), Cinque Terre (west coast of Italy), and Fira to Oia (on the Greek island of Santorini)
- Spending the weekend with a German family in Munich and getting a taste of what life is like for real Europeans
- Witnessing two unique Easter celebrations (each involving a lot of fire):
- Roman Catholic Easter in Florence, Italy: Attending Mass at The Duomo followed by “Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart),” a pyrotechnic tradition that has been used to celebrate Easter since the 15th century
- Greek Orthodox Easter in Santorini, Greece: Holy Friday was celebrated with a procession through the village of Pygros, which was lit up with torches along the streets. Easter Sunday was brought in with firework shows outside of churches in recognition of the Resurrection of Christ.
- Experiencing the pageantry and tradition of a bullfight at Plaza del Toro in Madrid, Spain
- Visiting the headquarters of my future employer (Shell Oil) in The Hague, The Netherlands
Beyond these incredible memories and unique experiences, I learned a tremendous amount about myself through making lots of mistakes, getting lost, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and trying new things. It was a joy to go through these experiences with my Krannert classmates.
Everyday Life in Reutlingen, Germany
I really enjoyed the day-to-day life in Reutlingen. Reutlingen is located in the southwest region of Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Its population is just over 100,000, making it roughly the same size as the Lafayette-West Lafayette area. The city center is well developed with stores and restaurants that met all of our needs. I enjoyed what seemed to be a more relaxed pace of life and the beautiful, forested surroundings of Reutlingen.
Despite the relaxed lifestyle and beautiful surroundings, living in Germany required some major adjustments. The two most difficult barriers for me were language and a lack of space. Given that Reutlingen is a smaller town, not many of the locals spoke much English. However, I enjoyed the challenge of getting around and shopping with only some basic German. I also had to get used to having less space than I am used to in the United States, but I started to gain an appreciation of the parks and community areas that offset some of the disadvantages of less personal space.
Taken as a whole, I have come to learn that Europe is very different from the United States in almost every way. The European systems and way of life are not necessarily better or worse, just different. These differences have been shaped over hundreds of years by history, culture, economics, and access to resources.
I also gained an increased appreciation for the value of travel. Travel can put you in sometimes uncomfortable and uncertain situations. These situations truly test your ability to adapt and make quick decisions, skills critical in the business world. It also gives you the opportunity to try and see new things, which I believe enhances your outlook on life.
It has been a pleasure working through the highs and lows of this experience with my classmates. This experience will forever leave a mark on me, and has reinforced my desire to work abroad in my career. I am grateful to Krannert and ESB Business School for making all of this possible.
MBA Class of 2015