Today started off like a regular day here in Groesbeek. Our group had to be up early this morning because we had a company visit planned to NACCO Industries. We all met at the bus stop to make the trip to Nijmegen, where the company is located. Upon our arrival at NACCO, we were greeted with cold drinks and candy. An employee representative then proceeded to show us a couple of slideshows while he presented information about the company.
After his presentation, we split into two groups and were given a tour of the company’s materials handling group. We saw the production lines of the Hyster and Yale brands in action. Throughout the tour, it was interesting to see the logistics of NACCO and how the company is run.
Once our tour was over, we made our way back to the bus stop and from there, we caught a ride back to Nijmegen. Once we got to the Nijmegen bus station, a couple of friends and I bought our train tickets to Amsterdam for our last day in Europe. Then, we caught the next bus back to Groesbeek to finish the rest of the day as we wished. Amber, Nigel and I decided to walk into Groesbeek to get lunch at an Egyptian pizza place called Cairo. We split a salami pizza that tasted delicious. It was unlike any pizza I’ve ever tasted in the U.S. Afterwards, we wanted to walk around and explore the city of Groesbeek. We happened to find a huge old-fashioned windmill in the center of the city. Ironically, this was the first old-fashioned windmill that I’ve seen since my stay in the Netherlands, so I thought it was really neat. The Netherlands is known for their windmills and is home to over 1,000 of them.
After walking a while and seeing the quaint town, we decided to head back to the Seven Hills Resort where we are staying. There we decided to just hang out and relax. We rented bikes and rode around the resort and along the roads of Groesbeek. Once we were hungry for dinner, we caught a bus into Nijmegen to eat at a restaurant recommended by Nigel who had eaten there earlier in the week. The restaurant was called Terra Rossa and served Italian-style cuisines. Everyone ordered a different dish and the food was great. After dinner, we waited at the bus stop to go back to Groesbeek and talked with some locals we met. I found it very interesting that they were all saying how badly they want to come to America to live while they also said that they think Americans are loud and a little superficial. It is very interesting to see the differences between America and the Netherlands. I have found many differences in the foods, the dress styles, the transportation, the physical appearances, the laws, the cost of living, etc. Talking with the local people of the country and through my studies at Han University, I have learned a lot and I am very intrigued by all the differences I’ve seen so far. I only wish I had more time to spend here in this beautiful country.
In order to really get an understanding of a certain culture, I find that the best way is to take a walk in the locals’ shoes and try to see things from their perspective. Many times, this “stepping outside of the box” can feel strange for some. Aside from all of the obvious stereotypes the Dutch have, windmills, wooden shoes, etc., there is one particular characteristic about their culture that sets them apart from the United States. Cycling is an aspect of the Dutch culture that dates back many years. In Holland, nearly 85 percent of the population own at least one bicycle, which amounts to almost 16 million bicycles spread across the country! Not to mention there are currently more people who ride bicycles than drive automobiles. As a way of paying respect to this cultural norm, we decided to rent a few bicycles for the day.
After a week of classes at Han University behind us, we were given the second weekend in the Netherlands to ourselves. On Saturday morning, several of the guys and I saddled up our bikes that we had rented for €10,00 and began our journey east. The city of Groesbeek is one of the Netherlands’ most eastern provinces and sits right on the border of Germany. After about 20 kilometers of riding, we had finally crossed over into what appeared to be a very rural farmland part of Germany. What took me by surprise was that even though the Netherlands and Germany sit as neighboring countries, they still uphold their architectural and agricultural differences. Once we decided that we had seen enough, we turned around and headed back towards Groesbeek.
For almost a week we had been making the 10-to 15-minute walk from our villas at the Seven Hills Resort into downtown Groesbeek. On bicycle, it took us less than five minutes. It was amazing how much time we saved and how much more of the town we were able to explore. The Dutch have a particular skill in urban planning and the bike roads serve as a testament to this expertise. We continued to ride around for the remainder of the day until about 6:00 p.m. and then headed back for some dinner.
At around 8:00, we all decided to take the bus to Nijmegen to celebrate one of our group members’ birthdays. On Friday and Saturday nights, Molenstraat Square fills with college students from such universities as Han and Radbound to unwind after a long week of class. It was nice being able to mingle with the locals and getting to know some of those who were our age. It’s fascinating to hear what college students from other countries think about the U.S. More interestingly is how much different Americans really are from the rest of the world. I think that hearing the views and opinions that people from other countries have of Americans gives us a better insight to how we conduct ourselves, which in turn can help us to become global citizens.
Today started off quite well with a nice last-minute sprint uphill to catch the bus at the bus stop. After luckily catching the bus, a couple friends and I rejoined the rest of the group. This started our morning filled with lecture sessions at Han University. The first lecture was titled “Dutch and European Economy” with Mr. Jan Jansen as the lecturer and the second lecture was “European Marketing” with Rob Warmerhoven. The lectures lasted longer than what students at East Carolina University are used to, but they were packed full of information and were quite interesting. We were taught how the Dutch handle business situations and traditional business etiquette. These lectures lasted from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. with a 30-minute lunch break.
While at lunch, a man named Alphons greeted us. Alphons is a Dutch citizen who was recruited to East Carolina University to play basketball. He stands at seven feet tall and is a very easy person to have a conversation with. Alphons told us about his experiences at ECU, as well as what it is like to live in the Netherlands. Alphons has even guarded Dirk Nowitzki in a European basketball game and has friends who play in the NBA.
After class, a few of the guys and I made our way into the town (Nijmegen) via the bus transport to do a little shopping and to enjoy the cool weather after experiencing two sweltering days back-to-back. The first stop we made was to a nice local bar called Café de Deut, where we had a conversation with a local guy working there. We talked about the city of Nijmegen and he asked where we were from, what we were studying, etc. The bartender went on to show us beer he was about to serve to two customers. It was very special beer, and he explained that you had to call a guy personally who rarely answers the phone to place a maximum order of three crates, or 72 bottles. The beer is available for purchase from the bottler only about once a month. The bottle is plain with no labels at all and sells for 10 Euros or about $15 USD per bottle to customers!
After paying the tab, Joey and I made our way to get a few groceries consisting of fruit and sandwich food at the local Coop and made our way back to Central Station where buses would take us back to Groesbeek for the evening. The walks to and from the bus stops seemed to be getting slightly shorter every day, but we were still glad to make it back to our bungalows to relax and hang out for the rest of the afternoon.
The afternoon was spent recouping and getting ready for the next day. It seems we get up earlier and earlier each day. We were definitely worn out today, but I believe I can speak for the class when I say we are having a great time here and wouldn’t trade a minute of rest for the experiences we are sharing.
The day finally arrived when we departed on our trip to the Netherlands. For me it was with mixed feelings as I had to bid adieu to my family and will miss them for the next two weeks. On the other hand, I am excited to go on this trip with fellow students to learn about a new culture.
We had an uneventful arrival at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam with the exception of one unfortunate incident, which hopefully will be correct by tomorrow.
The campus was unlike the ones seen back in the United States. The buildings were built in a way that increased natural lighting and reduced HVAC expenditures. This was made possible by providing glass structures wherever possible that would allow natural light to seep in and to reduce energy consumption. Also, the classrooms used state-of-the-art technology including smart boards for teaching. These boards not only allowed the projection of slides but also allowed the board to be used as a virtual computer desktop where one could click on hyper links on the displayed page. The students admired the great environment and features available in the buildings present in the Nijmegen Campus of the university.
We began classes yesterday with a brief introduction on how to deal with the Dutch. The professor helped us understand the different beliefs the Dutch people have: their history, religion, mentality, the stereotypes people have about them, and finally about the behavior of the people when conducting business. She was kind enough to teach us some commonly used phrases and sentences in Dutch.
The most exciting thing that I (and the entire team) encountered was learning about the business processes in the Netherlands. The best part of this was a simulation class we had at the Han School of Applied Sciences. Two professors from the Han Business School created a model depicting the business processes in a typical manufacturing industry. They showed how a customer places an order and how the entire process flows through by illustrating the movement of materials and other logistics within the manufacturing industry. We were divided into two groups and competed to improve the process where the final product is created. Two teams played three rounds of the game, with breaks in between. During the breaks, we discussed how we would improve the processes that a company employs to make money, improve productivity, and add value to the final product. The best part of the simulation was the practical approach to the business processes that might be prevalent in a corporation, instead of a monotonic lecture. In the end, everyone seemed to have learned quite a bit about the business processes.