I arrived in Koblenz in late August and have done and experienced so much that sometimes it feels like I have been here for much longer than only two months.
I decided to do a semester abroad not just because I am looking into focusing on an international career after Business School, but also because this may just be the last opportunity that I will have to experience a semester immersed in a different culture before re-entering the real world. I chose Germany because, although born in Brazil, my family came from here and I thought that it would be interesting to spend some time in the country my grandparents are from.
I wound up in a very small town called Vallendar, right outside Koblenz and not too far away from Frankfurt. Upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and perfectly organized everything is here (go figure!). WHU (the Otto Besheim School of Business) had put together a full schedule of activities to help us Tauschies (short for “Austauschstudenten” or exchange students) learn more about their school, the German Culture and to help us better integrate with the Vallendar community. We had regional tours down the Rhyne river wineries, International dinners and a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest.
School life here is very different from that in the U.S. We have really intense weeks followed by not so intense ones. Classes, in general, are much longer in duration. Usually we spend entire school days studying the same subject (9 straight hours) for four or five days in a row. Then we have a final test a week or two later. I have been very impressed with the caliber of our Professors here too. In one of my classes, Change Management, the Professor was Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley. He is the current CEO of Merck and former CFO of Lufthansa. It was fascinating to listen to his experiences and insights on business and how change can be driven smoothly when well executed. In another class we will work on a case about Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile communication company, and will present our findings and solutions for it to a board of managers in Düsseldorf (main office of Vodafone in Germany.)
Between classes there is plenty of time for relaxing and traveling, which I have been doing a lot since I got here. Whenever I can get away, I make sure I do. I’ve already spent some time in Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, London and other cities in Germany. I am really enjoying being able take a short train ride and end up in a completely different country.
Even with all these fun trips I have to admit that Germany is still my favorite place in Europe! Germany is a country where beer is cheaper than mineral water. Germans typically drink carbonated water because they find regular water to be just too boring to drink without the bubbles (words of a German). People are also extremely nice and helpful, even if they don’t sound that way up front. They just have a blunt manner of speaking.
Overall, this experience has been “Super” as they would say here. I’m sure the second half of my term will fly by even faster than the first and that in the end I will be a little sad to be leaving all of this behind. However, the thought of playing a foosball match in the MBA lounge at PACCAR hall and having having Pagliacci Pizza for lunch (multiple days in a row) makes me happy that I will be re-joining my friends back at Foster soon.
Foster MBA 2012