Friday, August 3, 2012

June 11 Brussels

Today was the second day in Brussels. The day stared early with orientation followed by a visit to the American Embassy.  At the embassy we had a very informative brief from a representative of the department of commerce. I learned much about the role of the commercial department and their relationships with American companies and foreign connections.  I also discovered that the foreign diplomat was a Bay area just like me. This inspired me in some odd way to wonder if I could take my Marketing career to the limits that she had.  Following this educational and enlightening experience I made my way back to the Hostel for a class meeting and then some catch up on some unfinished work. I decided I would wait until the next day to start hustling for my interviews. Luckily today I didn’t have to go searching for my dinner because dinner and entertainment were provided.  The night consisted of Spaghetti in a cup (with rigatoni noodles), our drink of choice, and a few rock bands on the side. I played a few games of spades learned a new card game named Moron and met a few new people from around the globe.  The night turned out pretty good. Eventually I made my way to bed to get ready for what tomorrow had to bring.  Goodnight world.

June 22 Amsterdam

Today was the last full day in Amsterdam and I was determined to make the best of it.  I made my way ot into the city with a few friends to catch some last minute sights. our first stop was the nemo museum which to our disappointment turned out to be a childrens museum but we made the best of it.  The next museum we stopped at was the Van Gogh Museum.  The art work was amazing and life story was tragic.  After this we went back out into the city to catch a few more sights and take a few more pictures.  The night ended play pool at a local bar with new friends.

June 23 Bye Bye Europe

My journey has finally come to a conclusion and I feel like I want to squeeze that last once of fun and excitement out but time is up. We got up bright and early to make our way to the airport. After I crossed security and my gate and couldn’t leave reality set in. The ten hour flight back to the U.S. was a breeze. I slept almost the whole flight. I landed back in Nashville to the home of the beautiful and was greeted by friends. The experience was one that I will never forget but there no place like home!

june 21 2012

Today was the sixth day in Holland and each day it has become more interesting. I made my way into the city with a friend to fish up my last interviews. I had noticed that there were many athletic stores in Amsterdam so I decided to find out what all the hype was about and I interview one. I chose Oasics because I was somewhat familiar with their products. I came to find that 25% of the Amsterdam population consider themselves to be runners and much of the city is populated very active occupants. In between me searching for a final interview I took in some more sight a bought a few souvenirs’ even came across a one man magic show. Tonight we were able to go on a boat tour of Amsterdam despite tyhe stormy weather.

June 19 Amsterdam

Today is day four in Amsterdam and I was back on my retail hunt. I made my way back down to the local mall to conduct my pre-schedule interview and snag a few more.  I was able to find my way to few interesting stores to include a cool Vintage store and a store than shared a name with and American cigarette company (Malboro Classics).  I was up to three conquered interviews.  I made my way back through the city to take in some sights. I even stopped for some Vietnamese food. Amsterdam was full of culture. After this I made my way back to the hostel for another  guest speaker.  The guest speaker was a interesting and inspiring media activist by the name of Zoe D’maro.  She was from Italy and moved to Amsterdam for media freedom.  She shared a video of some of the steps she had taken to end media take over in her country.  She also took her skills to Johannesburg in order to help the youth and criminal population. The night ended peacefully in my top bunk rack to prepare for the early trip to Rotterdam in the morning.

June 18 Amsterdam

Today the Amsterdam school week officially began and it was an eventful day indeed. The day started with the walking tour of Amsterdam. I didn’t want to make the same mistake as yesterday so I was right on time. Unfortunately one of my classmates wasn’t so I was forced to leave me tour guide and catch the tram with her to the central station.  When we arrived I couldn’t find my group anywhere but coincidently another group had just started and I jumped right in.  I had learned many facts about Amsterdam to include: the history of Rembrant and his artistic style, the east India Trading company and local shipping endeavors, and well as the red light district and the guidelines for the use of marijuana. Come to find out weed was technically not legal in the city it was just tolerated.  After the tour I made my way to the local shopping center to start my interview hunt. Once again I did not get an interview however, I was able to schedule and appointment. Immediately following this I rushed back to the hostel to get ready for the Nikki Minaj concert that night. We got as fly as possible and made our way down to the lobby where we stopped to take pictures. Next we stopped at the hostel bar to get the night started and hopped in our Mercedes Benz taxi cab to make our way to the Heinekin Music Theatre.  The line for the concert was wrapped around the outside of the building.  Upon entrance we eased our way as close to the stage as possible.  The rest of the night was filled with fun and entertainment. The night ended with a taxi ride back to the hostel among new friends.

June 16 Amsterdam

We woke up at the crack of dawn today to make our way to our final destination of Amsterdam.  Thankfully I had packed the night before so the morning was a breeze.  At the train station we loaded our bags on the train and took our seats however this train was a bit more skeptical in the last so we had to assign a few gear guards. The ride to Amsterdam went by relatively fast and I was thankful for this because it wasn’t the most comfortable.  As soon as we got to our hostel we hit the ground running. It was Saturday night and we knew this would be our only real weekend to see what Amsterdam was really about. I made my way to the pancake corner and off to H&M to pick out a outfit for the night.  By the time night rolled around I was ready to get my taste of the city and it seemed to be ready for our arrival. The streets were line with people. A banner reading after party hung over a long and vibrant ally way. We danced our way down the strip all night.  The night ended with one man one bike and three exhausted women riding down the Amsterdam streets with the wind in our hair. Until tomorrow…Peace and Blessings.

June 16 Amsterdam

We woke up at the crack of dawn today to make our way to our final destination of Amsterdam.  Thankfully I had packed the night before so the morning was a breeze.  At the train station we loaded our bags on the train and took our seats however this train was a bit more skeptical in the last so we had to assign a few gear guards. The ride to Amsterdam went by relatively fast and I was thankful for this because it wasn’t the most comfortable.  As soon as we got to our hostel we hit the ground running. It was Saturday night and we knew this would be our only real weekend to see what Amsterdam was really about. I made my way to the pancake corner and off to H&M to pick out a outfit for the night.  By the time night rolled around I was ready to get my taste of the city and it seemed to be ready for our arrival. The streets were line with people. A banner reading after party hung over a long and vibrant ally way. We danced our way down the strip all night.  The night ended with one man one bike and three exhausted women riding down the Amsterdam streets with the wind in our hair. Until tomorrow…Peace and Blessings.

June 15 2012

Today was the last full day in Brussels and I wanted to get in some last minute sight seeing with my city pass. I got off to a late start after a late night and the weather was on my side but I jumped back out into the city with a few friends.  We made our way into the cathedral which seemed to very popular this day. The architecture was amazing and the stained glass windows took my breath away.  The church pews were filled people enjoying the scenery of trying to get the spiritually healing for the week.  Church stairs were filled with tourist trying to get there perfect pictures. Next we made our way to the money museum. Here we got a chance to see currency from all around the world. This exhibition didn’t seem as popular however, it was very informative.  As the day quickly started growing closer to the evening, we made our way via metro back to the local shopping center to satisfy our shopping fix. This time I went down the outside strip. There was and overwhelming selection of stores including four H&Ms on the same strip. I saw many familiar stores that I would see in the U.S. such as Forever21, Zara and Mango. I also saw many I would never see in the U.S. I satisfied my shopping needs and then made my way back to the hostel. The night ended with a movie while I packed for the journey to Amsterdam.

June 14 2012

Day five in Belgium and I made my way out into city to begin my retail hunt.  I walked down to the city center and began to scope. The first store I came across was a small tie sop in the middle of the city center. There was one sales associate sitting behind a large counter. I gave her my introduction and asked for and interview and she politely accepted. The rest of the day was just as success.  I successfully was able to complete my hunt for interviews within a few hours. Other stores than I was able to infiltrate were Superdry which originated in England.  The clothing had a Ambercrombie and Fitch feel with a Japanese twist and it was a lot higher priced than I expected. The second store was named Geox and originated in Italy. Here I met  a young Belgian Dancer who used to dance for Chris Brown. Even though her English was very broken she was very friendly and gave me her number and facebook to show me all the hot spots in Brussels.  The last store was Cora Kemperman where the atmosphere was much more low key yet inviting. I learned of all the steps they were taking as a business to help save the environment.  After leaving the city center I made my way back to the hostel to meet our guest speaker.  Upon arrival I found that the guest was lost and would be late. Eventually he found his was and we all gathered in the classroom where we learned about the ins and outs of the shipping industry.  Following the guest speaker we made our way back out into the city for a class dinning out and dessert.  We ended up eating at a Turkish restaurant where I enjoyed some delicious Turkish chicken pizza. For dessert I had a chocolate Mouse cake while I laughed and talked among my class mates. The night ended among friends in the hostel bar.

June 11 Brussels

Today was the second day in Brussels. The day stared early with orientation followed by a visit to the American Embassy.  At the embassy we had a very informative brief from a representative of the department of commerce. I learned much about the role of the commercial department and their relationships with American companies and foreign connections.  I also discovered that the foreign diplomat was a Bay area just like me. This inspired me in some odd way to wonder if I could take my Marketing career to the limits that she had.  Following this educational and enlightening experience I made my way back to the Hostel for a class meeting and then some catch up on some unfinished work. I decided I would wait until the next day to start hustling for my interviews. Luckily today I didn’t have to go searching for my dinner because dinner and entertainment were provided.  The night consisted of Spaghetti in a cup (with rigatoni noodles), our drink of choice, and a few rock bands on the side. I played a few games of spades learned a new card game named Moron and met a few new people from around the globe.  The night turned out pretty good. Eventually I made my way to bed to get ready for what tomorrow had to bring.  Goodnight world.

June 10 Paris

Today we left Paris to make our way to Brussels Belgium. I got up relatively early went downstairs for a taste of breakfast and then made my way straight to the laundry mat to wash my clothes. Going to the laundry mat made me realize how universal most actions are. I say this because all the washing directions were in French however the use of pictures and the use of context made my washing experience simple and successful. In the meantime I finished packing up my things and made my way back up the treacherous stairwell with my luggage. When we split into groups for departure I left with the first group. Apparently after a week in Paris we were much more adapted to the traveling experience. Luckily no one was lost this time and we all made it to the train station successfully.  When we bored the train I assisted getting everyone’s luggage getting packed away and then made my way to my seat. I was exhausted and we were on the fastest train in Europe so the ride would be nearly enough to catch up on sleep.  The train didn’t seem to be going as fast as I expected but I realized its speed wasn’t a myth because by the time I laid my head down we were in Brussels.  Entering Brussels was definitely a surprise coming from Paris.  The city seemed a bit more Urban and a little run down.  Despite this I was still interested in the change of scenery.  The hill from the Metro station was a bit rigorous but nothing like Paris and the stairs from Hell. The first gift Belgium had to offer were larger rooms with limited yet available internet. I was already relieved by this.  Little did I know there were more surprises to come. We were introduced with the challenge of playing a game that sinfully resembled the amazing race.  I was up for the challenge so I gathered my group and we made our way out into the new city. We put our brains and our athleticisms together to try and find every listed structure as fast as we could. The game was time consuming yet the thrill of new discoveries and of course winning the prize made it exhilarating. Unfortunately another group beat us to the punch. After this loss we made our way back into the streets of Brussels to find something to eat. I had a delicious Belgium waffle and chocolate ice cream for a starter and then we made our way to a small Turkish restaurant that I can’t remember the name of.  The night end with a long needed hot shower and deep sleep. Welcome to Brussels.

June 9 Paris

Today was the last Day in Paris. I made my way back into the city to try and catch a last minute glimpse of everything I could with a few friends. We decided to got to Notre Dame first. Getting off the metro and coming to the street level and seeing the church across the river was a mesmerizing experience and it was only the beginning. We got in a line that stretched back far enough that it almost reached the street. Surprisingly the lined moved relatively fast and we were inside the church in no time.  The inside was just as capturing as the outside. The stained glass windows decoratively lined the walls of the church.  The stone walls were so intricately carved and I stretched so high I almost broke my neck trying to see the top.  There was beautiful art work at every turn.  Next we made our way to Le Louvre.  Tough I had been here a few times before the architecture of the building was still so capturing to me. We stopped at the food court inside which was quite different than any American food court I had ever seen. They actually had real food options not fast food, aside from the awkwardly located Mcdonalds around the corner.   I paid almost 20 Euros for a food court meal; however, it was justified. After Le Louvre we walked down the Paris Streets and bought a few souvenirs.  From here we made our way further down town by the Opra House.  Looking at most of the structures of Paris, I was in disbelief that that they were constructed by human hands. I was like nothing I had ever seen in the states. From we here we made our last minute runs of retail therapy in Paris. From here we went to Le Crepage for another taste of their delicious cuisine. The night ended with long needed sleep for an early wake up and new adventure. Aui Voir Paris. Bounjour Brussels.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Friday June 22nd: Last day in Amsterdam, Last day of the trip, and On to the Next Adventure!

Vincent Van Gogh is my homeboy!
Well here we are, the last day in Amsterdam. Today is our museum pass day and unlike everyone else I am not going to try and rush around and squeeze it all in. I'm looking forward to a casual start and the Van Gogh museum for as long as it takes. I really enjoy his work and seeing the exhibit in Paris made me anxious for this day. I spent several hours in the Van Gogh museum and took my time enjoying each painting. I don't know what it is about his work but I really enjoy it.
After I left the Van Gogh museum I picked up a sandwich and a drink and headed over to Vondelpark to take advantage of a nice break in the weather. After lunch I am headed into downtown Amsterdam to take advantage of my last day to take pictures and wander the streets. I'm hoping to meet up with some friends from the group and make Friday night plans with them.

As we wind down on this last day I am looking forward to going out one last time before leaving Europe. I have so many more adventures planned for this summer but this has been a great experience and I'm sorry to see it come to an end.

Thursday June 21st: Last Day of Class, Family dinner, and a Canal Tour.

Good Morning from Vondelpark Amsterdam.
It's the last day of class and everyone seems excited. When I got in last night everyone was tucked in front of their computers finishing up work and studying for exams. For me, most of my work lies ahead of me and I have a lot of writing to do. I've used this time to take pictures and enjoy some time alone wandering through the city. My morning was taken up by breakfast in Vondelpark and then a long walk around the whole city. With tomorrow being the last day I am trying to savor every moment I have today.
Several of us have eaten dinner together every night in Amsterdam and started to refer to it as family dinner. It's been nice to talk about the trip with the group and we have had a lot of laughs. We have decided to go out as a group after the canal tour and extend family dinner into the late hours of the night. The weather hasn't been great today however and we are expecting some rain during the canal tour.
It's been a while since the whole group of students has been together for one activity and other than the airport, this canal tour will probably be the last time we are all together. Seeing the city from the perspective of the canals is really cool and we got to hear about a lot of history from our captain. Although the weather wasn't the best it was still very cool. The family is on our way out for the second to last night in Amsterdam and I'm not ready for this to be over.

Wednesday June 20th: Missed Opportunities, Kuoni, and Club Med,

This morning I accidentally overslept and missed the group departure to Rotterdam. I've been in several other major port and shipping cities before but I was really disappointed that I missed out on Rotterdam. I didn't want to let one missed opportunity cause a chain reaction so I set out to land some very critical interviews.
I've gone round and round with Club Med and haven't been able to speak with the marketing manager until today. We finally spoke and she said that she could make some time for me this afternoon. In the meantime I have a scheduled interview on the outskirts of Amsterdam to meet Erik Split, the Senior Marketing Manager for Kuoni Travel. I'm very excited to conduct this interview because Kuoni is one of the largest travel companies in the world. Kuoni conducts psychological studies to determine what people really want at the most basic level and they try to build their marketing strategy up from there. The branding style they engage in is very pure and focuses on storytelling in order to draw a client into the destination. I thought it was interesting to learn how they piece all of this together and got a glimpse at the client database that manages all of this marketing mayhem.
After completing a successful interview with Kuoni I headed back to Amsterdam in order to get cleaned up in time for my interview with Club Med. My contact at Club Med was Joanne Gallagher, an Australian who studied in London and is the Marketing and Online Sales Manager for CLub Med in Amsterdam. She is truly an international experienced manager. She was young and had a very fresh approach to her job and the marketing techniques employed by Club Med. Although I knew the Club Med name I didn't know much about the company until I researched them for my interview. They are the original all-inclusive vacation company and they own their own resorts. Club Med tends to be in very exotic locations and packages are 4 and 5 star rated. Although out of my price range, they seem amazing.

Tuesday June 19th: Flora Holland, Guest Speaker Zoe, and an evening out with friends!

It's was an early morning in Amsterdam but one that proved to be well worth it. We went to Flora Holland and toured their enormous facility. We only saw 10% of the total space and it was roughly the size of 10 Walmart Superstores. Flora Holland is truly incredible. The logistics system is so flawlessly managed it seems as if the place is a living breathing organism. I've never seen so many flowers at one time. As a business student you study businesses that are successful at implementing supply chain management systems but to see how Flora Holland manages so many vendors, products, and customer orders was amazing. Each employee operates a small forklift which can pull behind it several carts of flowers which represent different orders. They pick up several shipments and pull them over to a computer where they can scan the cart and find out where it goes. As they take the carts to the designated area other employees break the orders down into groups for shipment and push them out of one warehouse and into another where they are packaged and shipped. As we walked on the catwalk above them they looked like ants working diligently to move food out and building materials in to the nest. I don't want to rant about how cool it is but if you're ever in Amsterdam you should definitely check out Flora Holland.

We arrived back at the hostel with just enough time to get cleaned up and have a small snack before our guest speaker Zoe took center stage to show us about independent film making. Zoe's presentation was very cool and laid back, a welcome change from our more formal speakers. She is a very young woman who is trying to make a difference through film and taking on some very big projects along the way. She was very inspiring and I think she motivated several students in our group to pursue their dreams no matter what because she was a living example of making things work in order to achieve those goals.
I went out with several new friends from the group tonight to enjoy some beer and the mid-week social scene. Amsterdam seems to be a very social city and no matter what night you go out there is always something going on. We walked through the Red Light District which is an experience all itself. It's amazing to see how casually the Dutch treat sex. It doesn't seem to phase anyone and regular bar life goes continues on the same streets as live sex shows. We walked past a lot of coffee shops on the way to the Red Light District and there is a strong aroma flooding out of them as you go by. It too is such a casual thing for the Dutch and I really enjoy the acceptance and tolerance they have towards other peoples beliefs and actions. This is only one reason why Amsterdam is such a cool city and I really wish we had more time in this city.

Monday, July 23, 2012

June 20, 2012

Today is my last and busiest day for this study abroad, Rotterdam Harbor Tour, Euromast TV Tower and Delfshaven and boat tour in Amsterdam! The Spido trips let us get a unique view of the harbors shipyards, docks and the hyper modern transshipping of thousands of containers.  
At night, Stephanie and Yang accompanied with me to take the boat tour. I have to say that the most precious experience for this study abroad is the relationship with those girls. This is my first time to live with some American girls, which is good for me know the real Americans life and I believe we will keep in touch with each other.

June 13, 2012

Today is awesome!
We went to the chocolate factory, at there we knew some knowledge about the chocolate history and the process how to make chocolate. The owner also gave everyone a cup of hot chocolate for free, which taste so good. After visiting the chocolate factory, we went to the Hop on Hop off tour that is a good city sightseeing resource. Unfortunately, we only had Hop on and no Hop off due to the limited time. 
At night, we went to the Chez LEON Restaurant for the typical Belgian mussels and fries, also for the Léon beer, a home-made pale and tasty beer. The fries do not match up to my expectations, but the beer is pretty good, smooth and powerful at the same time. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June 12, 2012

Today the entire group went to the European Parliament; at there, Kristen Jongberg gave us a brief introduction about European Parliament. It's good to know something is new. After the EU trip, I’m starving and need some real food, not the sandwich or bread, so before left we search a Korean restaurant. We met a mean owner and we really don't like her, it's rainy on the outside and she still rejects the customers, even though we have Korean. She really needs to take a marketing class to learn how to operate her restaurant and treat customers. Fortunately, we found a Vietnam restaurant to taste some Thai food, the owner is nice and he also accepted my interview.

June 11, 2012

Today, we went to the US Embassy in Belgium. Lauris Farris gave us a short lecture about the functions and tasks about US Embassy in Belgium. Besides that, she also gave us a case about one Brazilian company tried to enter European market, but its product doesn't qualify the EU Regulation and how the company deal with the problem, which is very useful for business students. She also talked about the ambassador's life that is very interesting.
At night, there is a small concert in the hostel and we get the free pasta & drink. Before the concert start, we played a game (I don’t know how to say the name), nobody is good at it except for Adam, but later on I had good points. Excited! Everybody enjoyed the concert.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 22

This morning was filled with the great museum of Vincent van Gogh. No pictures of course were allowed inside of the building but I can tell you that his work is even more alive in person. The only negitive thing about my trip there was they didn't have a workshop functional like they promoted on their own website. So Instead of painting a replica of onee of his great paintings, I will have to make another trip to the Jewish market to see if I can find one there. They should be clearer on the website and post more recent times and dates for eager people like me. My room mates and I went out to eat at a local Italian resturant for the last night on the town. They were very chatty and nice people and they actually gave us a few freebies while we waited on our food. The only thing I won't miss about Europe is their resistance to seperate checks. I know it will be a long day tomorrow with an early morning but I couldn't help but stay out pretty late and enjoy the night with my new friends. I can always just sleep on the plane anyways.

June 21

Today we had our final exam, which was cool since it involoved a trip to the newest store in the city, the one and only Apple store. Talk about a great retail store experince though. I won't give too much away but I think it surpassed some of the American stores when it comes to creative P's. I chose today to finally go to the Jewish market and use that as my third retail research spot too. I've never been in a postition to barter with the saleperson until today. But it is rewarding to shop there for souvnirs instead of an overpriced shop. You can find some of the exact same things at a much lower cost! Once it got dark the entire TNCIS gorup went on a canal tour throughout the city. Though I'm sure my photos didn't all turn out, my memories won't expire anytime soon. That was a great thing to do on our second to last night here.

June 20

Rotterdam is one of the most scenic and refreshing cities I've seen in Europe. Also, I should have brought an extra pillow for the 10+ hours I was going to spend on my bike. I went on a great port cruise that showcased the cities most valuable assets. And while cruising I noticed all the great arcetchure in this place. We went to the Euromast afterwards and literally saw the entire city from a full 360 degree in the air. I stayed with Biff's class and then we went to the windmill and the great cube building. Both of which were so very cool to see. When we got done there we went to another park, safer for bikes and it had an enclosed space you could feed baby raindeer. We had a drink at some more windmills and then we headed home. Finding the train station was a little harder than we anticipated but we made it back and I felt proud of myself for keeping up with everyone on bike all day. It deffinately was a highlight to my trip.

June 19

Today was also the day was visited the flower market. I can only say that it was an experince I won't soon forget. From the fast paced auctions to the unquie plants we found I took so many pictures of that place! Perhaps I will switch my career to botanist rather than business woman. But I'm afraid it also kick started my allergies too, so that might not be the best career path for me. I came back to the hostel with a headache and a stuffy nose. It was worth it in my opinion to see all those beautiful roses though.

June 18

Today was pretty relaxing. We had class and I got breakfast. Which in my opinion was the best in all three hostels. Other than class my room mates and I just explored the city and tried to scope out the souvnirs that Amsterdam has to offer. I did notice that this city has a lot of cool things for unquie photos such as the kimono dragon garden and the giant chess board. I think I'm really enjoying the green life around here too, with Vondel Park so close to us. Tomorrow we go to the flower market and I'm pretty excited about it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 22

Today is the last day in Amsterdam! It's such a sad yet happy feeling. I have gotten really close to some of these people these past three weeks. It's going to be sad having to say goodbye. Today we had our I Amsterdam card to visit the museums. This morning I went to the Van Gogh museum, it was pretty interesting and had lots of beautiful artwork. I also went to the resistance museum which probably was one of my favorites. They had a lot of information from world war II. On our way to the resistance museum we kinda got lost, but it was pretty cool because we were able to explore more of the city. I can't believe these 3 weeks are about to be over.

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 21

Last night I slept so good. I went to sleep early yesterday night because I was tired from all the bike riding yesterday. I didn't even wake up this morning until like 10. After waking up a few of us went down to the Dam square to do some shopping. I then went to burger king to use their wifi because it works so much better than the hostels Internet. I sat in their & worked on my final exam that Dr. Emailed to us this morning. It took me about 3 hours to finish it up, but overall I think I did well on it. I then headed back to the hostel for dinner and after dinner the whole group went on a canal tour. On our way there it started pouring down rain. We all got so wet, we were all just ready to get on that boat. The tour wasn't all that nice in my opinion because it was raining, but it was nice going trough the canals of the city. I can't believe tomorrow is tie last day I'm Amsterdam..

June 20 Rotterdam

This morning we had to wake up early once again. Not as early as yesterday but 8am is still pretty early. This morning we took a 1 hour ride down to Rotterdam, I was trying to sleep but it's hard to sleep on a train. Once we finally got to Rotterdam we went and rented bikes. I was so scared to get on that bike & bike right in with the people that live here. I hadn't ridden a bike since I was probably like 8. A few times I felt like I was going to get hit & I did fall off a few times. We biked from the station to where the boat was. We then had a 1 1/2 hour tour of the port. It was such a nice city. It was so modern and seemed so relaxing. Overall for the exception of the bike I had a great day in Rotterdam.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 20 2012 Roterdam

Today we fun event filled day in Roterdam.  The day started pretty early and ended relatively late. We met at central station at 8am and took about a hour long train ride to the city.  I tried to sleep but it was more of a tease than a energy boost that I was hoping for.  After getting off the train we went straight to the bike shop to rent our transportation for the day.  Most of us including myself hadnt been on a bike in almost a decade but it came back naturally.  Manuvering through traffic on a bike was quite an experience.  The first even of the day was the Spido boat tour of the shipping port in Roterdam.  The port was the largest port in Europe and the third largest in the world. The next stop was a TV tower within the city.  I made it to the second highest level unfortunately my nerves didnt let me make it to the top. After the TV tower we road through a small neighbohood in the city to get something to eat.  I had a chicken pizza but it didnt taste like anything from the states.  I hadnt yet felt like I had enough of Roterdam so I decided to stay a little longer with Biff's class.  We went to see where the Mayflower left to go to America. We made a couple more stops to include a boating dock, a park with a petting zoo (where we fed about 20 Bambis), and finally a nice cafe with an exception view of the lake. It was the first time I had seen real sunshine in these last three weeks. It was Beautiful. After this we made our way back to central station in agonizing pain from the bike seats. I honestly dont know Europeans ride bikes all day. I didnt sleep on the hour ride back to the hostel so now I am ready to. Good night bloggers.

Monday June 18th: Recovery, Action Plan, and First Amsterdam Photo Tour

I was feeling a little bit better today but not 100%. I spent the morning recovering and drinking lots of water. I got in front of the computer again this morning because yesterday lacked any kind of productivity. The hostel here in Amsterdam is busy and there seems to always be something going on.
Despite the distractions I managed to make a plan of attack for my week and hope to land some great interviews. I have high hopes to interview Senior Marketing Managers from two global travel firms, Kuoni and Club Med. I have also scouted several smaller companies and one travel firm that specializes in study abroad for Dutch high school and university students. Admittedly it has been difficult to get meaningful interviews and I'm not too keen on accepting interviews from local kiosks and small travel companies. I am looking forward to pushing myself to land greater scale interviews this week and in the future. I feel as though my interview skills and closing skills have improved in just these few short weeks. Tomorrow we are touring Flora Holland which will take up quite a bit of time but I intend to scout the locations of the travel company offices and make phone calls to set interviews for later in the week.
Thankfully the sunset is very late and I have plenty of time to get out and take some pictures. There's something about discovering a city from behind the lens that lets you get intimately familiar with a place. I'm feeling much better which is good because I plan to do a lot of walking. I've set two goals for myself; one is to capture as many good photos as possible, and two is to learn the layout of the city well enough to get around without a map. The buildings in this city have so much character and personality and seem to bend and move to match the canal streets. There are a few photos I've captured already that I am hoping to improve tonight and a few more that I saw but wasn't able to get yet. Here's a favorite of mine so far, I'm off to take some more!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Saturday, June 16th: Goodbye Belgium

Today was our official last day in Brussels and first evening in Amsterdam! I started the day off dreadfully dragging my luggage to the metro. I thought my arms were going to fall off from Paris to Brussels, oh I had no idea!! This time was worst! I don't know if it was because my suitcase was heavier or if it was just more stairs and a farther distance. I was exhausted by the time I reached stay okay, our hostel. I have to say the thally train from Paris was much more comfortable than the one from Brussels. This train made way too many stops and got way too crouded. Although I was dead tired, the excitement of Amsterdam woke me and I was ready to get out and explore the city. Me and some others from the group decided to do just that, it was a fun, late night!

Friday: Last Full Day in Belgium

I woke up feeling great today thanks to that wonderful dinner Dr. V treated us to last night. I'm not sure but I think it was a Turkish restaurant ...whatever it was it was tasty and the Dessert...DELICIOUS! We went to a really cute and fancy pastry spot; I had some strawberry and lemon ice cream that was off the chain!! Thanks Dr. V!!!! Anyways, today is our museum day and of course it's raining. I planned on going to the Mini Europe museum but with that being all outdoors I knew that wasnt going to be to fun. I decided to join Dr.Shanklin and some others who were going thrifting! After that we all split up and I went to the bank museum which was very exciting for me and my love for money!! After that we were kind of tired from all the walking and and didn't feel like rushing to another museum for the last hour before they all close so we just did some souvenir shopping and headed back to the hostel to get some rest for our travel day tomorrow. Goodnight :)

June 19, 2012

It's a wonderful day! No rainy, sunshine is coming. I saw the whole distribution process of flower from the grower to the buyer and went to the Anne Frank House to see the what happened on Jews on World War II.  Then catch my roommate to Madame Tussaud's museum. 
Best day in Amsterdam!!!

Thursday, June 14th

Today was a great day, especially since I got to sleep in! My bed did not want to let me go this morning. I started the day off socializing in the lobby of the hostel where I met a really nice group of people from England who were also here school related. I fell in love with their accent! Some other students in the TnCis program asked me did I want to join them on the hop on hop off tour that I missed yesterday but I was in the middle of a convo with one of the receptionist and found out he was a local. I had been looking for a local to interview all week and really wanted to get this done! He was a really nice guy from Guinee that grew up in Brussels and told me a lot about the Belgium culture and traditions. Today we had Roger Hoogwijs as a guest speaker, and he gave us a lot of valuable information about the shipping industry. I didn't know the freight market was as bad as it is. I also learned about the HUGE vessels, I had no idea they were that enormous! I was great hearing from someone who worked in the industry for many years and learning about the different branches and companies involved in the industry first hand!

Wed. June 13th

Today was a pretty slow day for me. I started the day off attempting to go on the hop on hop off tour but due to my poor sense of direction that was a epic fail. After getting turned around a couple times I decided to just get lost in the city and take myself on my own little tour which was cool because I seen some interesting things and got familiar with the area. I went to class which is becoming more and more exciting to me each day. Today we learned about Marketing Research and the 5 steps to a Marketing Research project. After class I rushed out to a few more retail clothing stores to finalize my comparision for this city.

June 18, 2012

Worked so hard today, finished 2/3 of assignments. I had an interview at a traditional Netherland pancake store which is adjacent to our hostel. It is a family operated restaurant and only 5 months for every year from Easter to the end of September. This restaurant has been operated 18 years and most furniture is more than 100 years old. So that means you sit on an antique chair to eat the traditional local food. The workers in this store are so nice when I said I want to do a marketing research for their restaurant, everybody got together and put their work down even though there were some customers in the restaurant. One guy gave me free cookie and another mid-age lady gave me the traditional drinks. Unlike other store workers, they are initiative to take a picture with me and they keep talking with me try to introduce everything to me. After the interview, I went back to my seat and another young lady give some poffertjes. This is my first time to see so enthusiastic people.
Today has been such a long day! This morning I woke up at 5:30, I really didn't want to wake up. We met at 6 in the lobby to go to the flower shop. We took like a 30 minute bus ride down to the flower shop. I couldn't believe how big the flower shop is, we took like a 2 1/2 hour tour around the building and learned a lot of different interesting facts about what goes on in there. After the flower shop we took a bus ride back to the hostel. We then had a guest speaker at 12, she has to be the most interesting guest speaker we have had all trip. She showed us the different type of films she has worked on. After that a couple of us went out for lunch and we went to shop for more souvenirs, I hope I have enough room to carry all this extra stuff back home. Today has been so busy now I am just ready for bed!

Sunday June 17th: Orientation, Sick Day, and the Interwebs!

A new city means it's time for more bureaucratic drumming of rules, regulations, and expectations that won't be met. I'm just kidding of course and I understand the necessity of holding an orientation. (Especially considering the number of travelers) In reality I was more anxious to check out Amsterdam and anything that delayed that would have been seen as negative.
Unfortunately no matter of willpower was going to get me hitting the streets of Amsterdam because I went to bed sick and woke up feeling worse. In fact, I spent most of the day in bed which makes writing about it a little difficult. Perhaps I should write about my dreams? Well, if they were interesting and I remembered them, that could have been a cool alternative. The good news is that I'm feeling better and I'm hoping to get whatever this is out of my system by tomorrow. Wish me luck!
On a more positive note, (sorry if the last bit sounded like whining) I did manage to get online and do some scouting for travel and tourism related businesses. Hopefully I'll be able to land some interviews in the next few days. Off to bed now though, this week is going to require lots of energy! I'll leave you with a snapshot of a typical street in Amsterdam. It's quite a beautiful place.

Saturday June 16th: Amsterdam First Impressions, Walkabout, and Nightlife

First off, it seems appropriate and honest to admit that Amsterdam will probably be the highlight of this trip because I have been to Paris before, Brussels is a little lackluster, and I have looked forward to it for a very long time. The Netherlands is my twenty-third country to visit but more importantly Amsterdam represents a way of living in which I am a fan. For those keeping track at home I am not talking about Marijuana although it would be lumped into the more broad topic at hand. I am talking about a lifestyle where all are free to be themselves so long as they do so responsibly and one in which everyone seems to be extremely accepting of other peoples choices. Time will tell whether this idea of Amsterdam holds true to reality but so far the impression has been wonderful.
After traveling several hours by train and several more of checking in and out of hostels most people chose to rest but I wanted to hit the ground running, so to speak. My mission: To walk around following only my instincts about the direction and get lost in the city. It's possibly my favorite way to get to know a new place. Amsterdam presents some very unique challenges in navigation naturally, so getting lost in this city should be no problem even for the well initiated. As I ventured back in the direction of 'home' I decided it would be a good idea to squeeze in a nap before trying to take the city on at night. This being Saturday night, it was encouraged by the professor group that we take advantage because the academic panic would soon ensue.

Saturday night in Amsterdam was great! There was a lot going on and lots of people out and about. It was so good in fact that I don't remember what I did and that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Today has been an overall Chill day. Today I slept in and didn't wake up until like after 1. It was so nice just being able to just sleep in after all that walking yesterday. Today was the first day of class in Amsterdam. It's pretty nice having class from 3-5 because that way I can sleep in. After class I just waited till it was 6 & time for dinner. So as you can see today I really didn't do much of anything.

June 17

Our last orientation for our last city was this morning. It kind of makes me sad it’s almost over. It looks like my week is going to be packed to the brim with things to do though, which is a happy change from Brussels. I already went on the free walking tour this city has to offer. My guide’s name was Tom and he was from the United Kingdom, like my Paris guide Daniel was. I actually liked Tom’s tour better though because he asked us questions and made the tour more personal towards today’s world and not the ancient history. We walked all over the city from the national monuments to the red light district and then towards the Jewish and Chinese neighborhoods formally known as Heroin ally. We ended the tour near Anna Frank’s house and got a full recap of her story. I’m kind of jealous my roommates are able to go to that museum tomorrow instead of the flower market like me, but I can always go on Thursday or Friday if I have to go. I also got my last interview tonight when we came back for dinner with another hostel worker, Eva. I am so excited to see what else this great village has to offer.

June 16

The train ride to Amsterdam was much different than the Thally’s train ride. With multiple stops and multiple people sitting next to me I had an interesting trip to say the least. I had the company of an elderly British lady, a young lady studying fashion and a man who listened to his music really loudly. But when we finally did arrive in Amsterdam, my breath was taken away. This city is so beautiful! It also helped that it was the first time in nearly a week where I could see the blue skies in Europe. The main difference between this city and the other two is that almost all of the transportation is above ground. This causes the city to be a lot more crowded than I’m used to. Paris and Brussels both had popular metro systems that were underground and that kept the streets generally easy to navigate by foot. But this city has bikes, trams, cars and pedestrian lanes all crossing over one another. I can tell that I’m going to have fun navigating this.

June 15

Today was the only day with the museum pass for this city so depending on the museum we had to pick and choose where we went. A few of my roommates and I decided to go to the Atomium and mini Europe. But it was raining all morning so going to mini Europe would have been miserable since it’s all outside. While in the great Atomium we learned about its history and how it fits into Brussels culture today as well. After that we traveled back to get some souvenir shopping out of the way and other small tasks. Then I joined Katie and Kristen to the Botanic photo booth museum we took some cute pictures there. I think we are all ready to leave this city, as fun as this week has been.

June 14

In three attempts to go to the hop on hop off tour I was utterly defeated by my own ignorance and failure to take directions properly. And everyone else in my little group was out on a class trip to a different city, so I was by myself most of the day. When we had our guest speaker Roger talking about the shipping ports all over the world. That was interesting to hear first-hand experience instead of reading about how it works. He definitely knew his job inside and out. Also we were treated to dinner by our professor tonight, he took us north to the middle Eastern part of the city. That was much different than the downtown part of Brussels, much less touristy. I had the chicken plate and a tara masuse for dessert. When we came back to the hostel I managed to get an interview with one of the hostel workers, Jeoffrey.

June 13

Today filled with chocolate, starting with a group trip to Planet Chocolate this morning. We learned a lot about how Brussels became the dominate source of chocolate in Europe. And also how it was made, shipped and delivered, before the actual chocolate chefs get their hands on it. Another interesting fact was that in order to work with chocolate professionally in Brussels you must attend a minimum of three years in culinary arts school. The free samples were great and a lot of the students bought gift in their shop. After that a few of us went windows shopping and I found the store I want to use in my comparison, Di. This store had more selection but rude employees. I will write more about that in my report though.
Today was the first full day in Amsterdam. Our day started really early, we had to be in the meeting room at 9am for orientation. All I really wanted to do this morming was just sleep but I didn't get to do that. After orientation we went to the walking tour. It was a nice tour & pretty interesting but it was just so much walking.. After the tour we came back to the hostel for dinner, dinner tonight was pretty good it's better than those sandwiches. Later tonight a couple of us got together and went down to the square to watch the soccer game, holland was playing against Portugal. It was such a great experience sitting outside with locals watching the soccer game. When they scored that first goal everybody went crazy.. Unfortunately holland didn't win but it was still a good experience being able to sit outside and watch the game.

June 17, 2012

We had a nice tour guide today, his name is Tom, a British guy. He studied in Germany and Russia so he could speak German and Russian, a trilingual guy. He is humourous & full of energy and told us a lot Dutch history and stories. Before the tour, I think Holland is same as Netherland, just a country has two different names. Actually, North and South Holland are two of Netherland 12 provinces. Kingdom of Netherland is a geographically low-lying country, with about 25% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and 50% of its land lying less than one meter above sea level. This distinct feature contributes to the country's name: in Dutch (Nederland) its name means "(The) Low Countries" or "Low Country".  At the late 16th century, Dutch people started land reclamation and large polder areas are now preserved through drainage systems with dikes, canals and pumping stations. Much of the Netherlands is formed by the estuary of three important European rivers. 
God created world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 16 2012 Amsterdam

I accidentally updated todays blog over yesterday's.

June 17 2012 Amsterdam

Today was the second day in Amsterdam. There wasn't to much activity to report today do to it being Sunday. I misses the walking tour but I will catch it tomorrow. The weathwr was beautiful though I can say that much. There were many people outside at the park. Ansterdam kind of reminds me if San Francisco very free spirited yet with a unique rythm. All in all, today was a day for catch up. Hopefully the rest of the week with a lot of story material.Peace love and happiness. Goodnight.

June 16

Today we had to be in the lobby & ready to go at 9am.. I wasn't ready to get up at all this morning. I went ahead and did laundry and packed everything last might that way I would be ready this morning. Once we all got together we all went down to the metro which took is to the train station. The trains ride from Brussles to Amsterdam seemed to of had been so long. It was only a 3 hour ride but it seemed way longer than that. There were so many stops and so many people. The ride from Paris to Brussles was so much better & faster. When we Finnaly made it to Amsterdam it was just so nice. I just got here & I already love the city. I can't wait to go explore the city this week! I'm ready!! Oh and happy birthday to Dr. V by the way!

Friday June 15th: Atomium, Museum of Breweries, Saying Goodbye

The Atomium is a symbol of Belgium and one of the most unique pieces of architecture in the world. It was built in 1958 for the Worlds Fair, and like the Eiffel Tower, it was never intended as a permanent monument and yet it remains. I learned about it through a geography app on my phone which is fitting to the futuristic nature of the design and am happy to have seen it finally. I was less impressed however than I was hoping to be and wished it was walking distance from town instead of on the outskirts.
I traveled back to the hostel in hopes of finding a museum partner but when I got back from The Atomium, none could be found. Venturing out alone it seemed only logical to make the Museum of Breweries my first destination. Why not learn about the culture and enjoy a free beer included in my academic museum pass. The museum was small but the beer was amazing. I already had an appreciation for the modern brewing process but they also had the tools and a tutorial of the brewing process from 200 years ago. Learning about the history and how the process has changed and stayed the same was really cool.
Tomorrow we are leaving for Amsterdam and I think I speak for the majority when I say that I am really excited and looking forward to the change. As Brussels was a pleasant change of pace from Paris, I think Amsterdam will provide the perfect balance to end with.

Speaking of balance, I thought this photo was fitting to show the balance of old and new in Brussels. As the "Capital of Europe" Brussels has a long and unique history with a hope to renew itself as a modern metropolis and leader in the European Union. With such a prominent history and promising future, the city has a lot to offer, and I am looking forward to coming back and getting to know the city a little better.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16, 2012

This morning we took a train to Amsterdam. Before we left Brussels, Biff show us a photobooth and we took some nice photos which will be a good memory for all of us.  Stephanie gave me a Dramamine for motion sickness relief in the train, which let me feel sleepy for the whole day. And the hostel condition at Amsterdam is better than in Brussels, at least the restroom is not in the lobby. 

June 15, 2012

Today is our last day and also the museum day in Brussels. It's kind of busy because a lot of sceneries are waiting for us. Our first stop is Atomium, the unmistakable symbol of Brussels and Belgium, a unique feat in the history of architecture and symbolic reminder of the World Fair of Brussels (Expo 58). Actually before I came to here I have no idea about it. Latterly, we went to the Mini Europe, which contains over 350 monuments and activities reproduced down to the tiniest detail on a giant scale of 1: 25. When I finished this trip, I realized there are too many spectacular building and architecture all around world. If I want to visit all of them, that will be unrealistic. 
Today is a rich day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thursday June 14th: VisitFlanders, International Accounting, and the Global Shipping Industry

Where there's a will there's a way. Today, I managed to squeeze my way into the VisitFlanders office early and land an interview with the marketing manager for domestic markets. I started off asking basic questions about product differentiation and competition and was told they didn't really have any competition because they are a government managed agency. The more I talk to companies in Belgium the more it seems that the government has cornered the marker on travel and tourism. When I asked how they promote the agency I received a similar answer in that everyone in Belgium knows the name and they don't have to worry about that either. So what do you worry about? The answer I received was that they focus most of their efforts now on foreign markets and how to attract more visitors to Belgium. I was under the impression the beer and chocolate did that which leaves little to do when you get to work as a marketer with no competition. I also conducted a short interview by phone and was asked to email further questions rather than making an appointment to come into the office. Hopefully I'll learn something new about the tourism industry in Brussels.
Dr. Shanklin took me to his favorite lunch spot in Brussels today for some fresh seafood. It was really amazing and we had a great conversation about the economic crisis and the current debate about the international accounting standards. He really helped me get focused on my upcoming paper for international accounting. Now it's time to get to work!
We also had a visit from a former shipping industry professional and friend of Dr. Lukosius who gave us the rundown on the industry. It was nice to have an overview of the shipping industry since there is a good chance we may to to Rotterdam next week. The most interesting bits of information were things you wouldn't find in a textbook, like which families control the largest companies, how the Greeks avoid tax cost, and things that shape the industry from within. Having class in this way is much more interesting than staring at power points and listening to lectures.

Wednesday June 13th: Interview, Lead, and catching up on work.

Work, work, work, that's all I do! Well, today that's true anyway. I managed to land an interview, get a strong lead that I'm going to follow up on tomorrow and catch up on some work. I posted a comment on Facebook about how all I do is work and was immediately met with some animosity because I'm sitting in Brussels. Why don't they understand that work is work even when you're sitting in a beautiful cafe in the middle of the Grand Market? Suckers! On a serious note though, I did get a lot done today.
My first interview was with a small company that operates tours within the city limits of Brussels only. I found out that the Belgian government manages most of the tour companies in order to drive tourism dollars and GDP. There are still private companies but the big dogs in the game seem to be managed by the government. Tomorrow I'm going to follow up on a lead I received today for a bigger fish in the travel and tourism industry. Unfortunately every other travel company seems to be just plain old travel agents and who wants to talk to them? Not me!
As always my evening was taken up by reading, some work, and lots of pictures! Besides, a picture is worth a thousand words and I need to sleep well tonight because I have a full day tomorrow!

Tuesday June 12th: EU Parliament, Interview Hunting, and Photo Walk

I didn't have the success I was hoping for today landing interviews. I was able to get some leads though and I'll keep trying until they give me an interview. I was hoping to have a more productive morning before the EU Parliament visit this afternoon but it isn't as easy in Brussels because there are fewer opportunities.
The EU Parliament was very cool! I was pleased to find out that I knew more about Europe than I originally gave myself credit and was happy to learn more about the political and economic decision making. The EU is one complicated mess when it comes to the political and economic situations. I think most people forget that our economic and political systems are really just elaborate experiments and we don't have it all figured out yet. This is especially true for Europe and the EU.
After the EU visit I set out to explore Brussels from behind the lens. Photography is a new hobby of mine and I'm finding I really enjoy putting my headphones on and heading out to get lost in a city taking pictures. Just like economics... I have a lot to learn in about photography and I fear it will be quite a few years before I start producing noteworthy work. Nonetheless, I was pretty happy with this one from this evening.

Last day in Brussles! The thing I am going to miss the most is the hostel, I hope the one in Amsterdam is as nice as the one here! Today I woke up ready to go explore the museums but when I looked outside it was raining. I mean I should be surprised since the weather here is crazy! We all got ready & went out. Today was the first time for all of us getting on the metro. It was a bit confusing. The metro in Paris was so much more easier. We went out trying to find the aquarium but we had no like finding it ( we even asked people & nobody knew where it was) since we couldn't find the aquarium we went on & went to other museums. We went to am art museum & a music museum. Along the way we had some great Belgian waffles.. We then headed back to the hostel. I'm getting laundry done & then I'm going to pack to have everything ready for Amsterdam in the morning.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 14, 2012

 Finally the sun comes back. We had a trip to "the Venice of the North"--Bruges, which is a pretty medieval city. It is the capital and largest city of the province  of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. We took a 30 minutes boat ride after the lunch we saw the different size bridges; Brugge in Dutch means "bridge", maybe that's why the city name is Brugge. Besides the stone bridges, bunch of medieval buildings set on the two side of the river, as if a generation had passedThe captain gave us some interesting explanation and tried to introduce his son to the girl in our group (that's just his joke.); he is really humor
As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.
                                                                                                             --Leonardo da Vinci

Today I woke up feeling worse than I did yesterday.. I really did not feel like getting up at all. Last night one of my classmates gave me some medicine to take, and it doesn't seem to be helping till just now.. One thing I am really happy of is the friends I am making here. At first I didn't think it would be so easy to make friends but it has actually been really easy. Some of the people here are really nice. Today even one of my roommates got my lunch for me since I wasn't feeling well. While laying up in my room today I was thinking to myself do I really wanna waste my day in Brussles by just laying here? So I decided to get up and go on a solo date. I went on the hop on/off tour, it was really nice getting to see the city. It felt good just getting out. After the tour I then rushed back to the hostel because we had a guest speaker today.. Later this evening Dr. V took us out for dinner, it was a nice dinner but the best part was going out for dessert. I had this chocolate cake thing that was really good & it was wrapped in like a layer of dark chocolate AMAZING!! thanks for dinner Dr. V!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

june 13 2012 Belgium

Today was the fourth day in Belgium and so far im still enjoying the relitively laid back atmosphere of the city. My day started off with a pre scheduled 10:30 am appointment with the store manager of a local retail store Calzedonia.  Upon my arrival at the store I was actually happily gretted by two interviewees. I recieved a lot of good information from them and found out that they actually originated in Italy.  The General manager had jsut flew in from the headquarters in Italy this morning to open a new store in Brussels.  Following this I had just enough time to make it back to the hostel in time to go to the chocolate factory. The chocolate factory was actually much more of an educational experience than I expected. The sample of hot chocolate was amazing and the demostrator was very informative and hospitable (This was an obvious difference from the French). After the chocolate factory I made my way back into the city to get some more interviews.  I was able to get one actual interview and schedule a few appointments. Before I left the central area I stopped at quick then made my way back to the hostel to catch up on some work.

June 12

This morning was a great trip to the European Parliamentium. We got the chance to learn about how the European Union Parliament functions. And after that we got a chance to visit the room with all of the seats of the officials and it was really overwhelming how many languages and types of cultures there are over here in Europe. The night was filled with celebration for my room mates birthday! We went to the Novo Cafe for dinner and had a great time together. I have to get some interviews while we are here and I think I know who to ask. Overall a great day and I am really starting to enjoy this city.

June 11

This day was pretty cool, since yesterday was a recovery day. Orientation and class were good and helpful in remembering that we are actual students and not backpackers on vacations. I did stop by the mall trying to do some retail research. I found a small store in there but I think I will hold off for a full store before I use that for my comparison. Anyways my class went to the American embassy to hear about Brussels commerce. The presenter was more more business orientated and therefore was slightly more interesting than the one in France. Later that night the hostel, which I love, threw a free concert and served some great noodles for dinner. This hostel is youth focused and there are more than one schools here staying as well. So I met some nice German students to hang out with after the concert was over. Socializing with strangers is much easier here than it was in Paris.

June 10

This morning we left for Brussels on the Thallys train ride, which didn't take as long as I thought it would. I got my second Paris interview from Ceclia before we departed for the train. It was hard to say goodbye to new friends. When we arrived in Brussels the first notable difference was the hostel is much more spacious and friendly. Also the WiFi is way easier to access. Once we were situated in our room we were given a picture scavenger hunt to complete. The city is way more complicated to navigate in after it gets dark. Luckily we found our way back and I called it an early night.
Today I woke up feeling a little under the weather.. I think it's because of how different the weather here is.. One day it's warm & sunny & another day it's cool & rainy.. Today we went to this little chocolate factory where we had someone talk to is about the process of making chocolate. They were even calling on volunteers, it was a pretty interesting demonstration. After the chocolate shop me and a few people went to walk around and explore we also went ahead and had some lunch/dinner it was pretty good. I then had to hurry back to the hostel because we had class at 4 and I sure didn't want to be late. Today's class was pretty interesting we talked about researching and a few other things. I really hope to get to feeling better soon!

Tuesday, June 12th

Today the entire group went to the EU Parliament. When I heard this was like the Washington D.C of Europe I was very excited! At the Parliament Crissy was our speaker, and she covered a lot of information about the European Union. She talked about the 27 countries of Europe, candidate countries, and Accession countries. She talked about the 8 political groups and the 23 languages. She covered a bunch of stuff and then took us into the huge room where they have guest speakers and debates. After the parliament the group kind of split up and we all went our separate ways. Me, Britney, and Salina found our way to the mall where I got to look at some more retail clothing stores such as H&M and promod. I made some comparisions and did some personal shopping also.

1st full day in Brussels

Today is our first day in Brussels and I'm loving this hostel! Compared to the hostel in Paris I'm living in luxury!! lol This hostel is much more spacious, there are alot of foreign students who stay here, there is a bar here that stays open late, everyone speaks English, which makes it a great place to network and socialize. Jacques Brel is a great hostel! Today was a full day; I had orientation, went to the Embassy, and had class. I really enjoyed the embassy here! I appreciated the one here a little more vs the one in Paris because it focused more on the business students. At the Embassy we spoke with Anna and Danni who work in the department of Commerce. Anna is a foreign service officer who focuses on federal service and export service. She talked about Belgium, which is the Headquarters of the EU. She explained why a lot of people here speak English, and it's because Belgium is a small country and the people that live here cant afford to speak only one language like France. Mostly everyone that lives here know how to speak multiple languages and they have to in order to do business with different people. She also gave me some key information about starting a business overseas and investing overseas. After the Embassy I went to class and learned about STP which was interesting to me. After class I hung out in the hostel for a while.

Goodbye Paris!

Today is checkout day and I'm dragging because I didn't get any sleep! Like none! I'm glad I prepared for this the night before. Before we went to the club, I packed all my clothes and separated all my dirty clothes. So when I got in at 7AM, I got dressed really quick, grabbed my dirty clothes and walked down the street to the laundry mat. While my clothes was washing, I went back to the hostel to have breakfast. After breakfast, I go back to my room to find out my OLDer roommates (who has been failing to piss me off all week) poured juice all over my bed and on another roommate's stuff. If I wasn't so tired from partying all night and getting absolutely NO sleep, they would have succeeded this time! I was sooo tired that I really didn't give a who; plus the fact that we were about to check out and I was never going to sleep in that bed again added to my nonchalant attitude. Anyways I finished my laundry and we all headed out for our train to Brussels, which was not a good experience. We carried our luggage up a million steps, I thought my arms were going to break!! I was glad to finally get on the Thally train (which got us there way to quick) and take a nap!

Last full day in Paris

Saturday was our last full day in Paris! :( I started the day off on the metro heading downtown to see Notre Dame.  I got off on the St.Michael's exit, not only because it was closest, but because I had to see the beautiful art work of the fountain again. On my way to Notre Dame I stopped and got some delicious ice cream that I ate while I was in line. I was glad I waited in that long line because Notre Dame was something I didn't want to miss. The place is so ancient and the art work so detailed and perfect; it was really a nice, peaceful vibe in there. Outside of Notre Dame I got a chance to feed the birds! It was so exciting! I would hold a piece of bread that I bought for 1€ and the little birds would just fly up to my hand and eat it; some would stand on my hand and fingers and eat. It was so cool!lol After that I headed to the Louvre, which is a must see! Oh my goodness it is sooo much in there I don't even know where to begin hahah you just have to see it for yourself. I wish I would have went there before Notre Dame because I needed sooooo much more time in there! After the Louvre everyone was tired so we got something to eat and headed back to the hostel. We were about to just go to bed but then we thought...Last Day In Paris!!! So we ended up getting dressed and going out to this club. It was a fun last night!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday June 11th: Brussels, U.S. Commercial Counselor and Hostel Concert Party!

Our first day in Brussels has brought a reality for most students that we are here to study and not to vacation. I've heard a lot of talk today about how Brussels will be the time to catch up on work and get prepared for the end of the trip and exams. I am personally needing to be more aggressive with my paper.
We met with another U.S. Commercial Counselor today to hear information about the United States Department of Commerce work in Brussels. It's interesting to see how the embassy work can differ so much from one department to another and also nice to know about other avenues for work. Essentially, the Department of Commerce acts as a export promotion agency and tries to provide direct assistance to U.S. companies looking to export items to Europe. I still feel that the tradition FSO job track is more suited for me and would rather be an economic advisor than work in commercial service.
Back at the hostel everyone was working hard and laptops were out everywhere. As the night progressed however people began to relax and settle in to our new home. The group has seemed to get along really well and we hung out and enjoyed some Belgian beers together. Tomorrow I'm hoping to land an interview before leaving for the EU Parliament.