Category Archives: Munich & Athens

Can Greek Youth Overcome Generations of Failed Social Norms and Save Their Economy?

Joe Bird visited both Germany and Greece as part of his study abroad experience and chose to focus on the Greek crisis, including its implications for future generations of Greek youth.

Although both located in Europe, my visit to Germany and Greece this summer unearthed a stark contrast between these two respective countries. My European adventure began in Munich, Germany where my classmates and I experienced firsthand the efficiency and productivity the Germans are known for. From its omnipresent public transit to its factory floors, we got to see why Germany is experiencing both economic and social growth. Germans are highly educated and have invested heavily into infrastructure and health services. We toured the BMW factory where luxury vehicles are created to the exact specifications of a demanding and loyal global customer base, and this deep understanding of both global business and value creation was put on display. image008

The picture in Greece is quite different from Germany. Athens is a city rich in history and culture, but contains little else. The Greek economic crisis is well known, and highly visible once you leave the tourist areas near the Acropolis. The Greeks’ long-held attitudes toward job security, guaranteed pensions, and state benefits are no longer sustainable in practice. Restauranteurs actively compete on the street for patrons, each making every effort to lure you into his establishment. Proprietors of stores do the same. At one restaurant, the host gave our dining group the first round of drinks on the house as an enticement. (It worked!) However, all this demonstrates that business is not thriving in Greece.

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While the attitude of many that the state owes them a living is prevalent, we saw some incredible and inspiring examples of entrepreneurs in Greece who are working hard to improve things for themselves and their country. We met Niki Koutisanas, a co-founder of APIVITA cosmetics, whose company develops natural products for the skin and hair. The company is innovative in its approach to business and society by thinking of itself as a living organism—like the bees for which it’s named—continuously creating value through its industriousness. With companies like APIVITA growing and thriving in Greece, there is hope.

But ultimately, change will need to come from the Greek youth. They need to buck the old way of thinking that has led to this crisis. Greece will need to liberalize its education system, a problem outlined by the Dean of the ALBA Graduate Business School, Nickolaos Travlos, during his presentation to our group. Greece is an economy dominated by small and mid-sized businesses, many of which are unable to find the skilled labor they require, which hurts efficiency and growth.

It occurred to me that Greece could benefit from an organization that is devoted to the direct placement of young workers who possess the skills needed by these companies. Employment agencies exist in Greece to service specialized professions, much like in the rest of the developed world; however, my concept is to partner with companies, learn their specific needs, provide training specific to roles, and place applicants in apprenticeships, or internships, for more comprehensive on-the-job training that will lead to permanent employment. It would help to bridge the gap that currently exists in the higher education system that isn’t preparing Greek youth for employment.image004 It also alleviates the stigma against vocational education held by many Greek youth, because it involves a direct link between training/education and the employer.

No business education could be complete without opportunities such as those provided by the Ahler’s Center, to instill a global and social perspective on each participant. I’ll always be grateful, not just for the chance to see cool, new places, but for the insights I received through seeing businesses operate outside my home country. We live in a global marketplace, and it is imperative to understand all the segments of this expansive market. Studying abroad is the perfect way to develop an understanding of how we are all interconnected, which, in turn, will help you succeed in your future endeavors.

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To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

10 Must-Do Experiences in Munich

Rebecca Johnson in Munich

This past summer, Rebecca Johnson (USD MBA student) participated in the Munich & Athens study abroad program.  She took advantage of every opportunity to explore the city and experience German culture, and was kind enough to share (in her own words) her list of the top ten things to do while in Munich!

This list will be especially helpful to students interested in traveling to Munich this intersession for the international practicum course!

 

1.   Visit the Beer Gardens

The Beer Gardens are famous in Bavaria for their fun, easygoing atmosphere. The English Garden (“Englischer Garten”), one of Bavaria’s most popular gardens, is a large public park in Munich. People ride bikes, walk their dogs, lie in the grass, have picnics, swim in the water and drink beer there.

Munich Bike Tour SU15

 

2.   Do a Bike Tour

On a bike tour, you will experience Munich like a local! Munich is the second most bike-friendly city in Europe (behind Amsterdam). You will learn about the symbolism, customs and traditions while getting some exercise, fresh air and having some fun.

 

 

Munich Square SU15

 

3.   Walk around Marienplatz

This is the center of the city, where many people gather daily to shop, walk around, eat or enjoy the scenery. One of its famous forms of entertainment is the clock in the center of New Town, which has wooden figures that come out 3 times per day.

 

 

Munich BMW SU15

 

4.   Visit the BMW Museum-

This museum gives you the opportunity to see how BMWs are made and what processes are followed to develop a vehicle to prepare it for its intricate inspections before it is released to its new owner. BMW has a long history of developing its quality vehicles. You will learn all about the history and the evolution of their cars.

 

 

5.   Take a Tour of Dachau

Dachau is 10 miles Northwest of Munich and was one of the first concentration camps established by the Nazis in Germany. This camp was intended only for political prisoners. A tour of Dachau will give you a close look into the devastating history of concentration camps in Germany under Hitler’s reign.

 

6.   Tour the Residenz Munchen

The Residenz Munchen is a palace-turned-museum which used to be the Wittelbach residence and was opened to the public in 1920. This visit will give you a glimpse into the lives of former rulers of Bavaria, including apartments, ceremonial rooms and chapels. There are also works of art and sculptures from the 16th through 19th centuries.

Munich Beer Garden

 

7.   Drink a Beer and Eat a Pretzel at an Augustiner

This is a traditional pass time for locals and tourists alike. Any local Augustiner in Bavaria will have a few varieties of beer, which are commonly paired with a snack, such as pretzels with mustard. There is often live entertainment, such as traditional German music with traditional dancing.

 

 

Munich Dress SU15

 

8.   Wear Lederhosen or a Dirndl

Where else could you get away with wearing leather shorts with suspenders and high socks or a cute girly dress with an apron and braids? This is a fun way to accessorize while enjoying German Culture to the fullest. During Oktoberfest, this dress is commonly worn to celebrate the German way of life. It is especially fun if you plan to do some dancing!

 

Munich River Surfing SU15

 

9.   Watch the River Surfers

This is something you might not believe until you see it. River surfing has been an enjoyable activity in Munich for many years. Many famous professional surfers from the U.S. and Australia have visited Munich to experience this unique form of surfing. It is a creative way these athletes are able to experience their sport even far from the ocean’s waves!

 

Munich Fish SU15

 

10.   Eat Traditional Bavarian Food

German food is unique and delicious. You must bring an appetite, as this food is not light! Apple strudel, wiener schnitzel (thin, boneless cutlet of veal), spatzel (noodles), wurst (sausage) or bratwurst (fried sausage) are all delicious and should all be sampled while in Munich.

 

 

 

Want to read more student experiences?  Check out our Study Abroad blog page!

Visit our website for information on the upcoming Intersession 2016 Munich Practicum Program.

The Eurozone & the Greek Crisis: Strategies for Global Innovation & Competitiveness

By Philip Sheridan, MBA student

Due to my interest in strategic planning and innovation management, I participated in the 2015 Munich & Athens study abroad program with the intent to study strategies for global innovation, and how the political, legal and ethical climate can impact a country’s corporate and economic development. Despite the improving economic climate for a number of states within the European Union (EU), the tensions created by the current Greek crisis provided a unique (possibly historical) opportunity to learn first-hand how each country’s respective business and economic environment is impacting the health of the EU.

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Plaza in Munich, Germany

The EU consists of 27 member states (countries), of which Germany is considered Europe’s economic engine, with a longstanding record of high employment and productivity. Kicking off our studies, two lecturers (Dr. Richard Hofmaier, University of Applied Sciences Munich; Alexander Lang, Tu Munchen) described how the main driving forces (~99%) behind Germany’s economy are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs; up to 500 employees), referred to as the ‘German Mittlestand’ or ‘hidden champions’. Roughly 95% of Mittlestand firms are family-owned businesses, of which >54% have launched an innovation onto the market, contributing almost 52% of Germany’s economic output within the EU (~27% of EU GDP). Dr. Hofmaier and Mr. Lang eluted to how most successful German firms (large or small) try to capture the spirit of these ’hidden champions’ to drive innovation, and integrate knowledge of consumer-demands into their innovation management and product development practices and processes.

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

The innovation practices discussed by Hofmaier and Lang provided a great international context for our course studies in global innovation management, particularly as it relates to ideation, opportunity identification, option development, synthesis and analysis. Together with Dr. Zimmermann, we discussed these topics and relevant case studies used by global organizations trying to establish and sustain innovative cultures. These class discussions and experiential exercises provided great exposure to practices and contextual tools that I can leverage in my strategic planning and business development activities.

Our time in Germany culminated with site visits to the BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters, as well as the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (within the University of Applied Sciences). At BMW, we observed how a large enterprise marries customer-focused development with innovative production methods to maintain their competitive edge and increase manufacturing efficiency.

At the Strascheg Center, we learned how the German government invests resources to establish entrepreneurship programs and seed university business incubators. We had the unique experience to hear from two start-up cofounders as to the resources provided by the center to help them develop and deliver their innovative products to the market.

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Winning culinary team relaxing after the Athens Sensations Tour

Following our acclimation to Athens through a program sponsored ‘Athens Sensations Tour’, we started our studies in Greece with an orientation by Dean Nickolaos Travlos from the Athens Laboratory of Business Administration (ALBA). Dean Travlos framed out key financial events that led to Greece’s current economic crisis, which today is characterized by excessive debt (debt to GDP >170%), an over-bearing public sector (>50% public companies), non-competitive government policies (low government efficiency, 56/59), and a significant ‘black economy’ (>30%). As a result, the Greek government faces overwhelming pension obligations, extremely high unemployment (>25%; >50% for youths), a deflated private business sector (low business efficiency index, 53/59), and significant lost tax revenues due to the black economy.

Visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company

Of particular interest was a presentation by Prof. Babis Mainemelis (ALBA) who emphasized how Greek businesses could leverage their worldly traditions and heritage to spur innovation and differentiate its products on a global business stage. We visited Apivita, a family-owned company that specializes in using natural organic oils, plant extracts and beehive products to formulate holistic cosmetics. We toured their production facility and botanical gardens, including a hands-on experience as to the beekeeping practices used to maintain their hives for generation and collection of natural product ingredients. We also toured the Papagiannakos Winery and enjoyed a history lecture on wine in Greece by food consultant and sommelier Chrissa Giatra. It was interesting to hear how these two family businesses were leveraging their unique success in Greece to expand within the European market.

Athens ruins flag

Ancient ruins in Athens, Greece

It will be interesting to follow future economic developments within the EU. Will there be a Grexit (Greek exit from the EU)? Could this lead to a contagion where other countries (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy) also exit rather than continue to institute painful austerity measures (such as labor and market reforms). And what global impact could such developments have on international markets and economies?

While we wait to see what the future holds for Greece and the EU, I can say that the immersive nature of the Munich & Athens program provided direct exposure to these contrasting business environments, and cultures as a whole. The team–based course content and exercises fostered collaboration between individuals from various university programs, and together with lectures by international faculty and company site visits, delivered a unique and exceptional professional learning opportunity every student should have the good fortune to experience. Lastly, it was extremely stimulating to learn about these historical cities and their overall place in the world, from an economic as well as cultural perspective. Most important, it was great fun to meet new people, expand my professional network, and establish new friendships.

 

Read these other blog posts detailing student experiences in Munich & Athens:

Experience Munich and Athens Through the Eyes of a Student

Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens

What Students are Saying About Munich & Athens

 

Check back soon for more student experiences abroad!  

For more information on Ahlers Center opportunities, visit our study abroad webpage.

What Students are Saying About Studying Abroad in Munich and Athens!

“The summer study abroad program in Munich and Athens was incredible because it brought what we were studying to life. The European Union is currently in the midst of an incredibly trying time and to actually be there, on the ground gave a real life perspective and dynamic we couldn¹t possibly get while at home in the U.S. I left Germany and Greece with a hands-on experience that not only brought many of the subjects in my coursework to life, but also that I will cherish as a move forward in my future career.” ~ Jaqueline Rodrigues, JD/MBA Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“My experiences abroad have enriched my understanding of cultural, language, and business aspects related to my studies to earn my Masters of Science in Global Leadership through the Business School at the University of San Diego. It is one thing to study international comparative leadership, as well as global policies, but it is an entirely different exposure when immersed with the people and their cultures for yourself–it is something that has highlighted my time earning my graduate degree at USD, and remains some of the fondest memories and robust learning experiences of my academic career!” ~ Allison Cameron, MSGL Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“The USD study abroad program in Munich/Athens allowed us to hear descriptions and perspectives on the Greek Financial Crisis directly from both German and Greek business leaders. It was a timely and insightful experience that I wish everyone could have experienced.” “While preparing to study for the Munich/Athens program, a handful of us decided to travel to Istanbul, Prague, and Salzburg. We had an opportunity to see so many places and combined academics, history and pleasure quite nicely to start our summer.” ~ Ivan Reed, MBA Student, about his experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“Study abroad was an enriching experience that helped me understand how deep cultures can run, and how it influences business behaviors. The juxtaposition witnessed between entrepreneurial German companies and family owned Greek companies, opened my eyes and made me think about the benefits and necessity of diversity in the business world. Although different cultures and business strategies, both were successful, utilized their strengths and remain unconnected by the global economy.” Danielle Robles, MSGL Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

Still not sure if the Munich & Athens program is the right program for you? Read the blog posts below for more relevant information on this study abroad experience:

Experience Munich and Athens Through the Eyes of a Student

Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens

Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens

Written by MSGL student Steven Cummings, a participant in the Summer 2015 Munich & Athens program abroad.

Lessons for International Travel:

Lesson #1: Never freak out – go with the flow – there’s almost always a solution.

May 21st: I begin my adventure abroad with the incidental necessity of hitchhiking to LAX. On a shoestringer student budget, I elected to take an “indirect” flight path to arrive in Munich, our program’s first location, and already it was off to a rocky start. The surfliner train bound to deliver me to downtown LA, where I would catch a bus to the airport, gave notice of its cancellation within two minutes of its scheduled arrival. As luck would have it, I’d barely stuck out my thumb when a kindly yogi hailing from Encinitas saw fit to pick me up and deliver me within easy reach of my port of departure.

My connections in London and Zurich brought me eventually to reach Bavaria in time for our first program rendezvous, a bike tour of Munich. We gathered what culture we could from the Australians leading the tour, who had great insights as to the local biergartens, and began our more serious undertakings the next day at the FOM – a private university of fine reputation.  Our week’s study in Munich brought us into contact with German students and professors, as well as some local industry of typical German fastidiousness – notably the BMW factory. Our dialogues and discussions brought to bear the present status of the nation in terms of economics, business and entrepreneurial atmosphere, and its presence in the EU. Many students noted the emphasis on cleanliness, efficiency, and productive mentality of Munich and its citizens, and contemplated how this might give contrast to expectations we had for our impending trip to Athens.

Steven Cummings, Dr. Dimon, and Dr. Zocco at BMW tour in Munich.

Steven Cummings, Dr. Dimon, and Dr. Zocco at BMW museum in Munich.

Our suspicions were correct, for upon arriving to Greece’s capital we could immediately feel the change in environment from Germany’s conservative epicenter. But in addition to the relative disorder of Athenian business and daily life came the Mediterranean openness of its people, and engagement with locals proved a constant stream in comparison to the rather reserved stance we had experienced the previous week. Our daily classes in the Athenian Laboratory of Business Administration began with a terrific series of lectures by the dean and another professor, delving deeply into the roots, status, and future of the Greek Crisis. This topic had been a primary point of focus for our class, with preludes in America and Germany, so the week’s address of the crisis proved quite interesting. Having “boots on ground” in Athens also helped put things in perspective and will greatly aid the course of our class’s final presentation on the subject.

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In front of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens

 

Lesson #2: Always participate! Interact, engage, and breach the comfort zone.

What assisted me further in this regard were the conversations I found when interacting with the Greeks themselves, both in Athens and in the subsequent places I visited in Greece after the conclusion of our program. These interactions shaped my understanding of the business environment equally as much as the lectures given in Munich and Athens. Therein lies the value of the study abroad pursuits; the itinerary of the program does not hold the edification, but the framework itself. Visiting the environment first hand, discussing it with the people who give its substance, evaluating current issues in and among the people to whom they directly apply. As a USD student, born and raised in America, now experiencing academic, economic, and quotidian cultural lenses of another sphere of civil society, the inherent duties accompanying said opportunity are to raise levels of awareness, absorb distinctions and similarities, and return home with the intention to share the collected extractions to those in America who would find benefit from a more globally minded view of the world.

Company visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company in Athens.

Apivita, Mun:Ath SU15, Cummings

 

Lesson #3: Maximize the experience.

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MBA and MSGL students mingling in Athens – Acropolis in the background.

Time and money. Usually the international traveler has one or the other but rarely both. Fortunately as the “globe-trotting global citizen” gains proficiency it becomes easier to adopt a “more for less” attitude with either or both of the given dimensions. Studying abroad can be expensive, but it’s certainly an achievable and worthwhile aim. To further ameliorate costs of this venture, I utilized resources like couch-surfing and hostels to reduce accommodation costs as well as public transportation vs. taxis or other convenience conveyances whenever possible. In fact, some of my most developmental experiences came through interactions with my local couch-surfing hosts who were living the lives we viewed through scholastic observance. I’m very grateful for the Ahlers Scholarship that helped launch me on this voyage, and hope the Toreros and the nation receives benefit from the more globally conscious students programs of this nature are designed to produce.

June 6th: The university program has ended, but all work and no play is not one of the lessons! Onward to Ikaria, an “off the beaten path” island where Ikarus fell from the sky, to camp and mingle and attempt the famous nine-step Ikarian spiral dance of the Panigiri!

 

Check back soon for more student experiences abroad!  

For more information on Ahlers Center opportunities, visit our study abroad webpage.