Friday, May 30, 2014

Exciting day!

Friday is always a good day! People everywhere seem to be in a better mood with the weekend right around the corner. Add warm weather and sunshine and today was set to be a good day. A typical Friday became an even more exciting day when the final itinerary showed up from Cornelia! I guess you could say it was the confirmation that the study abroad trip is very quickly approaching! 

Prework this week is focused on the cost of goods in the three countries we are visiting vs. the cost of goods here in the United States. Students looked up items such as a can of Coke, a gallon of gas, an iPhone, a loaf of bread, etc. I think there were some surprises to say the least! We complain about high gas prices here in the US, but that same gallon of gas is double (very close to $7 USD) in the Czech Republic. Comparing costs of items should be helpful as students figure out their final personal budgets for meals, spending money, souvenirs, etc. In other prework assignments, I asked the students to research things to do when we have free time. Our schedule is quite packed and when we have smaller blocks of time (2-4 hours), I want the students to be familiar with attraction options so we aren't spending an hour each time trying to find out what the options are. We've also looked at restaurants and meals options since we are individually responsible for most meals. I know there are plenty of options and we will run into plenty of cafe options. However, this exercise again contributes to assisting students determine their budget and gain a better understanding for the local foods. A few students have commented on being quite picky in terms of eating but each have mentioned it is their goal to stay away from American fast food abroad.

To close, I will return to discussion of the itinerary. I knew it would be busy, but the final itinerary officially confirms it. We will visit 4 countries in 15 days, use 3 different currencies (four if you count the USD), visit 10 companies, go on 7 walking tours of the different cities, museums, and castles, stop by and visit a college in Prague, and still manage to have some good chunks of free time. Many of the company visits are multinational companies and these visits should be a great learning opportunity for our students to talk and learn more about international business. We have very little free time in Budapest, more free time in Vienna, and a full day in Prague at the end of the trip. I'll elaborate more on specific company visits and attractions my next few posts.

I'm signing off for tonight! In the spirit of the upcoming trip, I've looked up "Good night" in Hungarian. (see below)

 Jó éjszakát (Pronounced yo A-sa-kaht),

Allison Hoffmann

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wow! What a busy week! It seems like each week before we depart for our trip includes additional details to iron out, things to take care of, etc. With each passing day, I keep going over things in my head that I need to make sure are ordered (adapters for European outlets, converters, etc.). This week while checking our airline reservations I noticed there was an option to upgrade to economy comfort seating for an extra charge. I sent this information out to all the students going on the trip and it looks like a few decided it was worth the extra money.

For the prework assignments this week, the students researched the European Union, the political environment and the cultural environment of the countries we are visiting. As bad as it might sound, I don't think the students knew much about the European Union, why it was formed, etc. before conducting their research and writing the paper. We have a meeting/discussion with a European Union commission representative in Budapest so my hope with this research is that the students are more prepared for this meeting and can ask educated questions. 

As for the political environment, the students seemed to be interested in the similarities and differences more than anything else. I think for some it was very interesting to see the move from communism to more of a democratic system. In the Czech Republic, a constitutional amendment was passed in 2012 that introduced the presidential election by popular vote instead of by Parliament.

The students seem like they are enjoying the research in preparation for the trip and I must admit I'm learning a number of things as well. Teaching business communications keeps me very interested in cross-cultural communication. The students looked at appropriate business attire in each country, whether gift giving is expected, negotiation practices, use of verbal/nonverbal communication, etc. They seemed to get most into some of the intricacies such as only giving flowers in even numbers and avoiding gifts with the company logo. As we all know, gifts with the company logo is common here in the US.

I've been working with our CEPA program coordinator and Jeaneth from the Northwest Study Abroad office to get our itinerary finalized. Many of the students have asked about free time to explore since our schedule is quite packed. I can't wait to tell them that we will have a whole day and the next morning free where they can do what they would like! I worked with Jeaneth and Cornelia to move our Prague Castle visit a bit so it freed up an entire day. This free time will come at the end of the trip which is probably timed perfectly so students can do any sightseeing they want before we head back. I'm wondering if any of students will look at taking the European Express Train to Germany, or other cities in the Czech Republic, or Poland.

As we move to week 3 prework, we will look at the technological, ethical, and regulatory environment in addition to each group making specific plans/options for what we can do when we have smaller blocks of free time in each city. When checking out attractions in Prague, I came across the Prague zoo which claims to be one of the oldest zoos in the world. Since there are just a couple of zoos in America with panda bears, I am guessing a few students might want to pay the $7 USD to go to the Prague zoo which has panda bears. I can't believe how cheap it is compared to what we pay to go to most zoos here in the states! 

To close, I'm going to be sharing a few of my favorite travel apps that I've already downloaded in preparation for the trip. I'll be sharing these with the students this week too!

  • XE Currency (this already came in handy when determining my currency exchange)
  • Trip Advisor City Guides (I downloaded Budapest, Vienna, and Prague)
  • Google Translate
  • Viber (text and call for free over wifi)
Jeaneth sent an email that included a link to another site with suggested study abroad apps:

That's it for this post. Keep checking in and feel free to check out the student group blogs. Each group is blogging once a week right now but will be blogging daily while we are abroad. To check out the student group blogs, visit "My Blog List" on the right of my blog page.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend! Thank you to each and everyone past and present who serves/served our country!


The Troja Castle is right near the Prague zoo. If a group wants to head to the zoo, many sites say to make a day of it and explore the entire Troja area, including the Troja castle.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One month away...prework is underway!

Class prework is underway and it is great to see the students conducting research on the countries and cities we are visiting. As I was responding to student posts on the Northwest Online site, I realized today is May 15! That means we are one month away from our trip! We (myself included) still have a lot of research to do to be fully prepared for the trip. It is important to me that each of us take off for the trip with knowledge an on the geography, demographics, cultural, political, and economic environments of Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Thus, each week of our prework will focus on a few areas of the environmental scan.

The students going on the trip seem to be the most familiar with Prague. A few of them have friends who have studied abroad or visited Prague in the last few years. Common questions that students are asking at this point are in regards to concerns with pick pocketing and general questions about the food and concerns with packing. What I love about the group thus far is everyone seems genuinely excited to research and learn more about this region! 

In addition to the environmental scan, students are also researching options of things to do in our free time. We don't have much free time in Hungary, but we do have more free time in Austria and the Czech Republic. I'll post a few of the free time options that the groups have come up with in one of my next posts. I am hopeful there are others who are interested in a dinner cruise on the Danube (below). 

Have a great weekend! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Getting started....

The planning is nearly done and our trip is just around the corner! In fact, trip prework begins tomorrow and I'm excited for all of us to learn more about Eastern Europe and the cities we will be visiting. I think the prework will be educational but also FUN! Students are split into groups and will be researching the cities and countries we are going to, including options for what we will do in our free time, restaurants to eat at, tourist stops, etc. This is in addition to completing an environmental scan and getting prepared for the many company visits we will go on over the course of our two-week trip. Let the adventure officially begin!

Fun fact: Budapest is home to more thermal springs than any other capital city in the world. 70 million liters of thermal water rise to the surface daily. (Budapest Travel)