Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A quick recap of Day 3

Hello to all of you continuing to follow along on our European study abroad trip! I'll start by saying that I still haven't fully adjusted to the time change. Thus, I was up until 4:00 a.m. meaning I got a little over three hours of sleep last night. I'm hopeful tonight is the night I can get adjusted since I finally feel tired.

After breakfast at the hotel, we met in the lobby and headed to the Kopint-Tarki Economic Institute. Since it was important that we didn't miss the bus to the buidling, Szilvia had the hotel call each room at 8:00 this morning. The students were giving me a hard time about setting wake up calls for them, but I was completely innocent! I didn't even know about it until after she set it up! We all made it and caught the bus to the office building. The building was quite old and built during the communist era. Everything in the building looked exactly the same (each office the same size, every floor consistent) which was very interesting to the students. 

Peter, one of the economic researchers at the company, provided an overview of the economic history. To get to the economic message, it meant he provided some additional history information to the group. He told a story about his youth and his parent's youth where ordering a car in Hungary meant waiting for 11 years to actually get the car and having only 2-4 choices for types of cars with no preference for color, etc. My colleague Dr. Wanorie would be pleased to know he even spoke of Operations Management during this portion of the talk. Peter went into Hungary's decision to join the EU in 2004 and where Hungary ranks in terms of GDP, etc. He recapped the "7 Miracles of Socialism" and connected these by mentioning their influence on economic factors in the country. Mentioned again today was Hungary's biggest challenges which are public debt and unemployment in the youth (ages 18-24).  We closed our morning session with a guest lecturer from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her talk was interesting and provided prospective into issues her country faces. As mentioned above, youth unemployment is an even bigger issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nearly 63% are currently unemployed and don't see a successful future in their time which leads to crime, riots, etc. In addition, corruption is very high. She closed by talking about the recent census in the country and what that might mean for the future. I enjoyed this addition to our itinerary!

Business visit at Kopint - Tarki Economic Research company

 After the morning session we took the bus and then walking to a large shopping and restaurant area that was near our afternoon visit to hear the EU Commission representative. We split up for two hours to sight see and grab a quick lunch. I should use the phrase "grab a quick lunch" lightly....the students are getting quite a kick out of how long it take to eat a meal in Budapest. About 10 of the student were a few minutes late because it took them 1 hour and 40 minutes to get their food and pay. This also happened last night and I think they've learned that getting in and out in an hour (US lunch standard) isn't universal throughout the world. I was able to eat lunch with Szilvia and learn more about the multinational company she works for in her full-time position (tour guide for this company is just something she does 1-2 times a year).  We asked her questions on vacation days, maternity leave, taxes, among many other things. It was great information and she provided some interesting perspective to women in the workplace, etc. After having a child, women in Hungary get nearly 100% of their salary for 6 months and most don't return to work until the child reaches the age of 3. In fact, only 8% of children under the age of 3 are in daycare. 

The talk from the EU Commission representative was fascinating for me! The EU Commission provides recommendations to each member country for the coming year. The recommendations for next year just came out less than 2 weeks ago. We talked about some of the comprehensive EU initiatives and the strategic initiatives. While the EU sets initiatives, each member state makes its own initiatives and the commission uses those initiatives to let the members states know what they are doing well/what recommendations for the coming year. One recommendation for Hungary deals with education to try and eliminate some of the youth unemployment issues by focusing on disadvantaged youth. We were able to ask a number of questions and our speaker had excellent credentials including a degree in Accounting and Law and careers with Ernst & Young and JP MorganChase before becoming a commission representative. 

Group picture inside the Europont building for the commission representative talk

We returned to the hotel area around 4:30 p.m. and the students were on their own to shop, sight see, etc. I think most took a quick power nap and headed out for dinner and sight seeing in Budapest. Teri and I, along with two students, headed down to a city square with the large Ferris wheel (only set up in the summer months). We wandered around and finally found ourselves at the Basilica. It was absolutely beautiful! We had a great dinner in this area of town and then headed back to the hotel via the underground line. 

Another good day is in the books! I need to get some sleep before our last day in Budapest. It's sure to be another busy and great day!


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