Baylor Business in Europe 2018
BBE is a study abroad program at Baylor University designed to give students studying business experience in the realm of international business. The trip visits 10 cities and seven countries in Europe- Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Milan, Interlaken, Geneva, Paris, Caen and London. The group visits cultural sites and business entities, attends classroom time and listens to businesspeople's experiences. BBE will be the best trip of most of these students' lives. This journal will track the progress and journey of the group throughout the program.
Prague, Czech Republic May 29-June 3
“If you haven’t noticed already, we have turned back around to DFW. There seems to be excessive vibrations on the plane” -Captain
What We Did as a Group:
Baylor Business in Europe started out very interesting. On our flight to Philadelphia from DFW to catch our direct flight to Prague, our plane was having “excessive vibrations” throughout the first thirty minutes of flight, so the captain decided it was in our best interest that we turn back around toward Dallas. Once we landed at DFW, fire trucks met us on the runway, and firemen met us on the jet way. It was a very unsettling experience. We had an hour and a half to make our connection to our Prague flight, so we had to work with American Airlines to rebook 32 students and 4 adults onto a different flight. Unfortunately, there is only one direct flight to Prague out of Philadelphia every day at 6:25p.m., so we were told we would have hotel vouchers waiting for us once we arrived in Philadelphia where we could stay without our luggage. When we had finally landed in Philadelphia, there was not enough hotel vouchers for the entire group. Only 10 students and one faculty had a guaranteed spot at the Quality Inn, and to make matters worse, we had to convince them to come get us because their airport shuttle had stopped roughly 30 minutes before we landed. After that group had left, it took us over an hour to find six more hotel rooms for the rest of students and faculty. By the time the students got their hotel room keys, it was almost two in the morning. After we made it to the airport the next afternoon, everything went smoothly, and we arrived safely and on time at the airport. One of the faculty members made a good point about traveling internationally for business related travel. Delays happen all the time and someone with international business trips must be aware of this and be flexible in case this happens. I guess there is always a lesson to be learned in every situation.
After we met the charter bus to take us to the hotel, we had to get all of us checked in and ready in about an hour because we had a business visit tour scheduled. I personally had about 15 minutes to get out of clothes that I had been in for almost 48 hours and into business casual clothes. Our tour of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was very fascinating. The organization was started during the Cold War to get non-state sponsored news out to residents in various communist countries. Then, they used mostly radio services to broadcast to their listeners. Now, they have expanded to include a website, social media and videos. The next day, we went to tour the Skoda museum and factory. The plant was very interesting. We saw how they make their cars, and it was a very impressive process. After the Skoda tour and lunch, we visited Terezin, which was a concentration camp during the second world war for political prisoners, Jews, and famous people. Our second full day in Prague, Saturday, was mainly a class day for the students, and on Sunday, we went to St. Vitus Cathedral for a service and participated in a walking tour of the city.
My Contributions to the Group
In terms of what I have done for the group so far, it has been mainly focusing on social media, photography, and videography, which is main plan for the duration of this trip. During every visit, I took photos and video of the students on the tour. Unfortunately, not every tour will allow photos and video. So far, RFE/RL and Skoda plant have not allowed photos and video. For RFE/RL, the journalists are in real danger of having a target placed on them by Russia, so they do not want their photos getting out, and the Skoda plant does not want photos getting out of their technology in the plant. In addition to photography and videography, I send out a GroupMe message every night to let the students know what time to be in the lobby and in what style of clothing to be in. Their options are mainly business casual and snappy casual.
Before the trip, I set up the Facebook group for the trip. This was much more time consuming that I thought it would be. This year, Baylor came out and said it wanted study abroad programs to follow the university’s official social media rules, so we had to make sure the group was closed. I also had to make sure the right people were being invited to join the page, and we decided we would let family members of the students on to the page. In order to accomplish that while still protecting the identity and location of the students, we decided to have the students write down who they wanted on the page, and when someone requests to be added, I have to ask around until someone says that person is with me if they are not on the list. In order to help the students pack better and lighter, I came up with tips, tricks, and reminders for the students to follow. Some of those were what size suitcase to pack, to call banks to put a travel notice on cards, and what to or not to bring for business casual clothes. Some of the students would also private message me with questions they had about packing or the trip. Another large task was I also had to make sure I had all the right camera equipment. Luckily, the entrepreneurship department had some equipment that I was able to borrow.
In order to make sure I had enough storage on an SD card to take six weeks’ worth of pictures and video, the department purchased an 128gb SD card for my camera that they will keep after the trip is over. I had ordered this through B&H Photo in New York City due to its cheaper price and no sales tax. It was scheduled to arrive about a week and a half before the group left. Well about four days after the tracking number had not been updated, I called FedEx, and they had lost the card. The last known location was south of Dallas, only an hour and a half away. Since I had to have a large card for the trip and I only had a 32gb card, I decided the easiest thing to do was to buy one at Best Buy, and then I will be reimbursed for that purchase. Another example of having to be flexible, although this time I was preparing for the trip. All in all, I spent about 10 hours in pre-trip prep. I also worked on a packing list for the students to use.
In addition to all of this, I am constantly “on call” with the students whether we are together or not, so I am constantly getting questions from them.
Some things I am learning while on this trip are I don’t always feel up to editing photos or posting to Facebook once I get to my hotel room at the end of the day, but I have to learn to push through that feeling of exhaustion because I have to wait until I have a Wi-Fi connection to upload photos to Facebook.
It’s been an extremely interesting start to the program, but I am excited to see what is ahead for this group of students.
Prague + Pre-trip prep total hours: 22.5
Vienna, Austria June 4-5
We arrived in Vienna around one in the afternoon. Once we got settled into our hotel rooms, I sent out the message that students have time for a quick lunch, so I grabbed a bratwurst from a street vendor. After lunch, we gathered the students for a photo-scavenger hunt. Usually the group does a walking tour of the city, which is given by the faculty on the trip. This year, we decided to make it a scavenger hunt where the students have a list of eight historical sites, and they have to take selfies at each site and race to meet us, the faculty, at St. Stephens Cathedral. It was similar to the show, Amazing Race. The first group to make to the meeting point got super touristy keychains as a prize. We had great feedback on doing the scavenger hunt instead of a walking tour. Right now, I am waiting for students to email me those photos taken on the scavenger hunt, so I can put them together in a collage or something. After we met all of the students in the square, we had the evening free to do whatever we want, so most of us went back to the area around the hotel room to eat dinner. I then returned to the hotel room to work on the rooming list and sent out the reminder to be in the lobby at 9:25. We figured out pretty early on that having 43 students meant telling them to be downstairs earlier than we actually need them to.
For our only full day in Vienna, we took the students to Schonbrunn palace, where we got to roam the gardens for free. It is always a beautiful area. Of course, we had to take a group photo in such a beautiful area. I wondered around taking photos and videos of the area in order to put those on the Facebook group and recruitment video. After this visit, we walked them back to the city center and let them loose for lunch. Most students ended up eating at a euro dog stand, so it was easy to round them up and take them to our next visit, the Kaiser crypt. This crypt is for the Kaiser royal family, and the sarcophagi are just beautiful, ornate bronze structures [pictures below]. I took more photos and video during our tour. After this tour, the students were done for the day. I actually met up with a Baylor law student at a Starbucks in Vienna who also went on the trip I am on now. He is taking classes there for three weeks in total, and then, he and his wife will continue throughout Europe until the end of July. That visit was very fun. After this, all I had to do was send out the message to be in the lobby in the morning to move on to Salzburg and download and edit photos of Vienna. Some of which are attached below. The rest are on the BBE 2018 Facebook group.
When we decided to change over to the photo-scavenger hunt, it was kind of a last minute idea in order to give the students more flexibility in how much time they spend at each site. There were some logistical things we all did not think about in our first attempt at this idea. The professors were in two groups sitting at two different benches, so the students reported to each group, so one group had thought they were first only to find out they missed it by 10 minutes. There was a miscommunication about whether students had to wait around for the others or not, so one group of faculty sent the groups off for dinner, but the other group was planning on giving them their 24-hour metro passes. Now, we have an idea of what things to do better the next time we attempt this, but I think overall it went well and was well received by the students, which in the end, is the most important thing.
Total hours: 10 hours
Salzburg, Austria June 6-8
We left Vienna with quite an interesting experience. Our bus driver parked way far away from our hotel, so we couldn’t find him. The BBE director called the bus company, and the bus manager said the bus will leave that spot and go to a place where we can see the bus. Apparently, during that time, the bus broke down somehow, so now we had to wait about an hour for a new bus to pick us up. We finally got picked up and made it in good time to our next hotel. During international travel, these type of things happen all the time whether its vibration in the plane, a broken down bus, or a train is late arriving. It is something that travelers have to learn to cope with.
Once we got to our hotel room and settled in, I sent a GroupMe to the students to tell them to meet downstairs in 45 minutes for a short walking tour to the city center. We had to make it short because there was a storm coming in. I also like to remind the students of the Wi-Fi password, breakfast time and place for each hotel, and as always what to wear on the tours we take. During this walking tour, we took them to the Mirabell gardens, where the Do-Re-Mi song was performed in the Sound of Music. We let them take photos of the gardens and run around, and I took photos of them, the gardens, and video of the students just enjoying their environment. After the gardens, we took them across the river on the love lock bridge, similar to the one in Paris, and showed them the birthplace of Mozart. After that, we were free to go. Later that night, I sent out a reminder on GroupMe to be in the lobby at 8:30 the next morning.
On our first whole day and the day I was most excited about, we had a guided tour of Hitler’s Eagles Nest which is a home that was gifted to him on top of a mountain. The placement of this gift is actually kind of funny because Hitler was scared of heights, so he only visited an estimated of 13 times. Although, the faculty on the trip mentioned that other numbers (3, 4, and 8) have been said on the tour before. During the tour, I took photos and video of the students during their time there. After the Eagle’s Nest, we stopped in Berchtesgaden for a quick lunch before my favorite tour of the trip so far. After lunch, we went on the salt mine tour which was so much fun. First, the company gives you coveralls to wear during the tour, so I took photos while they were putting those on and a group photo later on. Visitors take a train ride into the mine, go down two different slides, a boat ride, a funicular ride back up the mine, and finally, they take you on another train rider back around to the front of the building. These two tours made for a long, but exciting day. I could tell the students loved it. Once we made it back into Salzburg, we ate dinner, and then, I sent out my nightly GroupMe to the students saying meet in the lobby at 9:30 in the morning for the other piece of our walking tour and to go up to the Salzburg fortress.
In the morning, we left to see the cemetery where part of the Sound of Music movie was filmed. Specifically, the part where the Von Trapp family was hiding from the Nazis toward the end of the movie. We let the students wonder around there for a while. I took photos and video during this time again. It really is a beautiful cemetery. A few of our students got in trouble for sitting on the chapel steps, and another American family, not with the Baylor group, got kicked out for having opened beer cans there. As this was happening, I though you know, to us this is a tourist spot where a great movie was filmed, but to this guy, this could have been where a family member was laid to rest. As I think about where my sister was laid to rest, I would want others to take great care in how they acted around my loved one who was taken too soon. I very much understood where that guy was coming from, and I ended up explaining that to some of the students who were kind of confused by the situation. I hope they take that mentality with them throughout this trip and their lives of just being considerate of what others may be thinking and what places may mean to them. After we finished there, we took them to the funicular to go up into the fortress which has a beautiful view of the city. While we were up there, I took photos and videos of the students. I am really excited to put together this video. The director only wants like a couple of minutes, so it is going to be hard to narrow down the video footage.
There is much to learn, while traveling internationally alone, but traveling with a group creates many opportunities to learn about logistics, communication, and organization at the very least.
Total hours: 14.5 hours
Munich, Germany June 9-11
We traveled from Salzburg to Munich via the train system. If I were on my own, train would be the only way I would travel in Europe, but trying to travel by train with 51 people is very difficult. Trains only stop in a station for maybe a five to 10 minutes, and we had that amount of time to load 51 people with all of their suitcases. It was a very interesting experience. Luckily, everything went well without any hiccups. Unfortunately, Munich was only a stop on the way to the terminus stop, Frankfurt, so we planned on only having a couple minutes to get us all off the train. According to the ticket, it said three minutes, but luckily, we got into Munich about 10 minutes earlier than we were supposed to. After the train ride, we stayed in the main train station for about an hour to eat lunch, and then, we had the fun task of getting the students to the hotel on the metro with their suitcases. Surprisingly, this went relatively smoothly. Once we got to our hotel around 2 pm, the hotel said our rooms would not be available until 3 pm, so we let the students go get water from the local grocery store or go get a snack from McDonalds. After we finally got into our rooms, I sent out a GroupMe saying to meet in the lobby at 4:15pm for a walking tour at 5pm in the main square. We got to the main square with just enough time for the clock to go off. Their main tower has a clock with puppets on a wheel that goes around and depicts different parts of Munich’s history. The walking tour lasted about two hours, and during this time, I once again took photos and video of the students. The unfortunate thing about having 43 students on the trip is that most tour guides want to split them up, so I can’t always take photos of students on every tour or business visit. I am sure the parents want to see their children in the photos of the group, but its hard in a situation like the walking tours because we go in separate directions. After the walking tour was over, we stopped for dinner, headed back to the hotel, and I sent out the GroupMe message about the BMW tour the next day.
Our first full day, the group did not have to meet until 12:45, so I was able to finish a video interview for a position at the American Heart Association as the Associate International Marketing Manager. I have a two-hour long phone call with them on June 15th, so I am really excited about that. After my interview, we went to BMW for a tour of their museum and service department. We usually get to have a plant tour, but the plant is closed on Sundays and Monday was reserved for VIP tours. As usual, I was taking photos and video where I could on the tour. After we finished at the museum, we had about an hour to head back to the hotel and freshen up and change into business casual clothes before a group dinner with guest speaker, Jens Pohl from Tado, a smart thermostat company. He had some really interesting things to say about running a business. Later, I asked him a question “how do you decide to move into a foreign market?” Essentially, his response was good public relations, which of course made me excited since I want to pursue more of a public relations type job.
The last thing we did as a group in Munich was visiting Dachau, which was a sobering experience. I watched a group of young Jewish boys with kippahs on going through the museum, and I just thought how emotional that must have been for them. It was already an emotional time for me just as a human being, but having that kind of connection to such a tragic event must be hard to stomach. After Dachau, a group of girls wanted to go look for Birkenstocks since they are made in Germany and actually cheaper than in the states. We went to four different stores and some people still did not get the pair they wanted. We joked we were on the Birkenstock crawl instead of a pub crawl. After shopping, we headed back to the hotel where we got caught in a down pour, so we ducked into a traditional German restaurant and had dinner. It was interesting to watch the locals enjoying the food.
One thing I learned about videography on an international trip is sometimes you have these perfect shots planned out and sometimes they just don’t happen. When we were headed to Dachau, I wanted to get ahead of the group and take video of the group walking through the entrance gate that says “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means Work makes free. This would have been the gate that the concentration camp’s prisoners would have entered through. I thought it would be an interesting clip because people’s faces always change when they walk through that gate. Unfortunately, the group had to separate on the bus to Dachau, and I was on the second bus, so I missed the majority of the group. I did get about a 10 second clip of the students who were with me. The theme of the trip so far has been one must be flexible during international travel.
Total hours: 17 hours
Milan, Italy June 12-13
On our way from Munich, we stopped at Neuschwanstein Castle, which is the castle that Walt Disney based the Cinderella castle on. According to one of the students, it was also featured in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I took photos and video of the students going around the castle. Unfortunately, we could not take photos inside the castle. After the tour was over, we rushed to the bus because it was pouring rain, and there is hardly any cover in the mile-long trek back to the bus station. We finally arrived in Milan at about 11pm. I sent out my nightly GroupMe message to meet in the lobby at 9:20 the next morning.
On our only full day in Milan, we started out the morning getting metro tickets for the students out of a machine which is fun to try to get 55 tickets out. Once we got the ticket situation settled, I went to the street level to make the rest of the group was coming in the right direction. When we finally got down to the right side of the metro, some students almost got left in the train station because they were slow getting on. Two chaperones had to manually hold the doors open until every student got in the metro train. I am not sure if the train conductor liked that or not. In addition to that situation, one student almost got pickpocketed when we were making our connection to another metro line, but she was able to get away before the woman got anything from her. When we eventually got to the place where we were going, we popped out right in front of the Duomo, which is the cathedral in the main town square. We were able to get access into the church, walk around, and take photos of the church. Of course, I did my usual taking photos and video of the church and tried to get some shots of the students enjoying the cathedral as well. After we finished in the church, we moved across the street to learn about the oldest shopping center in Italy, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. We got to look around the mall, which had shops such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci. All of the places were definitely above my price point. After the galleria, we went to a quiet corner, so a small group of students could give a presentation over Berretta, an expensive gun manufacturer, and after the presentation, we went into the store front to see some of their merchandise. The manager would not allow any students upstairs to see the actual guns they make, so that was disappointing for some of the students. In 2015, the group went to the actual factory about an hour outside of the city and took up too much of the students one day in the city, so they took that out of the program. After the students were done in Berretta, the rest of the day was free for the students, so we just walked around, ate ice cream, and then I headed back to the hotel to get some work down for about two or three hours. After I finished up some work, I sent out my GroupMe message, which told the students to meet in the lobby to go to Interlaken at 9:40 in the morning.
Total Hours: 7 hours
Interlaken, Switzerland June 14-15
The 14th was a travel day to Interlaken. We left at roughly 10 am and arrived at our “hostel” at roughly 3pm with a lunch stop in the middle. I put hostel in quotations because it is a very nice hostel. All of the students have private rooms with bunkbeds, and most of the rooms hold four or six. All of the chaperones have a private room with a private bathroom, which is super nice. The hotel has hostel-like qualities, but it is not your typical hostel. Once we got settled into our rooms, I did a little work outside with incredible views for a couple of hours. Then, we made our way to a Turkish kebab stand, since food is so expensive in Switzerland for dinner and walked around. We stopped at an open field where all of the paragliders are landing in the middle of the cities, and then we slowly made our way back taking photos and visiting with people we ran into. Once I got back to the room, I sent out a GroupMe message saying to meet at 9:10 in lobby to make our way to Trummelbach Falls and gave them general directions about Wi-Fi and breakfast.
After all of the students had gathered in the lobby, we made our way to the train station that is maybe 100 meters from our hostel. We had a beautiful 20-minute train ride to get outside of the city, and after we arrived at the train station, we took a bus that drops us off almost right at the entrance for the falls. Going through falls is cold, and the pounding of the falls carving its way through a mountain is hard on the ears. It is a beautiful, natural site to see, but it can be taxing on the ears. After we made our way back to Interlaken, we stopped at a grocery store to get something cheap for lunch. We were planning on eat it on the café style tables outside of our hotel, but we got kicked out of that even though we were guests which was an interesting experience. At 5pm, I had a video interview with the American Heart Association for an Associate International Marketing Manager position, so I spent most of the afternoon preparing for that, which was a little bit disappointing to miss out on an afternoon in Interlaken, but this is a really exciting opportunity for me.
Total Hours: 10 hours
Geneva, Switzerland June 16-18
On our way to Geneva, we stopped at Maison Callier, a chocolate factory, for a tour about how chocolate came about and how the company eventually merged with Nestle. The students loved the tour because it was very interactive. There were puppet-like shows and cardboard cuts out that would portray the story line of that room. At the very end of the tour, visitors were allowed to taste the nicer chocolates that the factory makes. We gave time for students to purchase things in the gift shop, and then, we hopped back on the bus and made our way to Geneva. Once we got into the city, we had a very interesting experience with our bus driver. She either didn’t know where she was going or did not understand where the hotel was because we drove around for almost two hours trying to find a place to park. Once she finally parked, it turns out she was in the way of the trams, so she had to drive the bus away quickly and two professors and a student were left on the bus and some of our luggage was on there as well. We finally made it to the hotel and got settled in. The rest of the evening was free. Once, I got back to the hotel room, I sent out a GroupMe letting the students know that the next day was an optional church service at John Calvin’s church and the archeological ruins underneath.
Today was an interesting day. When we went to the church service at John Calvin’s church. It was a celebration service for the 70th anniversary for the World Council of Churches, so there was people from all other countries. The service was multi-cultural in nature as well because there were songs and readings from different countries. My favorite song was from Congo. It was very energetic. After the service was over, there was a meet and greet with all the different delegations around the world, even some orthodox leaders. Then, we let the ones that wanted to go down to the the ruins of the church. After they finished there, the students were free for the rest of the day. When I returned to the hotel room, I sent out my nightly GroupMe reminding the students to be downstairs at 9:15 in business casual and ready to hit the ground running.
The 18th was a busy day for the students. First thing in the morning, we went to Victorinox since the students did a business presentation on the company. Then, we made our way on the tram to the United Nations headquarters, which was very fascinating experience. Especially since the US just announced it withdrawal from the human rights council which is at the Geneva headquarters. We saw the room in which these discussions take place. After the tour of the UN ended, we had a break for lunch, and then, we headed to Bucherer which is a high-end jewelry company. I saw a gorgeous pear-shaped solitaire engagement ring for only 44,600 euros. Some of the girls were able to try on some of the jewelry in the store. After this visit, we were done for the evening, and I, once again, sent out the nightly GroupMe telling the students want time to be ready in morning for our train ride to Paris.
On this leg of the trip, I tried to post more to Facebook, but the Wi-Fi in the room did not connect to my computer, so I had to be picky in what I chose to post to the group. My goal in Paris is to post every night before going to sleep, especially to keep the parents updated.
Total hours: 22 hours
Paris, France June 19-25
We left Geneva on a high-speed French train called the TGV. We had to herd 52 people on the tram to get to the train station, and then once we got to the train station, we gave the students time to grab lunch since our train was at 11:38. The train ride was almost three hours, so I sat with the director, and we discussed the schedule for Paris. Once we arrived at the train station, I went to purchase one-way passes for all of the people with us, and then we directed the students down to the metro. We ended up getting separated into two groups, so we met up at the hotel. After we got everyone settled in the hotel, some of the faculty and I went to the grocery store to get breakfast for the students. Once I got back to the hotel, I sent a GroupMe message letting the students know what time breakfast is, when class starts, and what our excursion was for the next day.
When the students left for class, some of the wives and I went back to the grocery store to purchase breakfast for 55 people. After we went to the grocery store, we did laundry, so we could meet the students in time to go to Notre Dame. We went to an evening service at Notre Dame at 6pm. The service lasted about an hour, and then we were ushered out because the cathedral closed. I could only get a few photos because cameras were not allowed in the church during mass. After dinner, I was able to send another GroupMe to the students later that night telling them their class, breakfast, and excursion times.
Once the students left for class, I went with the director to the grocery store to replenish breakfast. After we unloaded groceries, we went to the Paris School of Business, so I could take photos and video of the classroom space. After this task, we met back at the hotel to go to the Eiffel Tower. It took us over an hour and a half to get tickets to take the elevator up. Once we finally got to the top, we spent about an hour or so taking photos, and then we took the elevator back down to go get dinner. Sometimes, it is hard to photos with the students because usually when we take them to a cultural visit, we tell them they are free now, and so they scatter. I can just get photos of them from their Facebook profiles. When I got back to the hotel, I sent out another GroupMe with the students’ class, breakfast, and meeting times.
On this day, we went to the grocery store again. I think we actually got ahead of ourselves on the breakfast. After grocery shopping, the director and I went out to Versailles on the train to get tickets for students when they visit on Sunday. It turns out the ticket office will only sell tickets for the day of, so we went home without Versailles tickets. However, we did get the extension tickets for metro to get out to the palace. We finally got back to the hotel in time to take the students to the Louvre for the free night for persons under 26. We released the students in the museum. When I got back to the hotel, I sent out my GroupMe letting the students know that Saturday was a free day for them.
Today was a free day, so I did not do much for the group. At night, I did send out a GroupMe with instructions for our last day in Paris.
About 30 minutes before the students left for Versailles, I left ahead of the group in order to purchase tickets for the group for the palace and gardens. Most of the faculty and I were only going to the gardens. Once the group made it, I passed out the tickets and left for the gardens with the other faculty members. We stayed at Versailles for a couple of hours while I took photos and video of the palace and gardens. It took about an hour and a half to get back into the city, and then, we freshened up for the group dinner. For our last night in Paris, we had a group dinner in the Latin Quarter. When we finished up the dinner, I went back to the hotel to send out a GroupMe about our plans to go to Caen the next morning.
Paris was very busy for me. I learned to prioritize tasks since there were so many things to get done for the group. I also felt like I had been utilizing Facebook much better recently. I feel like I am getting in the groove for this trip.
Total hours: 73 hours
Caen, France June 26-29
On our first relatively early morning, we boarded a bus to drive to Caen from Paris. It took about three hours to drive to the city within the Normandy region. Before we even went to the hotel, we went straight to the Caen Peace Memorial to tour the museum and the D-Day landing beaches. We spent about four hours touring the beaches. I spent the majority of that time taking photos and video. After we settled into the hotel, I sent out a message through GroupMe telling the students the chaperones will be cooking breakfast for the students and that class will start at 9am.
On our first full day, we went shopping to replenish the breakfast supplies. I also spent a lot of time helping a student figure out how to replace her passport she lost. I posted some photos online about our tour of the D-Day landing beaches. I spent at least a couple hours researching how to replace a lost purse and passport, and how to go about getting from Caen to Paris to replace her passport.
On Wednesday, we went grocery shopping again to keep up with the breakfast needs. It was decided that I and another professor on the trip would accompany the student who lost her passport. We purchased train tickets and printed off the forms needed at the US Embassy in Paris.
Today, we left Caen for Paris on a train at 8:54am. It takes about two hours to get to Paris on the train. Once we arrived in Paris, we took a taxi to the US Embassy. We brought a small suitcase in case we needed to stay the night. For obvious reasons that I didn’t think of, the embassy does not let suitcases in the building, so the third professor who is an older man offered to stay outside with our suitcases. When we went through the security line, they took my phone and Apple Watch and told me I can pick those items up when we leave. When we finally got through the two levels of security, we were told you can’t fill out the forms by hand, so we had to go to the computers there and re-fill out the forms online. After we completed those forms, we went to the passport photo booth in the room. After we finished that, we were told that we would have to come back at 1pm because the workers had left for lunch, so we went to lunch at a restaurant nearby. At about 12:45pm, we made our way back to the embassy. We had to go back through security again. We got a number at the front desk. When the number got called, she went to the window and gave the woman her forms. After that she had to go to the cashier and pay $145USD to get the new passport. After she paid, she had to go back to the window she went to and give the woman her receipt. We waited about 15 minutes until she was called back up, and she had to raise her right hand and promise she told the truth. She sat back down, and about 10 minutes later, she had her passport. After we got her passport, we had to go to the police station so she could file a police report for her insurance on her phone. After about an hour and a half alone in the police station, we were headed to the train station to purchase our tickets home. It was an interesting experience.
The students finished their classwork on Thursday, so we, as a group, went to Le Mont Saint Michel, which is a working abbey on top of a small village that is out on the water. We spent about two hours there before we headed to Saint Malo, which is a gorgeous beach town. I spent most of my time here taking photos. A fun twist in the stolen purse situation is her purse was found in Paris at a government lost object office. Unfortunately, she either has to pick it up in Paris or sign a power of attorney for someone else to pick it up. We leave for London on Saturday, so she can’t pick it up. She knows a student on the Baylor in Paris program, but they are leaving to return to the US on July third, so there is not much time to get the power of attorney form signed. Anyway, we gave her and her mother the options she had, and they have yet to say what they are going to do.
What I have learned during my time in Caen? Do NOT set your purse down on the Eiffel tower lawn to take a picture. Also, don’t carry your passport in your purse. We made sure to spread the tip about not carrying your passport in purses to everyone.
Total hours: 48 hours
London, UK June 30-July 3
On the 30th, we traveled to London on the train that goes under the English Channel. It was a long day. The total process took about 12 hours. We left Caen at 9 in the morning on a charter bus. The ride took about three hours, and once we got to the train station in Paris, we released the students to go get lunch, while we, the adults, watched their luggage. The adults took turns going to get their lunch to go. When all of the students got back from their lunch break, I met them at the check in point and passed out their train tickets. Once we all made it through check-in, passport control, and security, we waited about 15 minutes and were able to get on the train. The train took about two and a half hours, and then we gave the students a break to go to an ATM. One of the professors went ahead to make sure our charter bus was waiting for us, and after the students returned and we got the okay from the professor, we lead them out to the bus. Our ride to the dorms at Regent’s University, where we were staying, was about 15 minutes. It took us about an hour or so to get room keys out to the students because the university requires a signature from each student and a deposit for the key. After we all settled into our hotel, the students were given a short orientation to the university’s campus, and then I headed down to the closest tube station to make sure each oyster card (London’s mass transit card) had at least 20 pounds. To “top up” the card as they say in London, it is required to do each card separately, so it took me 50 transactions before every card had at least 20 pounds. The professors recycle these cards every year, so some cards had a balance left on it from the previous year, which required some mental from me in order to make sure we had enough on the card. At the end of the day, I sent a GroupMe message telling the students about the optional church service in the morning at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the walking tour starting at 1 given by the director, and the optional visit to the Tower of London after the walking tour.
On our first full day, I woke up with a headache, so I missed out on the church service. I was already planning on missing the walking tour because I and the director's wife were in charge of finding a restaurant for a group dinner on the last night. We got a recommendation from the front desk and got a confirmation from the restaurant, Wagamama. After we got the last night dinner planned, we meet up with the students who were finishing out their walking tour at Buckingham palace. We, then, made our way to the Tower of London. It turns out that the line we were taking was shut down for maintenance, so we had to take an extremely hot bus for about an hour to get where we were going. After we got to the Tower of London, we hopped in line to get the students their tickets. We had about 33 students out of 43 that wanted to go, which is higher than other years. We left them by themselves to tour the place. The rest of the afternoon was free, so once I got back to the university, I sent out a GroupMe message letting the students know they had to meet in the lobby at 10 for their visit to the Bank of England and again at 6:30 to go to their group dinner.
I did not attend the Bank of England visit because there was not enough space in their conference room, and I had been to the briefing many times. Video and photos are also not allowed during the briefing, so it was not a necessity that I go. I had a free afternoon until the group dinner that night, so I sat in park for a bit and then, did some research on apartments in Dallas. During the group dinner, I took some photos of the students while they were eating and fellowshipping together. We also took a group photo outside of the restaurant with the director. When I returned to the dorm hall, I sent out a reminder that the bus to the airport was leaving at 8:45 in the morning and that it will not wait for anyone. I also found out on this day that the American Heart Association offered me the associate international marketing manager position, so I am excited to start on the 16th less than a week after I get back. They are a great organization, and they are even letting me work remotely for a couple of months until I find a suitable apartment. It was a weird feeling to get that email, but I am very excited to start working for them.
The 3rd was the day that the students went home. I am staying in Europe for another week to explore some other options for cities for the group, and I will have to wrap some things up for the trip like labeling photos, going through video, sending a feedback survey out to the students and preparing documents for next year’s trip. We are always trying to improve upon the trip. Around 2015, the program added Interlaken, Switzerland to the trip, which is always a huge hit with the students. For the video, we may just send the footage to my brother who is a videographer and have him put together a final cut for recruitment. I was happy to see that I exceeded 240 hours on this leg of the trip. For a while, I was concerned I may not hit that mark.
Total hours: 20 hours
Post-Trip July 4-10
After the group left, I spent one week in Croatia where we were planning on researching a potential spot in the Balkans region for the program. During the week in Dubrovnik, I wrapped a few last minute things that were needed for the program. A couple of these items were adding captions to the Facebook photos on the BBE 2018 group, created a survey to pass out to the students for their feedback and edited and added the photos from London portion of the trip. All of these tasks were completed either in the morning before we left the hotel room or late evening when returned. It was also decided that we will wither slowly work on the video or have a film an digital media person put one together.
Tomorrow, we leave for US from London. I am very sad to go back and a little nervous about starting my first full-time position, but I will forever treasure my time and memories in Europe. I am excited to start thinking about my international trip, wherever that may be,
Total post-trip hours: 8 hours
Total trip hours: 252