Day 39/-2: Legoland

After an interesting and informative company visit at Lego, we had an afternoon free in Billund.  If only there was somewhere to go for the group to relax and have some fun.  Oh wait, there is…Legoland.

I have to confess that as a child, I never was that interested in going to Disney.  But a Lego catalog had a couple of pages showing the model village in Legoland (back when the only Legoland was at Billund.)  That was my kind of place.

So in a way, you could say that going to Legoland was a childhood dream come true.  But in another more accurate way, you could say that I outgrew that particular childhood dream.  But it was still fun to visit.

 Lego model village version of Nyhavn in Copenhagen

The weather was nice, albeit a bit warm.  The group quickly fragmented and as it ended up, I was in the aforementioned model village as was Laura.  So many jokes were made about us looking for more churches, which where naturally closed.  Thus began the third chapter in Laura and my adventures, now in miniature.  Neither of us was that into rides, although we took a ride on the Observation Tower to see the entire park.  We also stumbled into a ride that was vaguely like It’s a Small World at Disney World combined with a very small roller coaster at the end.  (Virtually all of the rides at Legoland are designed primarily for kids.  )

We did have one group event, on a “ride” (sorry, but it’s not a real ride if it’s human powered!) that was a competition between four cars of VT MBA students and a couple of cars of other park visitors.  Sadly, without the brave leadership of our Ramoa captain Anna, we did not win (we came in third among the VT teams, but we mopped the floor with the two cars of Danish children.)

Laura, Dr. Hoopes and a few others had dinner at a Tex-Mex place inside the park, but since we were still in Denmark, I guess it would be more accurate to call it a Tex-Mex-Dan place.  The food was OK, but it at least satisfied Laura’s craving for Taco Bell.  (One of the few times that “OK” Mexican food is better is when you have a craving for Taco Bell.)

We wandered the park a little more, did a small amount of shopping, but we were already pretty well equipped with Lego swag by then.  We assembled for a group picture and hit the road for Copenhagen.

So Legoland was nice and it was fun to wanted the park for a few hours.  I probably wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t been with the group, but I’m glad we went.  I mean where else are you going to find a funicular made out of Legos?

So I’ve made it through two blog posts about Lego without mentioning the Lego Movie and a certain song.  I’ve also been trying to up my blogging game but incorporating video.  So posted without comment is a very short video of my initial arrival at the entrance to Legoland…

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As I’m trying to get back into the grind of the real world, I wanted to look back on the trip and reflect on my experience. To sum it up, the trip was a really great experience professionally, socially and academically. This was a rare experience that I was happy I ended up taking the leap of signing up for and attending.

From a professional standpoint, we were able to gain backstage experiences with some major global companies that you rarely get to see anywhere in the world…especially in the US. These companies were very open with us on their strategies, strengths, weaknesses and learning experiences to help us gain an understanding of international operations and strategies they deal with on a daily basis. We were able to see so many different industries and discover how they differ, but also commonalities that work across the board. There was also the opportunity to see companies of different sizes and stages in their life cycle to learn how their strategies change with their ever-changing missions and objectives. We were able to apply and visualize what we learned in classes to these companies and their real world experiences/cases to finally make that final light come on in the full learning and academic cycle.

From a social standpoint, this class and trip was an incredible way to go outside of your box and meet new people and expand your profession and social network. Being part-time MBA students, many of us have a lot of responsibilities and time commitments outside of class that hinders us from fully developing relationships and truly learning from one another. We all have a tendency to come to class, network minimally, get our work done and then call it a day and end the class. This trip allowed us to come together and learn more about one another and develop better relationships with our classmates. Me being more on the introverted side (especially going to class after a long day at work) it was a great way to step outside of the box and meet new people and learn a lot from everyone else’s experiences. This is something most part time programs lack because of the circumstances of the students.

I really did enjoy this class/trip and recommend anyone thinking about taking it in 2017 to definitely make the effort to sign up. I learned a lot from the different companies/industries we visited, experienced different cultures and areas of the world not normally on the travel bucket list, had a good deal of laughs and made some new friends. Thanks Dr. Hoopes for providing this experience to us all and I hope it continues to enlighten the future students of VT. Signing off one last time…

P.S. – for those of you in the back of the bus, I was very lucky to find a fresh box of Crunch Berries and milk in the kitchen when I got home!
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7/2/15 – Billund Company Visit: Lego

Lego has a very good operation. Their presentation and their tour was very well done. Their factory is very clean and in order. We witnessed their extrusion machines creating lego pieces, place them on a conveyer belt, and then an autonomous robot came by and picked up full baskets. It was quite a sight to see. Apparently, it used to take 65 people to run the extrusion plant but thanks to technology upgrades (and a lot of robots) it now only takes two people. 

Lego’s presentation was very hands-on. To examplify how creative one can be with legos, they gave us six separate pieces and asked us all to construct a duck. Out of the entire group, not one person had assembled the same duck. This truly illustrated how diverse the imagination can be when working with these blocks.

Surprisingly, Lego runs a pull operation and generally requires only about 2 weeks lead time. Many of their suppliers are from China. That said, Lego is able to verify the quality, safety, and human rights records of these plants by letting them know that they will go to another Chinese plant if they are suspicious of violations.

After the team visited the factory, we went to Lego Land! While the rides and attractions were very much directed at the much younger audience, it was still very cool to see so many crazy things made out of Legos. 

Day 16: Home Sweet Home

What a fun trip!  Reality was starting to set in when we landed at Dulles.  The whole traveling experience coming back to the states was a very smooth one.  Hans and I made the right choice by taking a cab to the airport.  The others who took the train did not have a very pleasant experience.   Once back in Dulles, from landing to getting through customs and out of the airport was a painless hour which is a lot faster than I expected.

I have been hoping to get back on the 5th and watching the USA women’s team play in the WWC final and that came true.  They destroyed Japan 5-2 in the final and I got to watch!  What an awesome homecoming present.

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This trip has been so awesome!  From learning about the companies and getting to see what they do and how they do it so well.  Additionally, everyone on the trip was very laid back and chill, which made for a fun time.  Special thanks to Dr. Hoopes for planning the trip, Carol for being our photographer, Jan for driving us and everyone else for being so awesome!  I am definitely glad I signed up for this trip and I will definitely miss hanging out with you all, but we will always have our stories and memories from this trip!

Day 15: Exploring Copenhagen

Today was a day totally dedicated to being a tourist.  My roommate and I spent the day walking all around Copenhagen.  We were planning to go to Nyhavn but one wrong turn got us going somewhere else.  We walked and walked and took in the sights.  The people of Copenhagen for sure know how to enjoy this 80 degree day.  They were out in droves laying on the grass area of the park and playing in the water.  They had this interesting area that was along the river that had a raised platform that people were doing dives off of.  People were out biking everywhere.  We saw a wedding party on bike behind the bride who was riding in a rickshaw.

We eventually made it to Nyhavn to meet up with the rest of the crew who stayed the extra day too.  We had dinner at an outdoor restaurant that overlooked the canal.   After dinner we took the evening canal ride to see Copenhagen from the water.   It was a pretty cool ride and we learned a little history and saw the little mermaid statue that Copenhagen is supposedly known for.

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It was a relaxing day and I finally got the Belgian waffle with strawberry and ice cream at the end of the night!  Next step is to get to the airport and go back home.

9300 miles later

It was a whirlwind trip and I got to know 27 people that I now call friends.

After two weeks travelling 8400 miles by plane, over 500 miles by bus, 300 miles by boat, 111 miles by foot, and 60 miles by train and I’m finally back home. The flight was uneventful, but long and I watched 3 movies to pass the time, Chappie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Focus.  Customs took a while to get through, but when I got out, I found Alicia and Conor waiting for me.  All I wanted to do was get in the car and go home.  It was so nice to be in buildings where the air conditioning was actually effective.  Scandinavia does not have effective air conditioning.

After we got home, Conor helped sort my laundry.

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I finally got some good pizza – bacon and basil with extra sauce from Ciro’s in Centreville – delicious!

This pizza was so good, I wish I was eating it right now!

I had a pretty tough time keeping my eyes open as the day went on.  By 9pm it was lights out and that bed was so comfortable.  I slept like a rock.  I took Monday off to adjust, relax, spend time with Conor, and work on my blogs and paper.

It’s nice to be home.

Reflecting on a great adventure…

While thinking back on the past two weeks now that I am back in the states, one thing is definitely for sure – this abroad trip will absolutely define my Virginia Tech MBA experience.

Traveling throughout Scandinavia was refreshing and a great experience – taking in different countries, culture, scenery, and cuisine always adds perspective and provides a great chance to reflect on what the rest of the world has to offer.  Not having constant access to the internet, Facebook, e-mail, and whatever else I mindlessly check was also long overdue and very much needed.  The trip also reignited the travel bug in me, and I am looking forward to planning a European adventure with my wife next summer once I am wrapped up with the MBA program.  I also appreciated being forced out of my normal routine of work, commuting, class, etc.  It’s so easy to get heads down in the weeds and normal routine that you stop paying attention to all the great stuff around you – I truly hope breaking away from that for a bit will help me to stop and actually enjoy what is going on around me.

Looking back at all the company visits, it still seems crazy to me how open and transparent most of the companies were in terms of their strategy as well as the good, bad, and the ugly about what their company is dealing with in today’s global environment, or had to deal with in the past.  All of this insight and information wouldn’t be accessible without working for the company directly had it not been for this program.

Overall, I believe that the most powerful benefit to me during these two weeks was building relationships with my fellow Scandi-travelers.  Between busy work and family schedules, it has been difficult to really build relationships with my MBA colleagues – typically once class it let out it is usually a race to the car or metro to head home.  Added to that, and probably most important, my introverted nature definitely creates what feels like a natural hesitation or barrier to meet people.  Being able to have the time and opportunity to experience this type of adventure was tremendous, and I look forward to walking into my classes over the next year and hopefully seeing many of the people I traveled with.  I hope it also gives my introverted side a kick to get outside of my comfort zone and meet even more people in the program during the time I have left.

So to conclude my blogging, I want to just thank everyone – Prof. Hoopes for putting together an incredible experience, my fellow travelers who were all awesome to see Scandinavia with and get to know better, and of course my wife for holding down the fort and taking care of the munchkin so I could experience all of this.  I look forward to holding onto all the good memories and experiences – even the abundance of lunch meat on the breakfast bar. 😛

Off to see Elsinore

I, along with a handful of others, stayed behind an extra day.  I kind of wish I would have gone home the day before with most of the rest of the class, but since I was there, I wanted to make use of the day.  Pete and I decided to take a train up to Helsingør to see Kronborg Castle, which is the setting of Elsinore Castle in Hamlet.

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Side note: any time I hear Elsinore, all I think about is the movie Strange Brew.  The movie, loosely based on Hamlet, is about two dim witted brothers in Canada that wind up with jobs at Elsinore Brewery and have to save the world from the evil Brewmeister Smith who has tainted the Elsinore beer with mind control drugs and sent it to Oktoberfest. It’s not the most thought provoking movie, but you should definitely watch it if you’ve never seen it.

Once back, we met up with the other “Leftovers”, Hans, Thang, Noelle, Anna, and Mark A and had dinner in Nyhavn (with obligatory photo from the end of the canal).

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Beer Thirty!

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Our final business visit.  Carlsberg Beer.  Pete and I gave an overview of the company including its history and its Business Standardization Program (BPS1).  Carlsberg was founded and run by the Jacobson family (father then son) who didn’t always get along.  The Jacobsons did a lot for Copenhagen and beer brewing in general. The highlights are the Carlsberg Laboratory, The Carlsberg Academy, and various trusts left by the Jacobsons.  The Carlsberg Laboratory went on to discover and isolated the first pure yeast strain.  Carlsberg decided to give this discovery away to other brewers to advance brewing throughout the industry instead of keeping it for themselves through patents.  The laboratory also developed the pH scale for measuring acidity.  The Carlsberg Academy is dedicated to scientists and arts and houses, for free, various scientists and artists from around the world in JC Jacobson’s former residence.  Carl Jacobson (the son) left several trusts dedicated to helping Copenhagen including one dedicated to providing art to the city through the Carlsberg Museum of Art.  Carl Jacobson gave the city one final gift before he died, The Little Mermaid statue (I didn’t make it there to see it unfortunately, so no photo).

The tour we took was the historical tour available to anyone (unfortunately, they don’t do the in depth student tours in the summer) and we walked around the historic brewery for a little while hearing about the Jacobson family.  The original charter for the company requires that the original brewery always remains a brewery so Carlsberg brews their craft line of beers, Jacobson, at this location, but has moved production of their other products to a brewery in Fredericia, Denmark, a few hours west of Copenhagen. They also have the Elephant Gate.  The elephant is a symbol of strength and the company used this along with other symbolism, such as a statue of Thor atop their facility, to state that they are here to be the biggest and best.

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I also got my 900th unique beer here at Carlsberg.  It was a Tuborg Grøn.  Not my favorite, but not a terrible beer.

Cheers!