Day 16: Coming Home

Well yesterday was the day that we packed up and headed for the airport. I had a great time on the trip but I was so happy to finally come home. What a day to come home too – July 4th :)

I just wanted to provide a quick update on how we ended the evening on Day 15. Post dinner we had a meeting with the group upstairs on the patio with Dr. Hoopes who gave out superlatives. I got “Worked Hardest” which I guess is fair since I was Dr. Hoopes GA and had to do data stuff each day. Anyways it was nice to get the group together before we left, take some pictures, and give hugs all around. After drinks on the patio, most of us went to the famous Tivoli Gardens. It is a very nice amusement park right smack in the middle of Copenhagen. We walked through the park and then Allison, Mark, Alex, and I rode the Vertigo ride which is a thrill ride that goes over 60 mph. It was a rotating ride that rotated in 2 ways at the same time. It was AWESOME. After Tivoli Laura and I walked back to the hotel and packed up for the trip.

Yesterday morning I worked out one last time in Europe :) Then we got on the bus one last time and went to the airport for a long trek home (flight time was a little over 8 hrs). I sat next to Liz and watched 3 movies on the plane including the new Avengers, Focus with Will Smith and Margo Robbie, and Cinderella. I also started a new book – The Martian. When we finally got to the airport I couldn’t be more excited to see my husband. I unfortunately still had to get through customs and go talk to SAS about my bag. It seemed to take forever! I also failed to find a SAS Customer Service Desk. After numerous questions to Security Officers and Information Desk people I ended up at the Check in Counter for SAS and the lady there literally told me no one  at the airport could help and that I had call Customer Service. She at least gave me an American phone number which I will call today. I don’t know if I will ever get reimbursed for my bag but oh well. My husband then picked me up form Departures (I was already upstairs so I didn’t want to go all the way back down). He brought Mason my Shih-Tsu and he brought an American Flag :) I can’t explain how happy I was to see him. We drove back to Alexandria through a downpour but when we got home I immediately tarted laundry and then Alex took me out for my first date night back in the States to Rustico. I had a gluten free pizza and it was phenomenal! We got back to the house around 8PM and I passed out hard by 8:30 which was fair since my body felt like it was 2:30 AM.

Well, the adventure is over. I saw 13 companies, went to 3 countries, and used 3 currencies in 2 weeks. I drank cocktails at an ice bar, rode roller coasters at LegoLand, and took a journey on my first cruise ship. And most of all, I met new friends, had new experiences, and have stories that will last a lifetime. Many thanks to Dr. Hoopes for planning such an amazing trip. I can check Scandinavia off the books now and even better…that MBA.

-Meredith

Day 14: A Fond Farewell to Scandinavia

For a majority of the group, today was the day we said our goodbyes to Scandinavia. Thankfully, all of us managed to pack our bags and make it to the bus in time. We went through several passport and ticket checks before finally reaching the terminal, so a note to future students, you definitely need the recommended 2 hours at the Copenhagen airport.

The flight went smoothly, and I ended up sitting near a large portion of our group, which was nice. And I got to chat with a few other classmates when I took a bio break halfway through the flight, so that was really nice as well. Customs went smoothly for everyone, and I think all of our bags made it through to the U.S. safely and on time as well. Woohoo!

It was super sad saying our goodbyes to the group. We have promised to stay in touch and have talked about getting the group together for some reunion events, so I hope we all follow through with that.

After an awesome, yet exhausting two weeks, it was nice to arrive home to a quiet house. I was welcomed by this guy and a little care package:

Scooter Boots!

Scooter Boots!

Welcome Home!

Welcome Home!

It’s hard to tell in the photo above, but beyond the beautiful flowers there is organic sea salt popcorn (my snack of choice) and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (thanks, Paul!). The card points me to food in the freezer (breakfast sandwiches and a frozen meal with organic palak paneer, rice, and beans). However, since I had Indian food while I was in Scandinavia, I decided to treat myself to Thai food for dinner instead:

Green Curry Chicken and Jasmine Tea

Green Curry Chicken and Jasmine Tea

I was able to enjoy some fireworks in the neighborhood, but beyond that, I had a very low-key evening. I unpacked, talked to my mom for almost an hour, and watched cheesy Lifetime movies until about 10:00 pm before turning in for the night. I think I definitely set myself up for combatting the jet lag and getting myself back on schedule quickly!

Day 13: Maersk, Carlsberg, and More Fun in Copenhagen

Today we visited Maersk and Carlsberg. I was much more impressed with Maersk than I had expected. It was interesting to me how low the margins are for a business where there is really so much risk. Typically, in the business that I am in, the higher the risk, the higher margins we need to put on the work in order to justify it to our leadership. However, because of the large share of the market that they have, I guess that Maersk has enough volume to counterbalance this risk return concern.

Carlsberg was a fun visit as well. I thought it was pretty cool that the company continues to support the values of the founder and his son through the Carlsberg foundation. The foundation supports both art and science. I also thought the company’s rationale for staying out of the U.S. market was interesting. The company wants to be the top beer producer in its markets, and because they don’t think they can position themselves in this place in the U.S., they have chosen not to enter it. Carlsberg definitely seems to believe in the motto, “Go big or go home”!

After the company visits, we had a few hours before our last dinner as a group. After dinner we found out the results of the trip superlatives. It was a hoot learning how the group voted in each of the individual categories! Apparently I was perceived by the group as both the most surprising and the luckiest (the luckiest along with Tim). Love it!

After the superlatives ceremony, we all went out to Tivoli for a last hurrah as a large group. Tivoli first opened in 1843 and is the second oldest amusement park in the world. Tivoli was so cool, and I am definitely glad we made the decision to go. There was live music, carnival food, restaurants, bars, carnival games, and rides. Four individuals from our group braved the craziest looking ride, Vertigo. I looked it up, and the spinning of the ride’s arm reaches 60 miles per hour. Another group of us went on one of the roller coasters, the Demon, but I don’t think anything could compare to Vertigo. We definitely had an awesome time and it was a great way to close out the trip. At the end of the night, I couldn’t believe that we were headed home in less than 12 hours. It was a bittersweet moment, for sure!

Day 15: Wrong Turns, Castles, the Blues, and Gawd-Awfully Awesome Bathrooms

The day started bright and early. We repacked, grabbed a quick breakfast, and made it on the bus with everyone else for the ride to the airport and our car. It was bittersweet to see everyone go off in one direction and Ben and I going off on another – it really hit home that the VT Scan portion of the trip was over.

We made it to our car. A Renault Clio that we’ve named Chloe for the next three days. She’s a diesel and every now and then we’ll look at each other due to some smell that she’s exuding but so far she’s been great.

Leaving the airport Ben had one very firm request: whatever I did, do NOT direct him through downtown Copenhagen. I agreed that was a bad idea and promised that I wouldn’t – only to direct him through downtown Copenhagen. It was truly a mistake and the first introduction to the fact that Danish road signs are not always the best. The highlight to this was that we were driving past den lille havfrue or the Little Mermaid as she’s more known. She was what I expected – a huge tourist attraction of a small statue. But I can now say that I’ve seen one of THE big things to see in the city.

Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid

We made our way north and checked out Kronborg Castle. We both thought it was impressive and loved the various models outside that showed the various stages of construction. Plus, Ben got to see Sweden. Sadly, the way things are looking, we won’t actually get over there for him to say “I’ve been there!”. From here we made our way to Frederiksborg Castle. The guidebooks are correct when they say that it’s the Versailles of Denmark. Now it is a wonderful art museum. Much grander than Kronborg, there was just something about it that I didn’t like as much as the other. This one made me feel that it was a place that some rich people centuries ago built because they wanted to show off their wealth – really ostentatious. However Kronborg had real military defense requirements that, to me, made the expense justified. Either way, I liked either. Though, to keep with the purpose of the blog, I think that the supply chain to replenish Kronborg would also be easier. Less variables (easily by sea, so cheaper costs) but there would be potential disruptions to deliveries, due to the constant wars with Sweden during the times of major use. Sadly, they did not go into the lean systems used by the Queen to organize and run her households efficiently. I may have to doc them some points on my rapid plant assessment sheet when I fill it out. Smilie: :-)

We left Zeeland and were planning to head to the island of Funen, specifically the town of Middlefart because really, who doesn’t want to stay at a place called Middlefart (yes, we were acting like middleschoolers). However, upon arrival, the town was dead so we next set our sights on Frederica. The town was also dead BUT it was for a good reason – they were having the first night of a blues festival with a variety of BBQ options. We each grabbed a plate (ribs for Ben and pulled pork for me) and ended up chatting with a family from Russia, who recently immigrated to Denmark via Cyprus. They had a cute little girl who drew pictures for Ben and I. She was obsessed with hearts and flowers – every animal or building drawn had them as decorations. After this we decided to forge onward to Aarhus (second largest city in Denmark) where we learned that, if everyone is flashing their lights at you, you should pull over (we, OK I, hadn’t fully turned on the car’s front or rear lights). We utilized the free Wi-Fi at the library in Frederica to book a room at the Royal Hotel in Aarhus. It was a huge steal, it’s in the middle of town, and it has the most gawd awful black and gold color scheme in the bathroom. Now it’s off to sleep since we’re going to either explore the area or head further north to the North Sea shores.

Who says black and gold bathrooms are not in style?

Who says black and gold bathrooms are not in style?

Fourth of July in Copenhagen

Well, most of the class has departed and is winging their way back to the USA.      The few of us remaining for an extra day enjoyed the opportunity to get a little sleep and a lot more sightseeing.  Thang and I walked through a good part of the city — over the canal bridges — and in different areas of the city.  We observed some interesting things — like a wedding party on bikes crossing a bridge.  The bride was a big basket on the front of the groom’s bike as he pedaled down the street trailing cans and streamers followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen and other attendees on bikes still dressed in their finery.  :)  It was quite a sight.

We also saw the Copenhagen version of a beach — kids swimming and diving in blocked off areas of the harbor area — and thousands of Danes sunning themselves in swimsuits on a grassy plaza adjacent to the harbor wall.

Thang and I explored the city and the main shopping district for a few last minute souvenirs.  We met the other class members for dinner in the Nyhavn area — it was very nice.  The crowds, music, and beautifully colored homes along the canal were a great backdrop for for a very nice dinner with classmates.  After dinner Thang and I took the canal boat tour that lasted about an hour.  It was a bit cheesy at times, but worth the 80 DK for the ride.  We walked back through the shopping district with a few short stops along the way and headed to the hotel to finish packing.

This has been a great experience — not only to learn more about some of these global companies and their use of information technology in supply chain management — but to learn about the cultural aspects of these Scandinavian countries and to get to know more about classmates in the MBA program.  It has been tremendously rewarding on both a personal and professional level.  I will definitely return for another visit to Scandinavia, but I’m glad to be going home and to not have to live out of a suitcase for awhile.  :)

Day 15 – My Final Thoughts

It’s 4th of July and I’m currently on a plane back to the good ole U.S. of A (by posting time, I’ll have landed at Dulles)! It truly has been an amazing, fascinating, exhausting, interesting two weeks and a really hot last week. I wanted to take this time to reflect on our trip and give some thanks.

This was really a once in a lifetime, amazing experience and I would not change any of it. Yes, it was exhausting; yes, I may have unpacked and packed many different times; yes, I may have gotten annoyed with a couple of people (cut me a break, we were all in really close quarters), but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. This experience has made me think about my future and what I am interested in doing. Now that I am officially done (minus one paper) with my MBA, I need to think about my future steps. I would never have imagined being so interested in the strategy behind supply chain. It’s not that supply chain isn’t fascinating, but I just learned so much on this trip through plant tours and company visits that is making me contemplate a future in the strategy portion of supply chain.

Now onto my thanks…

• A BIG thank you to Dr. Hoopes for planning an amazing trip! Everything went so smoothly, I did not have to worry about what to do. Thank you for not making me worry once on this trip, whether it was making a company visit on time or walking the streets of Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Gothenburg. Thank your planning a wonderful outing to Ramkvilla! It was one of my favorite days. I am so glad we had that experience.

• Thank you to Carol, a wonderful travel partner! You were there to talk to and there to take our picture at any point. Our trip would have been less exciting without you!

• Thank you Jan, our most awesome bus driver! Thank you for taking care of luggage, keeping to our schedule and just being your funny, sarcastic self!

  
• Thank you to my roommate, Allyson for dealing with me through the good times and bad. I know it was rough but we got through it and I believe our friendship can be stronger because of it.

• Thank you to the 25 other people for being great travel partners. It was awesome getting to know everyone better in a more relaxed setting. I saw a side of each one of you I would not have seen if we were in class with each other two times a week for 3 hours.

• Thank you to all the company hosts! It was great getting to understand what your company stands for and how you do business. It was really fascinating to me and a great learning experience.

With all that, I am sad to say, I think this is my last blog post. Surprisingly, I have enjoyed blogging each day, remembering all the little things that happened. I am sure I will enjoy this blog this coming week and in the future when I miss this trip and want to look back on all the great memories I made. I want to thank you all again, for reading and following my blog. It means a lot to me you all would take time out of your day just to see what I was up to.

Love,

Cathy

Signing off from Scandinavia

As I sit on my plane to Amsterdam, I have a lot of emotions going on. First of all, I am on my own for the first time in 2 weeks. I had gotten used to – for lack of a better phrase – being taken care of. Every hotel was planned out and breakfast and lunch were already set. So while we worried about writing papers, company presentations, what to wear, how to do laundry, and trying to be tourists all on little to no sleep, we had all the other details taken care of and 27 other people who were all looking out for you. Now I’m alone for the first time and a bit jealous that the others still get to be together for at least a few more hours.  Our group was eclectic and anonymous before we came on trip, but we were strangely perfect once put together.

We had a brief goodbye gathering last evening after our final dinner where Dr. Hoopes told us we were the most compatible and laid back group she had taken on this trip. I couldn’t agree more. We had things happen – lost luggage, flat bus tire, schedule changes – and we all just went with the flow.  But more importantly, we all were kind to each other. Maybe because half of us were without luggage for the first 48 hours, but EVERYONE was willing to share what they had and that continued throughout the trip.  There were no “Regina George”s. Everyone was welcome to join any group at any time. Our greatest hardship was when “our” seat on the bus was taken, but then you just sat with someone new. I was definitely nervous before coming on this trip because not knowing anyone, you assume the worst. And that is why assumption is the mother of all . . . mistakes. I got lucky with a great group of people and even better – a great roommate! Not knowing Liz at all before this trip seems so ridiculous now.  We were two peas in a pod, and I pretty much laughed my way through this trip. (Maybe I should thank her specifically for even being in the “happiest” category!)  We laughed, danced, unpacked and repacked our way through Europe and truly embodied the buddy system.

Going back to my first blog post, I am especially emotional when I think about being the last one to register for this trip. I can’t imagine that if I just didn’t approach Dr. Hoopes on that first day of class that I would have missed this opportunity. I feel extremely lucky to have squeezed my way onto that bus with this amazing group of people to meet thirteen different companies and industries I have never touched before. I realized so much about how my own industry works that I had and would take for granted. For example, just yesterday at Maersk, I was surprised that there are no “make goods” in the shipping industry.  If they are unable to ship something, they will “roll” it to the next week to ship without any rebate/compensation.  If it is truly a hardship, they will work to get the materials on an earlier ship, etc., but I would have called them up with any immediate expectation of getting something for my troubles. Little instances like this helped bring to light how focused we are in our own industries and our own countries.  No matter who was speaking, I was building a Marketing and/or PR plan for them in my mind.

And we definitely focus on our own country. Working for a global company, I realized I still work on a small local piece of that business.  And even though Laura S. won the most “American”, we are all very American.  Even right now I am next to two Europeans. I ordered a coffee and am typing away on my computer and they are enjoying wine and chit-chatting.  We all are on “work trips”.  Americans live and die by “Work hard. Play hard.” When we did the team building activities, our official informed us that he found how we competed interesting.  When we had 30 seconds left in a station- we went harder and faster. We spent the time before each station to discuss and plan our strategy.  Apparently this was very different to the Swedish and German ways of doing things.  Hans at Lego talked about how American children are encouraged to interact and socialize so their toys are designed differently than German toys who are focused on task completion. At AstraZeneca, Daniel had done a study abroad in Minnesota where he had homework for the first time since 2nd grade. He told us that the onus on learning is on the students in Sweden so they need to focus on their schoolwork and participate in class to show their work.  And just last night, we had a VT MBA alumni that lives in Copenhagen join us for dinner.  He is headed to back to the U.S. in a few weeks and is extremely delighted to do so.  His fiancé found a melanoma two years ago and has yet to be able to get a specialist’s doctor appointment. While each place has their advantages and disadvantages, I still feel very blessed to be an American.  We met more people than I would have expected that were excited to meet and talk to Americans- not just Alvin.

In just two short weeks, my world expanded tenfold. Speaking to business professionals (in their perfect English) about how the issues around the world affect their everyday business.  Many of the companies had been in business for years and then had to figure out how to be successful in a global economy. However, the common theme is their roots in their homeland. Fiskars added “Made in Finland” to their packaging because the Finnish were proud that they had those products made there for over 300 years.  We are all tied to where we’re from, and I could make a generalization that the majority of people are proud of it. So for all my friends and family at home, Happy 4th of July! Please be sure to have a hot dog and Bud Light for me. I look forward to hugging America in a few days!

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This trip’s “Happiest” students

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Day 14: Last Day of Company Visits (Maersk and Carlsberg)

Today is our last day of company visits and we went out with a bang!  The Maersk visit was very intriguing.  They talked about In-House Consulting and that is a whole new concept to me.  The presenters were engaging and very honest.  I have never seen someone open up the presentation disclosing their age and talk about their family.  It was quite refreshing and made you know the person more so the discussions were livelier.  When I thought of Maersk I just thought of shipping containers but did not realize the complexity that goes on behind the scenes.  Unlike the airline industry, they charge their customers after the containers arrive.  In this day and age, we want everything quick and yet they are slowing down their ships and making them wider and thus creating less fuel consumption and are becoming greener.  This is definitely outside the box thinking to me.

We finished our last visit at a brewery.  Carlsberg is a very well know beer brand around the world but it does not compete in the US market.  The tour gave us a deeper understanding of where and when Carlsberg started and of course no brewery tour is complete without samples.  Carlsberg has my stamp of approval!  The beers that I chose were tasty.

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We had our last group dinner in the evening before everyone broke off the next day to do their own thing.  We had a gathering outside in the hotel courtyard to hand out the back of the bus awards (superlatives).  There were 26 categories that we voted for, ranging from worked the hardest to play the hardest and everything in between.  The runner up was announced first and the winner afterwards.  I took home the Funniest and Happiest honors.  Apparently my laughter (giggling) won everyone over!

No trip to Copenhagen is complete unless you go to Tivoli garden.  So after the award gathering, we all headed over to Tivoli.  The place was hopping because they had a concert.  We hung out as group one last time and said our goodbyes.  The majority of us are flying back tomorrow and a handful of us, including me are staying an extra day.

Day 14: The End

Ok, so this is really day 14 and 15 since I’m sitting in the airport writing this.  Yesterday we visited Maersk and Carlsberg.  Maersk is the largest shipping company in the world, and was able to give us one of the best presentations of the trip.  They had a couple of guys from their internal consulting department come speak to us, which was interesting because I’ve never seen a non-Governmental organization have an internal group to provide programmatic and process related consultation.  But it was the woman that followed that stole the show.  She was able to give a great presentation, providing a very complete view of how things work at Maersk; she was able to be so thorough because her career began at the bottom, elevated to the head of the West Africa division, and then worked her way to the Director of Sales – all by the age of 31.  Very impressive.

We finished by going to Carlsberg brewery.  This wasn’t the actual brewery where they mass produce their beer and ship it out, but it was their original brewery.  This was definitely a good way to end the trip, as we all just sat around having a few final beers for the trip….

Well, not quite.  We had some free time in the evening, and decided to go to Tivoli Gardens, a theme park in the middle of Coppenhagen.  This was a fun time, and a really interesting place.  A few of us did decide to go on the most vomit inducing ride in the park – an airplane that spins and flies in circles at outrageous speed!

But now we’re at the airport, waiting to board the plane.  While I’ve had an amazing trip, I think we’re all ready to head home to the US.  We’re all talking about the things that we intend on doing first.  For me, I think it’ll be a nap Smilie: :)

Copenhagen….

what a beautiful city.   We enjoyed a nice visit with Maersk Shipping where we were given a recruiting pitch, a briefing on their in-house consulting, and an excellent briefing on the company’s sales.   The Director of Sales was very impressive and inspired some of the 31-year-olds in our group.  Following a quick lunch, we were given a brief tour of the Carlsberg Brewery compound, including the world’s largest beer bottle collection (unopened) of beers from around the world.

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The group then enjoyed a last dinner together and the superlatives for the trip were awarded.  It was a nice event.  Thang won funniest and placed second for loudest — so you know I had a great roommate!   We also heard nice remarks from Dr. Hoopes and her sister Carole. It was a great trip in no small measure to them.   And our driver, Jan!   We gave him what appeared to be a good tip for his work on this journey.  The group then went to Tivoli Garden and enjoyed an evening in this beautiful park.   Some of the group went on rides, but it was a nice place to just visit and walk around and people watch, enjoy the lights and sounds.  Definitely a date night event for any Copenhagen visit.

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A great first whole day in Copenhagen, but sorry to realize that the trip is nearing its end.