Final Thoughts on Berlin

What a summer! Berlin was an absolutely unbelievable place to intern for 8 weeks. It’s hard to describe how sad I am to see my time here end.

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The Victory Column, commemorating three Prussian victories in the years leading up to Germany’s unification

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One story I forgot to tell – the time I saw a man walking a COUGAR in the middle of the city at 2:00 pm on a Sunday

Professionally, this experience could not have been better. I certainly worked on lots of important projects and hone my Excel and PowerPoint skills, but I could have done that anywhere. The true value of my experience came from the international component of the work. I conducted market research entirely in German, deciphered assignments in German from certain coworkers who had difficulty explaining them to me in English, and went on a cross-EU business trip! Those opportunities don’t come from a run-of-the-mill post-sophomore year internship.

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The River Spree in the wee hours of the morning

I certainly broadened my horizons outside of the workplace as well. Living in Berlin is all about exposing yourself to different cultures and viewpoints. This may be best exemplified by the Kreuzberg neighborhood, which was always fun to walk around because it’s a mix of Turkish immigrants, left-minded people of every variety, students, startup entrepreneurs, etc. Walk around there during the day, and you are bound to run into some sort of protest, art exhibition, or thought-provoking graffiti.

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Only in Berlin does an abandoned airport get turned into a massive public park

Of course, doing all the touristy stuff proved quite fun as well. How else did I get all those awesome pictures from Dresden and Prague? And of course, this beauty of Austin and I in front of the Brandenburg Gate:

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This brings me to my final point. This internship would not have been possible without the help of the Student International Business Council and its generous benefactor, Frank Potenziani. To SIBC, Mr. Potenziani, and all else who made this trip possible, thank you.

Farewell Germany!

It is shocking that this adventure has already come to an end. I have learned so much, but have only been able to share so little on this blog! Outside of the language barrier, I have basically become acclimated to living and working in Berlin–which gives me immense hope in my dreams of becoming an international businessman.

I have toured the whole of the city and have done some pretty incredible things. My favorites:

  • Toured the Reichstag and learned about German politics.
  • Payed my respects at a concentration camp about an hour north of Berlin.
  • Visited the oldest pub in Berlin with family. 
  • Got some history lessons on a Third Reich tour of Berlin.
  • Walked through the Tiergarten–Berlin’s Central Park.
  • Sampled the view atop of Berlin’s TV Tower.
  • Visited nearby Prague and Dresden with friends.
  • Observed antiquity at various museums in the main square. 
  • Toured the famous Berliner Dom church. 

And, finally, I leave you with lessons I have learned for studying and working abroad that I emailed to my Notre Dame mentor a couple weeks ago. Enjoy! 

  • See the city and country that you’re studying or working in before traveling internationally. This one is particularly interesting. I have had friends from America with me here and the first thing that they did when they got to Berlin was figure out how they were going to leave Berlin every weekend. This upcoming weekend is my sixth weekend in Berlin and I still haven’t done everything that I have wanted to. Instead of “getting a taste” of Europe, I formed a unique connection with this city and its amazing history.
  • Only commit to those activities that you cannot do anywhere else in the world. I have seen peers here (and I am sometimes guilty as well) that will choose the beach over seeing Hitler’s bunker and will choose shopping for Burberry instead of touring the Reichstag. We are all different and have different tastes, but I would suggest to anyone to take advantage of the experiences only available in your city.
  • Do what you want while you’re here; you never know the next time you will (if at all) have this opportunity. Many of my peers, including myself, have “bandwagoned” on the popular activity of the weekend. It’s okay to be by yourself and see what you want to; in fact, I think I function best while by myself. If those people doing the “popular” activity are your friends, they will understand.
  • Read, read, read as much history and general knowledge about the location in which you’re working and studying. My experience has been that much deeper and more amazing because I understand the significance of the area. Plus, people are often impressed with my knowledge and it is a great way to start a conversation and delve further into the cultural implications of history. Reading–even if it is stupid Wikipedia articles (very guilty)–has developed this experience into a connection with Berlin and an incredible learning journey. 

Thanks for joining me on this amazing adventure! Have a great semester!

Best, 

Austin Hunt

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Friends at Berlin’s Reichstag.

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A concentration camp visit north of Berlin.

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A Gallery of the Berlin Wall.

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The famous Berlin Zoo Gate.

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The Olympic Rings and Stadium that housed the notorious 1936 Games. 

Business in Berlin

Being in the incredible country of Germany sometimes distracts from my everyday life as a Business Analyst at my firm. Unfortunately, I am guilty of getting stuck in a day-to-day work routine at the office and forgetting the amazing experience I am immersed in.

But what exactly do I do? Essentially, what I have been doing is researching company, industry, and market specific information in regards to Silicon Valley and the startup world. My supervisors and I think of worthy endeavors and delve deeper into the venture. For example, my supervisors have approached me and have said “Research this company called ‘X.’ We like what they’re doing. See if there is a market in Europe.” OR “This company called ‘X’ is dominating the flower market in Berlin. See if there is any room for another player/identify competition/find revenues.” Based off of my findings, I need to decide how to organize my newfound information: PDF or Word document, PowerPoint presentation, Excel spreadsheet, etc. Following my creation of the report, I have a meeting to explain and interpret the information to a supervisor. I am often asked my opinions on matters and in what I would personally invest.

One excellent opportunity that I have had is to make a grand, all-inclusive spreadsheet of possible ventures that are gaining traction and then make my own suggestions to my supervisors of what to research. I browse sites like crunchbase.com and angel.co in order to find what companies are being funded. I learned about the Round/Series system of funding and have actually discovered what the hype of Silicon Valley is all about.

I have had the opportunity to sit down with my bosses to discuss mergers and acquisitions, talk with coworkers about their own venture ideas, and email startup founders for information and advice. I have both presented a mobile application idea to my supervisor and also suggested further research in one of the most popular startups today. Not only have I been now told to extensively research this startup and make several reports, but also my supervisor and I had a call with the CFO of the company a couple weeks ago.

However, being in Berlin while doing this work makes all the difference: Berlin has proven to be a hotbed of startup activity. Several firms that I have researched and emailed are only a few blocks away from my office and I have really gotten a feel for the fast-paced environment that is a startup.

Until next time, auf Wiedersehen!

–Austin Hunt

 

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The Berliner Dom–Germany’s “answer to Saint Peter’s Basilica.”

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My new friends and I in Prague on a weekend trip. 

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The Berlin skyline from a unique point of view.

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An aerial view of the Brandenburg Gate.

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My office in Mitte, Berlin.

Update from Berlin

Hello! It’s been a while since you’ve last heard from me, but that’s because Berlin has been so exciting that I’ve been constantly working or otherwise out and about. In the meantime, I’ve witnessed an amazing German world cup victory, contributed to a massive real estate transaction that included the privilege of joining a business trip to Amsterdam, made independent trips to Dresden and Prague, and sharpened my business German skills. It’s been quite the adventure.

 

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A nice view of a corner of the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament, taken from the roof

Round Hill Capital has proven to be a fantastic place to work. My coworkers are great, and I get to spend all day sharpening my technical finance knowledge as well as my German (an ideal situation for a Finance/German double major!) The opportunity to spend a day in Amsterdam (albeit in offices and meetings) was fantastic as well. I’m very excited that this is where I ended up.

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The beautiful old town of Dresden, Germany

Of course, being in Berlin is about a lot more than just work. This truly is a global city, and you can never know what to expect. I’ve discussed Kurdish independence with a Kurdish cab driver, been to several “beach bars” within the city limits… the other SIBC intern here, Austin, even found two ND grads on a river boat! I came here with the assumption that this would primarily be a German cultural experience. While I’ve met plenty of Germans and consumed my fair share of bratwursts, Berlin is much more than that.

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The Brandenburg Gate always looks awesome lit up at night

In regard to my other adventures, watching the world cup unfold here was unbelievably exciting. People take it unbelievably seriously – think of the most die-hard ND fan you know, and multiply that person by 80 million people. The final stretch of the tournament was a time of immense excitement and joy – the energy and mood on the street was unbelievable. Additionally, I have to suggest visiting Dresden and Prague to anyone interested in beautiful cities that aren’t Barcelona and Paris (cheap shot at the London kids). You won’t regret it.

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Welcoming the German national team back after their world cup victory

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Prague’s medieval city center and castle

 

It’s Been Brill (England Part 4)

(*Brill = Brilliant.)

Hello Internet, 

Helen Sheng here for one final, melancholy post after 8 amazing weeks in England. It has truly been one of the greatest summers of my life here, and indeed, England was even better than I imagined. Thanks to everyone at Mobell, Krizevac, and SIBC who built this unforgettable experience for me. 

Thanks Frank!

Thanks Frank! (From Warwick Castle)

In my time here, I’ve met a true entrepreneur, made cool graphics, devised and implemented marketing strategies, prepped bikes and packed books for Malawi, and hung out with terrific people.

Final weeks at Mobell

After Tyler and Eric left, I continued our SIM marketing strategy by drafting “expert” phone posts and travel blogs for the Mobal website, and creating lists of adwords to help drive more traffic to the site. I also saw yet another side of the office by spending some time with the USA customer service team, and listening in to some support and sales calls. 

(from left) Me, Tony (CEO), Vince (Managing Director), Eric, and Tyler.

(from left) Me, Tony (CEO), Vince (Managing Director), Eric, and Tyler.

Finals weeks at Krizevac

The charity side has also mostly remained the same, although Zoe has managed to hire a new paid worker named Terry who has been an enormous help. I’ve continued helping out with selling and packing books, preparing bikes, and making donation pickups, but there’s also been some added excitement in anticipation of preparing a new shipment going out to Malawi next week (which, unfortunately, I would of course be missing). 

The Krizevac Krew! (In Uttoxeter)

The Krizevac Krew! (In Uttoxeter)

Finals weeks in England

I’ve certainly tried to make the most of my last two weeks! First, I went back to London to see a truly unforgettable West End performance of The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales theatre. A beautiful, heartwarming and absolutely hilarious tale of friendship, adventure, love and truth. 

The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre--WHAT A SHOW

The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre–WHAT A SHOW

The following weekend, my new friend Claire from the USA customer service team took me out to Dudley Zoo (you are NEVER too old of the zoo), which is also surrounded by Dudley castle, yet another majestic British castle that has been around for about a millenia. (We also saw Guardians of the Galaxy, which is an absolute must see–Vin Diesel only gets 5 words, but those words will make you FEEL)

Claire (left) and I at Dudley Zoo!

Claire (left) and I at Dudley Zoo!

Dudley Castle, which is surrounded by Dudley Zoo.

Dudley Castle, which is surrounded by Dudley Zoo.

Lessons and Highlights

1. Commitment is absolutely critical.

This is perhaps one of the biggest things I’ve learned at Mobell. After seeing so many sides of the office, I’ve noticed that the teams that work better are the ones that have better communication with both themselves and their leaders. I also learned a little bit about the Scrum agile software development framework (i.e. a management technique for software product development), which seems to be heavily reliant on good and productive communication between teams, their leaders, and the upper management. Within the office, I slowly began to see how some of the best teams often have weekly or even daily meetings, are very friendly and comfortable together, and even spend time together outside of work. On the other hand, I found that one team that struggled (despite having some of the smartest and most competent members of the office) tended to be more disconnected, and did not have a strong relationship with their manager. Even I enjoyed my work much more as the weeks went by, and I began talking more with people around the office and started to fit in better. 

2. Mistakes are unavoidable. Inaction is not. 

This is something that came across from all of Tony’s stories–this is a man who has started/owned/co-owned at least a dozen different companies in completely different markets, and not all of them have been successful. However, even now he is constantly looking for new projects and niches. 

3. Soft skills always make a difference. 

This is somewhat similar to the first, but a little more personal–I went into England knowing absolutely no one, and I left with several new friends and connections, people who will remember me so that I will always have a bed to sleep on the next time I come to visit. I discovered that although knowledge and expertise are necessary and important, friendliness never goes unnoticed, and can often leave an even bigger impression. 

England

I’d like to take a moment to gush about England. If you get bored, just scroll through and look at the pictures. But England is truly a fantastic country! I’m constantly amazed by the depth of the country.

I’ve visited 11 cities/towns, 4 castles, 3 museums, 2 barbeques, 1 zoo, 1 proper Shakespeare festival, 1 music festival, 1 show in the West End, climbed 1 peak, and saw 1000000000 (give or take) sheep and 1 single squirrel, and yet it seems I’ve only barely scratched the surface.

I’ve seen some of the (terribly charming) British cynicism, as well as a hidden spring of national pride underneath it. I’ve experienced both the initial politeness and deeper friendliness that follows. And I must have heard at least 10 different accents, some of which occur in the same office. 

There’s a certain air of…class, I think, in England. Yes, of course there are obscenities on walls and sketchy bits in every city but on a general level, the food, the shopping, the cars and homes, the people, etc, seem to emanate a very slight, but noticeable sense of quality. Maybe it’s because this is a country that has had thousands of years to discover itself, that used own half the world, that still has a queen. And although I bleed the red, white and blue of the star spangled banner, I could see why someone would be proud to be British. 

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

View from the London Eye

View from the London Eye

The National Gallery

The National Gallery

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

 

Literally the best part of any zoo

Literally the best part of any zoo

In conclusion

This is NOT the last time I visit Britain.This country has got to me; I may very well study abroad there, or spend the occasional summer visiting. In any case, I’ll be back. 

Thanks for the adventure, 

Helen!

Beijing 3 in 1

Hi everyone, my name is Amy Xia, a rising sophomore. I was in Beijing for five weeks working with Notre Dame’s Beijing Global Gateway. This is my 3 in 1 post since I couldn’t access the website from Beijing, so it’s a little long but please bear with me! Although this wasn’t my first time in Beijing it was the first time I had a real chance to get to know the history and lifestyle of this city.

Getting off the 12-hour plane ride was quite a relief. Finally able to stretch my legs I speed walked all the way through the terminal 3 building. The view was phenomenal and terminal 3 itself, built 6 years ago just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, still looks brand new. I will say however that the building is almost inconveniently large (it took me a solid 20 minutes walking through terminal 3 to get to the train that then takes you between the terminal buildings). Completely exhausted I wanted nothing more to hurry to the dorm but Beijing’s traffic was far from cooperative. Beijing’s traffic problems are famous throughout the world but when a 30-minute drive triples in time, things get really frustrating.

We were arranged to stay at the Tsinghua University PBC School of Finance as Notre Dame’s Beijing Global Gateway maintains strong relations with Tsinghua University and many other renowned Universities in China. The dorm building is located in the bustling streets of Wudaokou. Once you exit the school gates you immediately join an endless flow of people. You really get a feel of China’s overpopulation when you step into the streets and can hardly turn around without bumping into someone.

So finally came my first workday. The ND Beijing Global Gateway’s office is located in Zhongguancun, a technology hub that I learned is referred to as the “China’s Silicon Valley”. Having learned my lesson with Beijing’s traffic and population in bustling places like Zhongguancun I was fully prepared when I became completely sandwiched deep underground on the Beijing subway. Beijing’s public transportation is extremely impressive with up to 14 different subway lines and costing only 2RMB or about 30 cents to travel to and from anywhere. (Unfortunately the low prices weren’t earning enough money to support the whole system so they raised the price to be based on distance about two weeks after my internship ended). Finally I arrived at the office in one piece and met my new colleagues. To my surprise there were only five people in the office including myself and another intern. With so few people the environment was extremely cozy and our colleagues took wonderful care of us. After quickly touring the office we began to familiarize ourselves with what Beijing Global Gateway does. Despite having so few people the office handles nearly all of Notre Dame’s affairs in Asia, ranging from alumni events to scholarship funds, internships to international exchanges, so on and so forth.

Our main task for the first couple of weeks was to prepare for and guide a summer study abroad group of Notre Dame students. Prior to the group’s arrival we created guidebooks that would serve as a survival guide for the students who had never been to Beijing. And upon the group’s arrival we handled everything ranging from their pickup and sendoff, housing affairs, daily schedules so on and so forth. Fortunately for us, our employer gave us the opportunity to combine work and learning by encouraging us to attend the study abroad group’s daily field trips! I’ve always known that Beijing is both a historical city as well as a modern metropolitan but these field trips allowed me to see for myself how one city could perfectly blend these two seemingly opposite descriptions. To summarize some of my best and worst memories, I’m sure people are to some degree familiar with Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City, but it’s not quite the same when it’s 106˚F under the blazing sun without a single cloud or tree to give you shade. You won’t find a single tree on Tiananmen Square because Chairman Mao was worried that assassins might hide in then while he greeted the Red Guards (that’s something you won’t learn unless you’re standing there melting like a popsicle). As for the Forbidden City, the repainted buildings certainly stand in all their glory but the faded and tattered paint of the untouched buildings remind us that this palace has withstood rain and storm for almost 600 years since 15th Century. From the last dynasty we fast-forward to 2008 and I find myself standing in the Beijing National Stadium (more commonly referred to as the Bird’s Nest) and National Aquatics Center (Water Cube) of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. These two structures stand in sharp contrast to the Forbidden City but nonetheless, are representative of Beijing.

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This was just the beginning. Our field trips took us much deeper into the culture of Beijing. We walked through the historical hutongs (narrow streets characteristic of historical China) to visit a local NGO for the mentally disabled, we spent hours exploring the modern art district 798 where many political activists attempt to express themselves through their art, we listened to valuable lectures regarding past, present and future of Chinese media given by our very own alumni so on and so forth. I could not be more thankful for this opportunity. The Business and Culture Summer Abroad program really covered almost all the basics of Chinese culture. One small regret is that the group didn’t quite get the chance to enjoy Chinese food culture. It would have been great to take them to the famous Peking duck that’s been an all time favorite since the imperial era or the unique Chinese Imperial Cuisine to try some of the Emperor and Empress’ favorites such as Empress Ci Xi’s favorite Wowotou.

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In the following weeks we had the opportunity to help plan the ND Club of Beijing Annual Picnic. The picnic had a great turnout. We met many wonderful alumni as well as the fresh faces of many of our incoming international students! We spent much more time in the office focusing on translating and updating Notre Dame’s marketing material as well as brainstorming ways to facilitate international students and parents’ Notre Dame experience. All in all it was a very thought-provoking task, having to put myself in the shoes of a local Chinese student or sometimes even the student’s parents and trying to compile all the information about anything and everything they will want to know as well as the things they won’t expect and then present this mass of information to them in the most easily accessible way.

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Finally I want to thank SIBC for giving me this amazing opportunity to travel to such a fascinating city, and to meet and work with such wonderful people. This internship has truly been a once in a lifetime experience. I have learned so much while enjoying every last minute of it. Thank you ND and I love you Beijing!

Goodbye Ecuador!

During our reflection week in Cuenca, I was slightly unsettled after hearing a lot of horror stories from the group that was in Pulingui while we were in Timbara. The major concern was the extreme cold due to the proximity to Chimborazo, which is a dormant volcano that is the furthest point from the center of the earth due to the equatorial bulge. Of course, the weather here is nothing in comparison to South Bend winters, the only difference being that there is no escape from the cold over here. The temperature inside a house is the same as that outside, so the key to survival is layers on layers on layers.

Here are some photos from our hike up Chimborazo:

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Despite the cold, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I like life here in Pulingui possibly even more than I did in Timbara. Although my living conditions in Timbara were significantly better than here in Pulingui (I lucked out with a nice house back in Timbara), the beautiful view of Chimborazo and good food make up for the lack of warmth.

This was the view from outside our homes:

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Aside from the temperature, the community here appears to be much closer knit than that in Timbara, which I realized on my second night when my uncle and I went knocking on the doors of dozens of houses to invite them to me and my host sister’s joint birthday party. (Her birthday was conveniently a day before mine.) Regardless, there are a couple of similarities between Timbara and Pulingui, one of them being the generally loose grip on children. I have seen 3-year-old children running around with machetes and eating food dropped in dirt that was recently ‘used’ by the cattle.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that poverty comes in a different form here in Ecuador than what I have seen in the United States. The poverty here is aggregated by the lack of access to technology such as water filters and reading glasses, which is something that we are addressing through our campaigns selling products in different communities. In the States however, there is widespread access to such technology so it is interesting to see that although the barriers to breaking out of the poverty cycle are different, both forms of poverty are significant in their own right.

Along similar lines, I see a lot of potential in increasing the cash flow in Pulingui as a small-scale tourist destination due to its beautiful environment and rich cultural history that is well preserved by the villagers through their traditional dress and museums. With this in mind, I had a conversation with my host relatives (many of whom work in the tourism industry) about their eagerness to bring tourists to Pulingui. However, many communities often develop to serve tourists and lose a certain aspect of their ‘untarnished’ culture, so I am interested to see how this will pan out in the future.

Alongside our primary work with the campaigns in different communities, we have also been working on side projects during which we act as consultants to local organizations. In most of the organizations we have been working with, the biggest barrier to progress is the lack of organizational structure. For example, a group in Timbara was structured in such a way that members had no incentive to make a collaborative effort to improve the organization. The restaurant the organization owned lacked consistency because it was run by different people each week; they had never had a meeting with all the members in attendance, and the president of the organization showed up for 5 minutes in total to the two 2-hour-long meetings we had with them. Our recommendation to them was to build a more concrete structure before expanding the organization any further.

Here are some working photos:

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I want to finish off by saying a big thank you to SIBC, and in particular to Pedro, Monica and Frank, who all made this experience possible. I couldn’t have asked for a better summer.

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