Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First day home

      My first full day back home has been pretty productive.  And by productive I mean I just woke up at 2pm and have been eating everything in my fridge.  Yesterday was a very long day of traveling, but I finally made it home at about 10pm last night.  Although I am completely exhausted from this trip, it was probably one of the best times of my life.  Who knows when/if I will ever get the opportunity to travel to Europe again!

      The entire experience wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but it was probably at least 100 times better!  Let me first talk about a few major culture differences I noticed (in pretty much every city we visited).

#1. They didn't serve any of their drinks with ice.  Everything came in glass bottles and was served with a glass to pour it in.  This includes water (you had your choice of still or sparkling) and soft drinks.  Most of the time, you had to specifically ask for tap water (so it was free) and some restaurants wouldn't serve it.  So basically you had to pay for water at restaurants and did not get free refills.

#2.  There was a lot of PDA.  Every where you turned, everyone was being very affectionate with their significant other.  I mean, good for them for being so in love, but it was still a little disturbing to see it when you turned every corner.

#3. Ranch did not exist.  No one in Europe even knows what ranch is.  So as a frequent pizza ranch-dipper, you could see where I was a little disappointed.

#4. Restaurants (mainly in Budapest and Vienna) took their sweet time serving you.  It was a miracle when we would be approached within the first 10 minutes of sitting down.  Everyone there is very laid back and never in a hurry, which we soon learned to do as well. A simple lunch break would take almost 2 hours!

#5. Public transportation was their main source of getting around over there.  Each city probably had at least 4 different types.  It was difficult because everywhere you wanted to go involved at least 2 types of transportation with different stops.  It was just very different from the U.S. because although we do have some public transportation, we mainly drive our own cars everywhere we need to go.

      But getting used to those things weren't too difficult.  One of my absolute favorite things about each city in general was the architecture.  Every building was so beautiful and different.  They all seemed to have history or a story behind them and had a lot of character.  Nothing like the buildings we have here in KC, Omaha, or Maryville.

      Although I had an amazing time on the trip, it sure is nice to be home.  I can finally do laundry and get to sleep in my own bed!  I definitely could not have asked for a better group of people to go with or a better person to take us!  I am so grateful for Allison and everything she did for us over the last 2 weeks.  It would not have been the same without each and every person!

Well now I am off to finish up my three loads of laundry and attempt to unpack everything (yikes)! Thanks to everyone for keeping up with our blog!

  - Maddie -

Monday, June 30, 2014

Today we took our 20hr journey back to the future as we traveled through Amsterdam back to the states. Our tour guide,Petr, met us in the hotel lobby this morning at 3:00am. From there, a bus took us to the Prague airport to catch our 6:25 am flight to Amsterdam. We said our last goodbyes to Petr and prepared for the flight.

Going through customs was much easier in Amsterdam than I can say for the US. In Amsterdam, the security check workers put the groups through in sets of four. The plane ride was pretty bumpy and the temperature got really hot towards the end. Going through customs in the Minnesota was much easier than I had originally expected. We did encounter a mix up at customs, but we pushed through in time to have a quick snack at the airport before the flight.

I think it's safe to say we all had a great time! From the bonds of friendship to personal growth, we all gained at least a piece of the study abroad experience. A pretty amazing thing for just a two week program.

Signing out,

Ashley Cadenhead

Our last day in Prague and our last day in Europe; how bittersweet!  Petr definitely saved the best for last and took us to the Prague Castle for our final hoorah.  The castle is huge (like every other beautiful building in Prague that we’ve seen) and the castle grounds are composed of many different buildings!  We started off in the most beautiful one; St. Vitus Cathedral.  It’s the biggest church or cathedral and upon building it, King Charles the 4th was aiming to make Prague one of the largest cities in Europe.  He was successful in making it the 4th largest!  King Charles the 4th left a great mark on the city of Prague, hence the famous Charles Bridge named after him.  Every step we took around the cathedral was accompanied by an “oooo” or an “ahhh” or a “woah, look at that!”  You’ll see in my pictures the biggest most intricate stained glass windows on almost every wall of the castle.  The windows were added later on in the 1800’s because the Protestants took over the cathedral for a couple years and destroyed all of the decorations.  King Charles originally hired an architect from France to design and build the cathedral but he died in the middle of the process so King Charles was forced to find someone to replace him.  The replacement that he hired redesigned everything from the ground up and was said to be a genius with stonework.  Guess how old he was?  22 years old!
As we kept walking through the cathedral I noticed gold writing and symbols on marble slabs under my feet. Petr proceeded to tell me that the royal family was buried under my feet! Nowadays it can be seen as disrespectful to walk on people’s graves but back then it was considered respectful and many believed it cured toothaches too.  Oh how times have changed!  As we rounded the back of the cathedral we came upon a large, gorgeous, detailed tomb with statues of angels and a man with a halo made of 5 stars.  It was the tomb of St. John the priest, buried there in honor of his bravery.  He was honored for his bravery because the King at the time had a wife that he wasn’t fond of and she was allegedly “having an affair.”  Rumor has it that she told the priest in the confessional that she was having an affair but the priest wouldn’t tell the king.  The king got so upset with the priest that he had him tortured and killed.  The king then realized he had gone too far and wanted to dump the priest’s body in the river but somehow he was stopped.  Now the priest has the most beautiful tomb in the castle grounds.
Another cool thing about the cathedral is that the Czech crown and jewels are kept there in a chamber, protected from light and humidity.  (The crown pictured is a replica) Only 7 very important people possess keys to the chamber and if the chamber is to be unlocked, all 7 must be present.  Petr told us this happens, at most, once every 5 years. 
After the cathedral we went to a couple other smaller buildings including the Old Royal Palace which was the biggest vaulted hall in Europe.  This building was used as a meeting place when important decisions needed to be made.  I liked the building but it was very bare because of a fire in 1541 which burned all of the furniture and everything in it.  We finished the tour with the dungeon and torture devices used; talk about cruel!  The castle grounds had the most amazing view of the city.  It was the type of view that can’t even be captured in a picture because it does no justice.  It was such a great ending to an amazing trip.  I’m going to miss everyone and this has been the most wonderful experience of my life!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Free Day in Prague!

Hello from Prague all!

        This couldn't have been a better Saturday to spend in Prague. The weather was perfect and the sites were equally amazing.  After a nice breakfast, a fellow Travel Bug Ashley C. and I hit the streets of Prague with one thing on our minds; SHOPPING! We started our shopping day promptly at 11 a.m. and walked all over; checking out different boutiques, second-hand stores and little indoor malls, but everything we saw was either completely out of our budget or neglected to give us that "I HAVE TO HAVE THIS!" feeling so we continued on our journey.  We came across souvenir shops which were totally our speed and we spent at least an hour in one particular one that had everything Prague inside of it.  We grabbed the things we wanted and paid what we considered reasonable prices and were on our way to one of our first stops in Prague, the John Lennon Wall. The John Lennon Wall was so artistic and so memorizing that we couldn't leave Prague without going back for more pictures. To get to the wall we had to walk thru the old city square, but to get there, we had to walk through the one thing that made us go broke in Vienna, a market. As excited as we were to see the market, was how knowledgable we were about how much money was going to magically dissapear from our pockets the second we started looking. The market was so tempting, but Ashley and I had enough will power to say NO, WE WILL NOT BUY ANYTHING.......until we go see the John Lennon Wall, and then we'll come back and totally buy everything. :) Prying us say from the market was a but difficult but once we hit the old city square there were so many things to see that the market was pushed to the back of our minds very quickly.

          Seeing beautiful churches and the famous astronomical clock and cute little caf├ęs made our journey to the John Lennon Wall so much more worth it, but once we got to the wall there was something waiting for us that we were certainly not expecting.  As we're approaching the wall we see a crowd of people and Ashley and I automatically thought that it would be a lost cause trying to get a good picture in front of it, so as we get closer we see a lot of trailers and cords and wires all around and realized that they were filming in front of the wall for a movie! The production team were allowing people take pictures in front of the wall for minutes at a time before the resumed filming and Ashley and I didn't know if we were more amazed at the fact that they were filming an actual movie or that the one time in life that we are in Prague we are rushed and almost booted off the set of a public area because of a movie production! All in all it was pretty cool and our pictures turned out nice.

           On our way back to the market, we took some great pictures on the Charles bridge and just enjoyed all the beauty Prague had to offer us.  We made it back to the market where surprisingly we bought quite a bit and paid very little. They had tons of little souvenirs and cool keep sakes that we totally took advantage of.  We got everyone on our list something to take back home and left happy with our purchases. We hopped on the subway and made it back to the hotel.  As we were walking up to our room I just so happen to look down at my phone and it said 7:08 p.m. we had been walking for over 8 hours and boy it sure did feel like it! Regardless of how tired we were Ashley and I went to dinner with some other Eurocats, and came back to the hotel and were pooped.  It was a great free day in Prague, and tomorrow we are suppose to visit the Prague Castle and I can't wait! Check in with Cassie for pictures and a post about that exciting trip tomorrow! Continue to keep up with the Travel Bugs because our time left abroad is quickly coming to an end and you don't want to miss a thing!

All my love from Prague,

Gabbi :)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Friday in Prague...

       Today was our last day of business visits for the trip! Definitely a nice weight off our shoulders because now we have a whole day and a half to explore the city and go see everything we have been wanting to see!  Not that the business visits weren't great, but we just really haven't had much time to see all that Prague has to offer.

       This morning, we visited HP.  It was actually really interesting because the HR girl gave us the presentation that she normally gives on college visits and what not.  They really value and strive to hire new college graduates, so I thought that was something that was really cool about their company.  They are such a huge company with locations in over 170 countries, I can only imagine how many college grads get hired!  It also sounds like a fun place to work.  They have on the job training, mentor programs, and many other outside of the workplace activities that really bring the employees together.  A program they just recently started, Young Guns, is a program that helps the newly hired graduates figure out what exactly they want to do within the company.  It allows them to work on projects in different departments and reall find their place.  Since I personally struggle with not knowing exactly what I want to do, that program really intrigued me.  It is definitely something more companies should look into. 

       Later this afternoon, we visited Prague College.  It was definitely not what I was expecting.  When I think of a college I picture a pretty campus, like ours.  But this college was just one building.  They only have about 500 students, so I guess a huge campus wouldn't be necessary, but it was still only one building!  So weird.  Prague college has three different schools including business, art and design, and computing and IT.  We mainly learned about the school of business and heard from multiple professors who taught within it.  They had a similar quality that reminded me of something HP does.  Starting in their first year, the students work on live projects with real companies to get some real world experience and explore their interests.  I know Northwest offers a lot of cool opportunities as well, but it is cool that they do it here as well!  The bachelors program at Prague College (and most of Europe) is only 3 years long, and the master program is only 1 year.  This seems ideal, but it is also very excellerated they said. 

       I would probably have to say that today was my favorite day of business visits so far.  They were the places that applied most to my current life (like going to school and figuring out what you want to do with your life). 

       After the visits, we came back to the hotel for some much needed relaxation until dinner.  Funny story is we got lost in Prague for about 2 hours tonight.  We took one of the trams in the opposite direction of where we were trying to go and basically rode to the outskirts of the city.  Luckily, we found a local who spoke English very well and he helped put us back on track.  After a few hours of wandering the city, we finally found the area we were wanting and enjoyed a lovely dinner at about 10:30pm.

       Tomorrow, we have the entire day off.  Like I said, I am excited to see everything I haven't been able to see these past few days!  It should be exciting!

(Also, the wifi in our hotel is very weak so I am not able to email myself pictures from today and upload them in my post.  But I definitely will as soon as we get a good connection!)

Until next time!

   - Maddie -

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Business, Business, Business! Let's talk business! Today, we had the privilege of meeting with Market Access Manager and Healthcare Compliance Officer, Vladimir Kosek from Johnson and Johnson in the Czech Republic. Kosek came out and presented to the group in the meeting room at the hotel. Vladimir Kosek has been with Johnson & Johnson for more than 13 years in various positions within the company including: health economics, regulatory, public tenders, compliance and market access.

In May, the company celebrated its 10th year anniversary of being a participant within the European Union. The company as a whole has more than 127 years in the market worldwide. The company has received the award for the top responsible company award for the last three years in a row. It was first established in former Czechoslovakia in 1991. Since the split, each country has established its own divisions of the company. More into the Czech Republic side of things, the company is a member of Czech Med, Ethical Collaboration in Healthcare Certified, AMCham and Platform Pro. CzechMed is a trade association within the CZ Republic. It monitors and ensures the cooperation of Johnson and Johnson with the competitors against state bureaucracy, commenting on new legislative proposals, ethical codes and working with groups in health care financing, reimbursement and legislation. When asked if the company here in Czech had any lobbyist helping them within Parliament, Kosek informed us that the President of Czech Med was actually a former Johnson and Johnson employee and could be considered sort of a lobbyist for the company backing them in Parliament when necessary.

The representative spoke of three sectors for which the company creates products including: Medical devices and diagnostics, Janssen and Consumer. There are a few basic differences between drug and medical device. For example, medical devices have a short life, high maintenance costs and both training and education are needed before putting these devices to use. On the other hand, drugs have a long life cycle, no maintenance cost are associated and education is need to inform users about why to use the drug. Some examples of the devices the company makes are: Ethicon, Gynecare, Advanced Sterilization Products and Depuy Mitek. In the Czech Republic the company has 160 hospital accounts and 19 accounts in Slovakia. They participate in what they call a Give and Gain Day which gets the employees involved in corporate social responsibility activities boosting the morale within the company and creating a distinct presence within the community. Looking toward the future, Johnson and Johnson focuses on three pillars of perfection including: Value-Based Selling, Professional Education and Commercial Excellence.

The second part of the day we went and visited Cisco of Czech Republic. Cisco is a networking IT company based in America. It has 70,000 employees around the globe and is 50 billion dollar company. The have been in Czech since 1996 and have about 200 employees in Czech. We were introduced to the company by Pavel Krizanovsky and the manager who they call G9. Pavel presented trends with continued impact including: mobility, wireless technology, BYOD (bring your own device), smart buildings and smart and converged business solutions. He showed us a graph of the Global Mobile Data Traffic Growth/Apps and the leading consumer of internet and mobile space is video. Faster internet speeds are on the horizon. Over the years the price for internet has been decreasing. Where prices were $1,000/GB, they are now somewhere around $2.34/GB. Internet is cheaper and more reliable than it once was.

G9 told us the story on how Cisco was established during the late 1980's. He described it as a love story where two Stanford students came together in order to further connect virtually. The two where at two different business schools and could not send messages through two different networks at the time. This frustrated them and that's when they set out to find a way to connect between different networks. They designed a device that could translate codes in a way that the person on the receiving end would be able to understand. The lovers are no longer together, but their love enabled an internet phenomenon. The company pride itself in innovation and every year it invest 12% back into its research and development department. This is one of the reasons they are the leading company in their field. While visiting the office, we were able to see their virtual offices and tour their testing rooms. We were even introduced to the future of LED lighting.

Lastly, the group all went to a pub called Pilsner Urquell to watch the World Cup and eat dinner. This was a lot fun and the pub featured an electronic self-service feature which was definitely new and interesting to everyone. My favorite thing about Prague so far has been our tour guide Petr! He's really awesome and definitely knows his history. The city itself is of course beautiful!! I didn't need to say that though... It's PRAGUE!!

Until next time,

Ashley Cadenhead

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Today was our first full day in Prague and we got a lot accomplished. The breakfast wasn't nearly as extensive as it was in the other hotels but it was still good! We started off with a visit to T-Mobile at 9 am and learned a lot about the company. We were greeted with the cutest black, white, and pink notebooks, pink frisbees, sandwiches, refreshments, and gummy bears so I was a happy camper. I loved that the room was filled with hot pink (their signature color) and other bright colors; it made the room and atmosphere more lively and exciting.
T-Mobile was established in 1996 and 4 years later in 2000 they already had their first 1 million customers. Talk about fast-growing! 6 years later in 2006 they had reached over 5 million customers and the number is still growing. Nowadays they have 5.9 million customers just in the Czech Republic which has a population of 10 million; that's over half! The Czech Republic is their target area and with 99.3% coverage I'd say they're doing a very good job of making sure of that There are a total of 230,000 employees and in 2012 their net revenue was 60.1 billion euros (81.95 billion USD)...that blew me away! Their main revenue comes from America and Europe.
A little fact that I found really funny was that T-Mobile decided to find the person within their entire network that sends the most text messages. Turns out it was a 12 year old girl in a small village that sends 17,000 text messages a month. As much as I wanted to be surprised; I have a 12 year old little sister and this seems about accurate.
We then had the honor of meeting the CEO of T-Mobile Czech Republic and he told us a little about himself and more about the strategies he has for his company. He started out in the marketing department and was promoted to Marketing Director before he was then promoted to CEO in Slovakia. He spent 4 years there and then was hired on as CEO of the Czech Republic location. He told us that he values the company on their customer service and social media team saying that they are excellent! His strategy was composed of 4 different parts: having the best data network, best customer service, innovating with partners, and promoting growth within the business. He once told all of his employees that if they met 3 particular goals that he would all buy them a tablet. Unfortunately they fell short by only two months but I thought that was really cool of him to motivate his employees that way. There were many other things we learned but there's the short and sweet version.
Next stop: AVAST Software! I really enjoyed this visit because the guy who presented to us was very funny and definitely grabbed our attention! He started off telling us that AVAST was the acronym they chose for the name of the software before they even knew that meaning was "to stop."  How fitting for an anti-virus software, right?  It was the very first company to come out with a software for Windows 94.  Another significant fact of 94 was that they had 94 users in 7 months.  Basically they thought about closing the doors to the company numerous times and thought the software was going to fail.  They decided decided to do a free trial of the software to get the word out and within 39 months they had reached 1 million customers.  Hooray! It was going to succeed.  The most astonishing thing about this multi-billion dollar, highest paying, number one company to work for is that they do zero advertising.  That's right....zero.  They tried advertising once and spent $350,000 for a particular amount of ads and gained....wait for it......TWO customers.  Crazy, right?  Most companies rely primarily on their advertising to pull in their customers.  AVAST relies primarily on the word of mouth. 
A couple more fun facts before I wrap this up in time for dinner!:
Where does spam come from?....your own computer.
How many new viruses are developed each day for PCs?.....300,000
How many countries use AVAST?........234 (41 of them with over 1 million users)

I hope I was able to enlighten you all with tons of information and fun facts about these amazing, enormous, highly successful companies.  Keep reading for even more on our business visits and adventures in Prague!