Donnerstag, 31. März 2016

Day 36: The end of our journey - what´s left?

Let´s review our excursion 

Fabian Willms - April 24, 2016

The tires of the airplane touch the runway gently. A collective sigh of all passengers and a view out the window confirm it. Back on German ground, back at home. Or is it? While enduring the tedious airport routine (show passport, running through the detectors, waiting for the luggage) we figured out something important: In addition to the endless fatigue there is another feeling that crawls under our skins: the non-realization of the current circumstances. Of course we´re all looking forward to see our friends and family, of course we are all aware that we are back in Germany. Or? Well, at least physically. Mentally, nobody really realizes, that the journey has come to an end. I think I speak for the group by saying: the last 2 weeks seemed much longer than they actually were. And yet the time in America was over far to soon. A paradox of feelings confusing us for that moment, keeping us from thinking strait. So, write a review now? Better not, better digest the trip thoroughly. If we spent enough time on German ground, we can think back on our trip objectively. With these words I´ll now fall into sleep for a long time, due to the long travel, crammed program and this evil time change. See you in a few days. * Yawn *

After this, probably much too detailed entry, and enough elapsed time to think; Let us look back together at the time in Virginia and answer these questions: "What remains" What experience have we accumulated, positive or negative? What expectations were confirmed? Which not? And is the participation in such a project group the effort worth anyway? (Spoiler alert: in any case it is worth the trip!)

For most of us this trip was the opportunity of our lives, to breathe American air for the first time. The excitement was accordingly high and we wondered what expectations of the American culture will turn out to be true. Some stereotypes are based on a drop of truth thou, and to discover the American fast food culture was no greater surprise for us. But there is a big difference between reading or watching about a culture and “experiencing” about same culture.

Only after a few days we realized, that the Americans have to face immensely high food costs. Cooking seems to be a luxury around here. So our understanding of the fast-food affinity of the locals grew rapidly . Everyday our group was looking for something edible and we often ended up eating at a restaurant or fast food establishment. But we did not spend our money there with the thought: "Oh , we are in America, so let us life like kings while remaining here!". (Okay, maybe occasionally we thought that.) We all are nothing but poor students, who need to scratch their remaining cash together. The fact is: to cook for yourself is just as expensive as going out for food. And so the daily decisions were made pretty easily.

You want an example of " unexpectedly " and " negative " when it comes to American culture ? I think I speak on behalf of our group when I say : The first deep gulp of American tap water has left a lasting impression, and so the term " chlorine water " quickly became famous among our group and was a metaphor for everything unexpectedly bad.

The last paragraph is of course in no way prove that stereotypes generally agree. But we figured that this stereotype in particular turned out to be true. What was more surprising were situations and habits we as a group have not heard of before. For instance, and for all of us probably the most influential: The seemingly endless open and friendly manner of the Americans. We as representatives of the German culture tend to pay more attention to privacy-acceptance and courtesy (at least according to my experiences). So the typical American approach was something to get used to. Choosing the direct approach usually is the best way to meet new people. The people are hospitable, nice, and it should not take a long time to get warm with them. In every shop you are greeted as if you are a regular customer. To discover this was a pleasant surprise .

Which (cultural) difference has surprised you in the US the most?

“The openness and the general joyfulness in conversations that could experienced at every turn.”
Eric Schmieder

"The friendly nature of the people. Everybody offers their help, even if you do not explicitly ask for it. People come right up to you. You always get a friendly "hello , how are you ?”. This surprised me very positively."
Madlen Leuffert

“The diet in particular was the biggest difference I have perceived. Food consumed from day to day is very rich in calories. There are more fast-food-restaurants here then back at home.“
Anja Huth

With the context of cultural differences, it was inevitable that sometthing worth reminding would happen every day. Now the schedule was packed too. We traveled around the state, motivated to participate in every event and meeting we could get; true to the motto: "We can rest back in Germany". With all the variety of experiences each member of the group has his own "highlight of the trip." Some favorites that stand out from the crowd are the trip to the island group of the "Outer Banks" and the almost family-like grill afternoon with Prof. Herzogs acquaintances. To give us forgetful students the opportunity to capture all those precious moments for eternity, we got some diligent photographers who took enough pictures. We can proudly brag about having a nice group picture for every day we spent in America, of which the most were published in this blog.

What was the best experience on this trip? What will be remembered even after 10 years?

"The best experience of the trip was to be invited by the friends of Mr. Herzog. We could really see how Americans live and these to welcomed us like they knew us for years."
Julia Einmal

"There were several great experiences during our journey, mainly due to our awesome travel group. However, since that was not the question: The fourth day was the most beautiful. Cape Charles, Shanty seafood and the personal guidetour at the ODU are a few reasons why."
Fabian Binde

"Difficult to say, because there was not THE experience for me. It was my first time in the United States, turning the entire trip to ONE experience."
Mike Kaulertz

Unlike most tourists, we got the rare and unique opportunity to look behind the "tourist veil". That means: Our host, the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, allowed us an insight into the typical life of an American student. Guided tours on the campus and the possibility to participate in seminars and lectures.

As a student at Stendal University I naturally have little experience with large campuses, but it must be said, how disproportionately large and lively this universities seems to be. I started to be a little jealous at the sight of the extensive range of organized leisure activities, unique and interesting course names or the food options. To be a student here seems more than just "professional" or "training". It is a mental state, giving the associated a sense of social prestige. In some aspects, a quite enviable concept. But of course not in all.

What experience would you like to transmit in your German studies? Which not?

"Music at the College every week and a symbol / mascot with which one can identify. I would not transmit so much superfluous pomp like at the Noble – Uni."
Tara Buchmann

"I really liked the technical equipment. For example, I would like to have a the broker – room just like theirs in our university. I do not know if I would struggle at such a huge university. Size is not always an advantage and the delivered content here does not seem to differ much from our classes."
Tobias Neuling

“The combination of high academic quality, free spirit and communication is something we will have a hard time copying here in Germany. But at least adding some of that spirit here would be nice. And I also would like to have a more funded and better equipped university where the appreciation for research and teaching achievements is recognized and the work would be less interrupted by the trouble and expense caused by bureaucracy.
I would not exchange the entirely private funding of the higher education system, with its economic constraints for the students. And of course not our social system, our cultural offer and even less our political structure."
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael A. Herzog

To be in familiar surroundings again for some time got me thinking about all the experiences, memories and friends we made during the excursion. Such unique experiences for which one squeezes himself in narrow airplane seat for 10 hours, for which one endures the everlasting process of airport-bureaucracy, and for which you save your money over several months. For the "being here"-feeling, for the "stick a patch over your foot blisters at the end of the day and rejoice anyway", for the "experience". Without question: The days in America were strenuous. But we were offered a chance, crossing the Atlantic and experiencing the United States, with all the characteristics of the inhabitants. Each student who likes to collect new experiences, is cosmopolitan and ready to implement methods of other cultures for themselves owe it to themselves to take part of this or similar excursions any time soon.

With what arguments would you convince a fellow student to participate in the next excursion?

“Collect new experiences in an interesting country!”
Georg Schmidt

"You have to experience it yourselves! Sure it costs money, but you get to know a crazy culture and see great landscape-scenery."
Mike Kahnert

"The world is not in our books, computers or movies. It is out there, waiting for us!"
Tobias Neuling

"Sure you can also organize a trip to the US by yourself, but as a normal tourist you do not get such a deep insight into the work and university world. The differences are quite noticeable and as anb outsider you wont get access to institutions like Virginia Tech or Fairfax county. So I would recommend the trip with Prof. Herzog at any time.” 
 Anja Huth

Now towards the end I have not much left to say except: Thank you ! Thanks to the organizers, to the supporters, to all the people who actively and passively made this trip possible, and supported us with help or advice. Thanks to all the parents, friends, thanks to the professors, to our hosts, and, this one comes just from me: Thanks to our excursion group . The group dynamic was wonderful and I would like to travel with you guys once again one day.

What did you like most about the organization or the program and what not ?

"What I liked: The varied daily grind and the group activities.
What not: The jam-packed schedule; sometimes we had too little time per site."
Stefan Ruzicka

"The perfect combination of learning, fun and adventure. I particularly liked to explore the American way of life, to socialize, to perceive the mentality of the people, and learning about American history and Virginia.”
Madlen Leuffert

"Everything ran smoothly and we could experience a lot. I would have liked more time with American students. We rarely had the opportunity to communicate, which I thought was a pity."
Mike Kahnert

"I think the trans-disciplinary connection of engineers with business managers succeeded especially. The support from my colleague Prof. Hantscher from the Department “IWID” was very pleasant and has brought new aspects to the program. Our trip really offered many opportunities to connect and I'm excited to see how our follow-up project will turn out. Incidentally, I was particularly interested to see how the students would pass their free-time on that one weekend, and I am very pleased with the engagement and team spirit this group has been implemented in a foreign country. Of course at the end I was more than happy to see the group harmonizing well. The program and work-flow were accepted fast and every member of the group faced the challenges. For me it was in many ways a memorable and exciting trip, for which I want to thank again all the people, who made this possible."
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael A. Herzog 

By Fabian Willms

Day 12: Farewell!

Back to Washington DC

Tobias Neuling - April 1, 2016 

Our last day in Norfolk begann a little cloudy but quite warm. Despite beeing tired from traveling everyone was a little sad that we had to leave Norfolk and the USA. We saw many interesting places and met a lot of pleasant people. Also we had the chance to establish contacts, inform ourselves about studying abroad or to realise an internship on top of that we learned a lot about daily life in Virginia.

Short before leaving the hotel we gave a present to the initiator and organisator of our journey, Professor Doktor Herzog. After that we left the hotel to start our way back north to Washington D.C..

We reached the York River fast and were able to see Yorktown from the other riverside.

At that place you can pass the Yorktown Bridge to cross the York River to get to Yorktown. Those who named river, town and bridge must have been very creative.

The special feature of the bridge is, that the segments in the middle are able to rotate to let ships trough. 

On our last day we went to Hardee`s for lunch. One more time we could see what`s going to happen when you eat fastfood too often.

But guilty conscience does not help against hunger, so we enjoyed the Burgers at Hardee`s. As far as I remember everyone was totaly satisfied with his or her meal.

When we continued traveling the weather became hotter and sunnier.

Soon we had to stop again to cool down a little bit. Finally we arived in Washington D.C. and did a short tour through the city. Once again we saw the great monuments and sights of Washington D.C.. The cherry trees were blooming and made the city look even more beautiful.

Because of the parking situation in the City we were not able to stay longer, so we drove back to the hotel at which we started our journey.

After checking in we met in the Lobby to plan our last evening in Washington D.C.. The last destination of our Spring Trip was the sportsbar "The Green Turtle" in Chinatown. There we spend the last hours of the 12th day and completed our trip to Virginia.

Best regards

Tobias Neuling

Day 11 ODU and Sandbridge

Lecture Leadership and trip to Sandbridge Beach

Madlen Leuffert - March 31, 2016

Slowly our VA Academic Spring trip draws to an end, but we are motivated and thirsty for an adventure like we were at the first day!

We spent the last day in Norfolk at Webb Center of ODU and were excited even while breakfast in the hotel because of the announced presentation of Mr. J. Van Rose.

One part of the group experienced the morning lecture "Management Sience". Some visited other lectures and wanted to gather impressions and information about the Department, personally.

After the lecture we met as a full group in Webb Center again to evaluate the previous program points. The space provided we could replace well the current documentation status due to technical conditions. The group responsible for the finances compared present invoices and controlled the existing level of budget planning. We discussed the future course of our last remaining days and distributed pending tasks among each other.

For presentation by Mr. J. Van Rose we were warmly welcomed with delicious food.

Today: American pizza. Hot and greasy!

We didn´t need to be told twice and grabbed a slice of pizza. Some of us tried American lemonade specialties, more specifically, "Dr. Pepper".

Unsuspecting, the red and shiny can was opened. Shortly after a spirited cry: "That´s sweet!" We now decided rather to go back to a bottle of water. Before the lecture we sat together with our Professor Mr. Herzog. When asked whether the trip could last longer, everyone answered promptly:

"The heart says yes, the wallet unfortunately no!"

Not only shopping day had diminished our own budgets, also treats like burgers, steaks and especially tacos from Taco Bell.

We were especially pleased when Dr. John F. Jeff Tanner, Dean of Old Dominion University's Strome College of Business, welcomed us and opened the talkt hat day.

Also warmly greeted at the beginning of the presentation by Dr. Ling "Lynn" Li, a professor at the University of information and technology.

Now a few lines on the presentation by Mr. J. Van Rose.
Already at the beginning there was such a power in the room, that even students walked along the corridor, stood still and listened to the lecture.

Mr. J. Van Rose is a real phenomenon and not only from the outside!

To start a successful career, he gave us tips and compared these with an eagle which has been representing strength and mind since ancient times.

1. Set goals and focus!
2. Life balance!
3. Preparation is everything!
4. It´s time to risk!

He was able to give us an understanding of his personal advice by this comparison. It caused great motivation for future projects. Everybody liked the presentation, which was also illustrated by thunderous applause. Of course group picture at the end was necessary.

Then the group splitted, half went to other lectures, the others went to Sandbridge Beach.

Sandbridge Beach is located in the southern part of Virginia Beach. The beach measures a length of 4.5 miles from North to South. It is also known as "The Outer Banks of Virginia." Similar to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Sandbridge is occasionally prone to tropical storms, which can also result in evacuations.

While some of us were listening lecture, the weather was sunny again and perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

The girls made it to the beach and the courtageous among us took dip into the cold water.

However we still have a small but extraordinary history in story for you.

Once upon a time a resident saw a canoeist at Sandbridge Beach, who was traveling from north to south. Suddenly, the resident saw a huge fountain beside the canoeist. The resident ran through his house quickly and searched for his camera. He rushed out to the deserted sandy beach, looking towards the canoeist. Suddenly a whale appeared unexpectedly right next to the canoeist in the water. The astonished resident pulled the trigger immediately and shot the picture of his lifetime.

With this beautiful story we say goodbye to the 11th day of our Virginia Spring Trip.

Kind regards


Mittwoch, 30. März 2016

Day 10: US History Day

Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown

Tara Buchmann - March 30, 2016

On our 10th day we wanted to look at the history of the region. With a bit of delay, we went off early in the morning to the so-called "Historic Triangle". In a fuel stop we met with Professor Herzog and his friend Dr. Kenny Jones. More than five people in our party were injured and show typical symptoms of cold such as sore throat, runny nose and persistent tiredness.

On the trip to Yorktown we noticed not for the first time, that there are very many "Drive Thru" in America. Whether pharmacy, restaurant or Starbucks; often you can just give up out of the car your order.

Kenny, a senior computer scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, was very knowledgeable about the history of America and told us so some interesting facts.

We arrived at the Yorktown Battlefield, where had taken place the final battle of the Independence War in the autumn 1781st. 1775 - 1781 faught there the Americans together with the French against the English.

Then at a pier in Yorktown we could see a full-scale replica of one of the ships of the first settlers.

We drove on and stopped on the banks of the York River, where previously has been the Powhatan's Village.

Then we went to the 3rd most popular tourist destination in America - Colonial Williamsburg.

There we walked through the part of the city has been restored in the style of the 18th century. Both building and souvenirs, as well as locals and curious children - all looked like in colonial times.

Since 1931, the "Colonial Williamsburg" is a protected monument. It was the capital of the largest, wealthiest and most populous colony of the British Empire in North America.

The lunch we took on the recommendation of Kenny Jones on the picnic benches in the sunny garden of Pierce's Bar-B-Que.

 Then we made a short stop on the banks of the James River, where in 1607 the first settlers arrived with their ships.

After a short stay in the Merchandise store of the visitor center, we decided to divide us for the afternoon.

The majority went to the minigolf and the others went back to Norfolk with lots of shopping in Mc Athur Mall.

In the evening, put five of us their plans into action and watched in the Regal Cinema the movie Batman vs Superman.

Meanwhile, the others passed their time in "Hooters", a restaurant which is known for its lightly dressed waitresses. To the surprise of most, there ate a lot of families with young children, too.

We end the evening in funny mood in the hotel room ...

By Tara Buchmann

Dienstag, 29. März 2016

Day 9: Four Electrifying Presentations

Campus activity work

Mike Kahnert - March 29, 2016

The day should start like every day. You wake up between eight and nine, get your delicious breakfast and start the day well nourished. Though like every day, this day too should be special. Because today was the "first day of school" for our business students and additionally the final presentations by our four master students.

The first lecture "Management Science" lasted from 9:30am until 10:45am and was lead by Alexander Bulychev. This lecture deals with economical problems and tries to solve them on a mathematical way to reach a rational solution.

Between 11:00am and 12:15pm followed a meeting of the whole group inside the Webb Center to talk about the further course of the day and to work a bit on each project work. A very interesting presentation by Dollar Tree followed at 12:20pm inside the Constant Hall. This presentation was probably used to acquire students for their company. Dollar Tree could be compared to 99cent shops, though it gains a lot of sales inside the USA. 8.6 mio. USD on sales in 2015 with 13,000 branches. Additionally a little snack was served before the presentation startet, nuggets with dip.

"Project Management in Info Systems" was the second lecture for the business students on this day between 1:30pm and 14:45pm. This course was lead by Jimme Carraway, whom we evaluated as a fair and strict character. Mr. Carraway teaches the students how to handle projects the best way from planning through execution until the final control. He mentioned a so called "list" which should be worked off to make a project successful.

At this point half the day was done and the countdown for the electro engineers and the final show began. Last adjustments were made and the tension grew but you couldn´t see a drop of sweat on the master students faces, although they should do their first english presentation in front of at least half professional audience.

But for the time being the show startet with four presentations from the american master students lead by Tamer Nadeem at 5:30pm.

They were about:

- a bluethooth security system which contacted the user on their smart phone or smart watch in case of unwanted activities inside their house

- the investigation of driving habits by using sensors inside the steering weel, f.e. to determine hand position, grip strength or humidity

- communication between vehicles to prevent collisions and to create another stepping stone towards full automatic driving

- a possibility for tethering and wireless to work together to build faster networks, from which mostly slower devices would profit

Even though these presentations were impressive the german students were a step ahead because their products were already finished and prototypes of them were presented on the Cebit in Hannover this year.

The start made Georg Schmidt with S.I.V.E., a sensor-controlled content transfer device. Like every project from the master students was the theme of this one to make a museum visit more exciting or fun for the visiters. Abdelhak Amrissal und Erika Dezsö are design students and worked with Georg together to realise this project. The idea was to let the visitor decide with his positioning which information he wanted to see about the exhibit. This was measured through the distance between visitor and exhibit.

After him followed Fabian Binde who worked together with Laura Evers and Miriam Landenberger on Informationdensitycontroller. The approach behind their work was to let the user decide which density of information he wanted to experience. This could be controlled with the help of an app and between detailed information and a short summary was everything possible to know about an object.

The Third one was Stefan Ruzicka who worked together with Elena Bergen und Florentin Förschler on Connectibition. This team prefert a more solid way of approaching the problem. With Connectibition the user could use an interactive surface and small replicas of the exhibits to learn about connections between them, f.e. if their is a historic connection between a painting and a statue.

The last but not the least was finally Eric Schmieder who worked together with Mareike Gabele, Robert Klank and Nicolas Pepping on L.U.M.E.N.. L.U.M.E.N. provides a more exciting and adventurous approach. They used self made lantern which would glow brighter if you got the right direction and darker if you followed the wrong way. Reaching a key point of the tour or an exhibit a soundfile would play inside the light und knowledge would be shared among the visitors abount the exhibit. Of course nightly use is highly reccomended.

Applause and congratulations for the excellent presentations were made after Eric finished his but hurry was necessary because an important assignment should still follow and it was already 7:00pm. The next station was the O'Conners Brewery and the last serving of beer should be made at 7:30pm. We all wanted the by Mr. Herzog highly recommended beer and everyone wanted to taste the feeling of accomplishment after such a long day. By the way even a nice conversation with present americans could be made and girls and boys were evenly seduced by a cute dog of an american couple.

Finally after a long and stressful day should follow dinner at a sushi bar called Volcano. It is not like one should eat burger and fries every day, but still possible inside the nation of freedom and delicous fast food.

By Mike Kahnert