Happy Friday, everyone. I’ve just completed Core Course Week after a long 5 days that began on Monday at 6:00 AM. During Core Course Week, other classes are suspended so that each core course can take a three-day short study tour to nearby locations——mainly western Denmark, Sweden, or northern Germany——to get some hands-on learning. Each class then spends two days in the classroom (before or after the trip, depending on the schedule) discussing the sites they visited (or will visit) and what they learned (or hope to learn). Here is a summary of the sites we visited for Global Economics Section B with plenty of pictures:
1.) Toms Chocolate Factory: My childhood dream of visiting Willy Wonka’s factory pretty much came true. Toms, located just outside Copenhagen, is the most popular brand of chocolate in Denmark; they’re also the ones who created the chocolate bottles filled with different types of liquor that you find around the holidays. A factory worker took us on a tour of all the different chocolate-producing machines and the various candies that Toms sells. Apparently, marzipan is a big thing here because there were lots of stations set up for that. We even got to try chocolate-covered, sugar-dusted marzipan fresh off the conveyor belt——yum. After a one-hour tour, the class met with the CEO of Toms, who gave us an overview of the company’s history and its strategy for remaining competitive in a globalized world, especially given the high taxes and wages in Denmark. After some brief Q&A, we picked up some parting gifts that included potent salty licorice (click the link) and headed off to the next stop.
2.) Jelling Stone: After a two-hour bus ride (bus ride picture below), we stopped in the town of Jelling (“Yelling”). This small, hilly town is the birthplace of the Kingdom of Denmark. In the 900′s, Gorm the Old became recognized as the first King of Denmark. Upon Gorm’s death, his son Harald Bluetooth (just like the cell phone device) buried his father under a huge mound that is one of the highest points in Denmark. In later years, he built a second mound and then place a stone, the famous Jelling Stone, precisely in the middle between these mounds with a message indicating his achievements. What fascinates me is that the current monarch, Margrethe II, is a direct descendant of Gorm the Old. We had a great tour guide, who is an archaeologist for the local museum, and then had the chance to climb the mounds before moving on to our next stop. I like that fact that DIS includes some cultural stops in addition to the academic ones during short study tours.
The bus then took us to the small town of Randers, where we checked into a hostel for the night. I was apprehensive about staying in a hostel, but the accommodations were surprisingly clean and organized (no pictures from this one unfortunately). We had to bring our own bedding, but the rooms were pretty big——2 or 3 to a room——and it was a good opportunity to get to know some people in the class. My roommate and I bonded by watching episode of Breaking Bad (it was a good one too). Dinner was included on the first night as well. We walked to a local restaurant where we had a delicious buffet dinner. After waking up at 6:00 AM on a rainy Monday, I couldn’t wait for a warm meal and enjoy a hyggelig (adjective form of “hygge”) evening with the class. To give you an idea of the spread, there was ham, beef, and chicken breast wrapped in bacon, along with huge pieces of the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had——not to mention the giant cheese board, a bread basket, and a dessert station. A fellow classmate and I had a great conversation with our professor, Michael Hedegaard, about Danish culture, the welfare state, and his background as an economist. Professors are much more open here, which makes it easy to have a conversation about pretty much anything. Another moment of hygge indeed.
3.) Kamstrup: After another early start, we departed for Kamstrup just outside Randers. Kamstrup is a world leader in the production and sale of water meters. In the US, these are not very high-tech and are often read by hand. In Europe, they take water a bit more seriously and have developed water meters that can be read remotely by utility companies. We had a tour of the factory (lots of cool robots right out of an episode of How It’s Made) and learned a lot about the challenges of expanding outside the EU while keeping costs down.
4.) ARoS Museum: We drove about an hour to the town of Århus (AHR-hus), where we visited the famous ARoS museum. ARoS is the Old Danish name for Århus, and A-R-S refers to the Latin word for art, “ars.” We had a brief tour of the museum that included some of the museum’s most famous pieces, including the Rainbow Panorama that encircles the top of the building. The pictures below are self-explanatory. We had lunch in the museum café (smoked salmon and crawfish sandwiches…weird, right?) and then walked about ten minutes to our next academic stop.
5.) Business Region Århus: This is a business development department within city hall. They work with local businesses and firms to build new projects and improve the economic growth of Århus. I was exhausted by this point and didn’t pay too much attention, but it was still interesting to learn about competition and globalization from the point of view of a local government.
Next, we walked about 15 minutes to the hostel, Cab Inn (get it?). It was right in the middle of the city close to all the downtown stores, restaurants, and nightlife. After checking in and receiving three new roommates from the class, everyone went up to their rooms to unpack and figure out a plan for dinner. I ended up grabbing falafel with some friends because every sit-down restaurant was insanely expensive. Afterwards, we were free to explore Århus Festuge (Festival), an end-of-summer cultural festival that takes place throughout the city.
6.) Suzlon: The next morning (Wednesday), we departed Århus for a stop at Suzlon Energy, a company that specializes in wind turbines. One of the top sales managers gave us a great presentation on the challenges of expanding the energy business abroad. He also took plenty of time to talk about Danish culture (he is an expat of the UK who married a Dane) and the differences in managing/working styles between the US and Denmark. While I didn’t learn a whole lot about wind turbines, I gained a new perspective on the Danish “work to live, don’t live to work” philosophy and how it affects the workplace.
7.) Terma: Our last stop on the study tour was an aerospace defense manufacturer called Terma. As a high-security company, Terma requires that all visitors submit their passports prior to entering the compound. We also weren’t allowed to see anything besides the small conference room where we heard from several department heads about the company. Terma is unique in that its products satisfy a niche market, namely militaries. While recessions and budget cuts do affect output, the company rebounds quickly because of the high demand for new technology that could be used in war. To be clear, Terma does not produce weapons or sell its products to every country; rather, they focus more on radar, surveillance, etc., and the Danish government must approve all sales.
After Terma, we drove four hours back to Copenhagen. Our other tour leader, Michael Jacobsen, CFO of DIS, informed us that we had enough money left over in our budget to stop at McDonald’s for dinner——a Big Mac never tasted so good. A special thank you for a great short tour to Michael Hedegaard, Michael Jacobsen, and Jørn (Yorn), the bus driver whose daredevil driving had me on the edge of my seat for three days.
8.) Fonden Kraka: On Thursday, Sections A and B met at a local think tank called Fonden Kraka. A relatively new company, Fonden Kraka is a team of economists who study the stability and future of the welfare state in Denmark. They are a non-partisan group that relies heavily on economic models to “show things how they are,” according to the speaker. Their most recent project was to analyze the impact of the national reduction in unemployment benefits from four years to two years (yes, you read that right).
After a quick lunch break (which included the seemingly impromptu parade below), we had a wrap-up lecture with Michael H. at DIS. Both classes gave their impressions of the Danish business models we observed and discussed what makes Denmark competitive in a globalized world.
9.) Outsourcing Panel: This morning at 8:30 AM (ugh), we had our final activity of Core Course Week. Two speakers, a professor from Copenhagen Business School and a labor union representative, spoke to all three sections of Global Economics about outsourcing and its impact on Denmark. The professor gave a theoretical, academic point of view, while the labor union rep gave a more practical, first-hand account of outsourcing. Both speakers knew their stuff, and the 90-minute discussion was really interesting. I learned a lot about the reasons for outsourcing and how many companies are actually beginning to INsource because of rising wages abroad. After filling out a brief survey about the whole week, we were free to go around 11:00 AM. 101 hours of Core Course Week later, I was ready for a nap.
Another marathon post complete. I’m off to eat dinner and enjoy my first night off in almost a week. Hej hej!