Dank u wel, the Dutch equivalent to "thank you very much" in English is an appropriate expression of gratitude for all of the individuals who made our most recent Massey study-abroad experience such an overwhelming success. Since The Massey School began our study-abroad trips in 1999, this was actually our first such trip to Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands (16th largest economy in the world and ranked #10 in GDP per capita).
We departed Nashville on Saturday, April 6, and after a brief layover in Atlanta, we were on our way to Amsterdam, where we arrived around 8:45 on Sunday a.m. We spent our first day touring the city, with several of us taking in the Van Gogh (pronounced "Von Hock" in Dutch) Museum where there was also a Paul Gaugin exhibit currently on display. Our hosts also took us on an extended walking tour of the city, plus a canal boat ride through the heart of the city. Part of their unspoken agenda was also to keep us all moving about to where we wouldn't have time to go to sleep, thereby helping us recover from the jet lag as fast as possible. After a welcome dinner that evening at a local restaurant, we then returned to our NH Hotel near downtown.
Monday morning we hit the ground running, with presentations at the hotel by representatives from the U.S. Embassy, followed by a cultural overview of the Dutch consumer by the owner/CEO of AmsterdamPR. That afternoon, we again headed out on a walking tour of the city that included a visit to the Dutch Resistance Museum, which chronicled the experiences of the Dutch population during World War II.
Tuesday, we left Amsterdam on a bus and headed to the neighboring countryside where we first stopped by a regional distribution center for Shimano Benelux (Belgium - Netherlands - Luxembourg), the Japanese manufacturer of bicycles/parts and fishing equipment, as well as rowing products. After a lunch of Dutch pancakes at a nearby restaurant (see photo to left) we hopped back on the bus and headed to the town of Zwoll, where we visited a regional distribution center for DHL. Each business visit included a tour of facilities, in addition to presentations by senior company officials and an extended period for Q & A. Even though we were late returning that night due to a major traffic jam that extended almost 300 kilometers, we had a wonderful day.
Wednesday, we again traveled by bus to an area of Amsterdam where the Dutch supermarket conglomerate "Ahold, Inc." is headquartered. Presentations by senior company officials included talks by the American-born CFO, the senior VP of business planning nad performance, the VP of corporate responsibility, and the director of financial reporting (who was videoconferenced in from his office in Geneva, Switzerland). We then toured a local Ahold supermarket under the flagship brand "Albert Heijn". At this point, half of us then traveled in our bus to a regional distribution center for Staples Office Products, where we met with their managing director and director of supply chain management, followed by more Q & A. Our colleagues in the second bus (students chose which track they wanted for this portion of our trip) ventured on to the city of Utrecht where they met with representatives of the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL). We were all back in Amsterdam by early evening.
Thursday was the lone day where our two groups went their separate ways for the entire day, with our group meeting during the morning with the CFO of IBM Netherlands, plus their HR Director, University Relations Manager and Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility. Most of us squeezed in a visit to the Anne Frank House/Museum prior to leaving for our second location where we met with founder, CEO, and all-around entrepreneur Bart Koene, who has managed to grow his small start-up manufacturing operation for beachwear into a high-end manufacturer/distributor of men's and women's winter sportswear. The second group spent the entire day in the city of Leiden, where they experienced the Leiden Bio Science Park, meeting with the facility's project manager and various corporate officials.
Our last full day, Friday, we reassembled as one group and visited Universal Studios-Netherlands, where we visited with the managing director and discussed global entertainment and Dutch specifics for the motion picture industry. That afternoon was the one block of free time for our week that was during daytime hours. Some of us took in the museum where Rembrandt's work was on display. Others visited the Heineken Museum. Some were even brave enough to rent their own bikes and explored the city on their own. That evening was our farewell dinner at a local restaurant that was originally constructed in the 1600s--a truly excellent meal and even better company with our colleagues.
We were up bright and early the next morning (Saturday) for our departure back to Schipol Airport and a 9 hour flight into Atlanta, followed by a short commuter flight back to Nashville. We were all smarter but tired by the end of the week after a wonderful combination of global business visits and discussions, along with a variety of cultural experiences--all in all a great trip for the 32 of us! Thank you very much to our hosts and all of those who made this wonderful learning experience possible.