Being in an exhaust system factory thoroughly exhausted us (pun most definitely intended). In a good way.
Today marked our first company visit: Faurecia, a relatively unknown French company that happens to be a world leader in manufacturing car engines and exhaust systems, among other automotive parts. Upon entering the facility, we received safety gear in the form of glasses, a white lab coat with the Faurecia logo on the back and the German word for “Visitor” on the front, and black safety “shoes” that fit very awkwardly over the shoes we were already wearing. We made fun of the awkwardness of the “shoes” and teased each other for looking like doctors.
The company representatives were very welcoming; we received free pens, cookies, beverages, and gummy cars (gummy bears in the form of cars) as a businesswoman and an engineer working for Faurecia gave presentations about the company’s organizational structure and the specific engineering processes, respectively.
Then, after we donned our white coats and awkward shoes, a man with a thick French accent showed us the various rooms where engineers and other workers test the engines and exhaust systems that they build and explained how they use graphs and computer data to analyze various aspects of the equipment. For me and many of my colleagues, the acoustic rooms were the most interesting: spiky sound-absorbing walls surrounded a car with a microphone positioned near its exhaust system in order to measure the exhaust’s acoustics.
We then put on our safety glasses and made our way to the production plant, where we watched white machines and blue robots grab onto various exhaust system parts and swiftly move them around to prepare them for welding and assembly. As an engineering student, this part of the tour was definitely my favorite because I was able to see firsthand the processes by which exhaust systems and engines are fabricated.
Overall, I found this company tour to be heavily technical, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to observe the various details of how the engines and exhaust systems of Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and other famous car brands are made.
After eating lunch on our own, a Lutheran minister met us at St. Jakob’s church and led us around the other Lutheran and Catholic churches in the city, as well as other buildings that pertained to the life of Martin Luther. The minister extensively explained the history of Luther and the significance of each building in the context of the events of the Protestant Reformation. For me, the most interesting part of her lecture was her description of the upcoming festivals celebrating the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses; the various activities that the different congregations will set up at their booths to celebrate this milestone seem exciting.
We then walked into what looked like a small classroom within the vicinity of the religious buildings to do a rather strange activity with a theology professor who happened to be a friend of the Lutheran minister. We thought the professor was going to give us a lecture, but after she extensively introduced herself, she asked us to stand up and go to one side of the room if we were Christian and go to the other side of the room if we were not, and then she asked us one by one what our denomination/religion was. From there, she proceeded to ask controversial questions about how Trump’s presidency affects how Americans view differences in religion. As much as I understand that her primary research focus is the analysis of the differences between religions through deep group conversation, the questions that she asked us were definitely too personal–religion, politics, and personal life are three topics I would never bring up in a conversation with people I barely knew.
Whew, done with day three. Seemed like a rather eclectic day considering the fact that we went from car parts to religion.