Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect (May 16)

Today we started the day leisurely, strategically planning to maximize sleep-in time but also getting rocking and rolling before breakfast was no longer available. After having a hearty breakfast, Grant, Josh, Kayla and I decided to play cards until we needed to leave for the University. Having become kindred spirits where cards are concerned, we played any chance we could get — whether that was on a long bus ride or during bits of free time such as this. Today we chose to play ‘Castle’ where the object is to shed all your cards – meaning, the winner is the one who disposes of all of his/her cards (in this case in his/her hand and personal deck) first. We all had a good time sippin’ hot chocolate and relaxing before kicking off the day. With our planned departure for the University coming quickly, we packed up the cards and got ourselves ready to roll. A bunch of us headed over to the University with plans to eat at Mensa. Upon arriving there, our presentation group (minus Annabelle who was in class) had another chance to be together – this time dining.  Making good use of our free lunch vouchers, we piled up our trays and then ‘broke bread’ together. Our German counterparts found it entertaining to see what we each chose to eat.

After eating, we met up with Annabelle (who was now done with class), and began our presentation test runs. We knew our presentation was too long, so the mission of the day was to consolidate. We began with a 30 minute presentation and needed to make it a maximum of 20 minutes. To do that we took notes during each other’s slides and gradually trimmed unnecessary information. After a handful of run-throughs, we were able to get it down to around 19 minutes consistently. This exercise helped our presentation to come across much more professionally. As the old adage goes, ‘practice makes perfect’. Practicing it also helped us to make the presentation much more concise, sticking to only the relevant and meaningful material which netted us 47 points out of a possible 50 Practice made (almost) perfect, and we were happy with both our effort and score.

 Overall, I found all the presentations to be both enjoyable and informative! Having now visited each company for which a presentation was made, it was interesting to glean more in-depth information about each. As an engineering student, I definitely enjoyed the parts about innovation in each presentation but believe the interaction between the business and engineering was really the key to the presentations. The purposeful mixing of business and engineering students as well as University of Augsburg and University of Pittsburgh students in each presentation group was really beneficial in helping students to discover the necessary cross-functional collaboration for a team (or company) to be successful. The diversity of a group also adds great value as different perspectives can come together to find the most effective solution. Apart from the amazing cultural aspects of this trip, the experience has been educationally eye-opening as well. I will leave this experience challenged to expand my focus from my specific little niche of study to the larger context. Similarly, it’s good to have subject matter expertise, but it’s also important to have an understanding of how your part fits with the rest of the pieces of the puzzle. There is a need for interdependency between functions. Hence, as an engineering student it is imperative that I have a firm grasp of the technical know-how but also a firm grasp on both internal and external customer needs more generally.

 With our presentation now behind us, Lara, Annabelle, Patrick, Arman, Jackie, Ally and I decided to celebrate our new forged friendship by stopping for dinner before going our separate ways for the evening. Lara, Annabelle and Patrick recommended a little pizza place near the University and were happy to serve as our translators on account of the menus being in German. We chose a few of their favorite pizzas and we all loved what we got. It was so relaxing to sit and chat with the stress of the presentation behind us. Likewise, having become good friends over the course of the last (almost) two weeks, the conversation was easy and the time passed altogether too quickly. Finishing up, we all headed to the tram station to head back ‘home’ for the night. As we stood there, I realized this would be the last time our presentation group would be together since Annabelle would not be able to attend the farewell dinner. It seems almost impossible to me that this adventure has passed so quickly. I am thankful in this moment that most of us still have the farewell dinner to look forward to as we’ve moved beyond teammates to friends and I’m suddenly overcome with emotion at the thought of it all ending. Practice (or maybe better said, the gift of time with each other) made our group perfect – perfect together.

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