10 May 2019
When I woke up two things were wildly wrong. First, Jeff was up more than 20 minutes before we had to leave (talk about an early bird!). And second, he was putting on a suit, like a full suit with a white shirt and jacket and all. Even though he looked pretty snazzy, he looked a little stressed, and then it hit me: it was his company visit!
We were visiting an R&D center of the major interior supplier, Faurecia, which was located in Augsburg, so we took the streetcar again. There was some foreshadowing about what would happen at the company visit since when we got there, we realized there was some miscommunication on the company’s end. They required passports for the visit, but we only had drivers’ licenses. Luckily, Sonja and Arielle took care of the issue, and we were let in to the facility. We settled down into the room where we would be given snacks and our lecture later on, and also where we received the agenda for the day. We suited up into special rubber shoes, glasses, and wispy protective white coats and headed out to tour the facility!
In the first stretch of the tour, we saw and learned about the different types of component testing. This was so interesting to me, because it was essentially testing the finite element analysis of major software such as SolidWorks and AnSYS. I immediately made the connection when the tour guide started talking about the different stress and strain relationships under different axial loads that were being tested as he spoke. I was really intrigued because in my classes we had never learnt about follow-up, real life tests to devices and components that are verified by simulation software. It really drove home the idea of government regulation and the importance of physical testing. The tour guide, himself, was an engineer and quite knowledgeable about the different aspects of the company. He was able to answer lots of questions that people had. Since this company was much smaller than the others, we learned that they would have to rush through testing often for the sake of time. As an engineer, I know that this is not very good, as it introduces many safety and trust issues. I think my favorite part of the tour however was the soundproof rooms where they tested car components and their soundproof interiors.
After the tour, we had a presentation on the company. While it was not my favorite presentation I have sat in so far, I can say that I learned some really interesting statistics. For example, I learned that one in every three cars utilizes Faurecia technology and that they have recently expanded into the ship and commercial vehicle industry. Not many students were impressed by the acquisition manager’s presentation and the German students were not sure how they were going to write a 25-page paper on this company after she cut the question segment of the presentation short. She spent an unfortunate amount of time discussing internships and programs that were only open to either European citizens or people fluent in German. Below are my detailed notes on the lecture. The manager made it seem like the company was not doing very well anymore, and I’m glad we got the opportunity to visit because it provided a nice contrast to the very successful companies we visited earlier in the week. Being in the engineering discipline, I think this was a very important visit as I learned about how companies go through good and bad phases and how it is important to be able to overcome losses and still thrive.
We then went to the University of Augsburg again for lunch and got more of their delicious food. I must say, I’m just as impressed by the Mensa dining hall every time I go there! We then had a lecture on German politics, which I was really looking forward to as politics is one of the true loves of my life. What I found most interesting, was the contrast between American and German politics and how German government interacted with business. Free trades and free markets are flagships of liberal politics and it came as no surprise to me that Germany, a huge global player and deeply involved in the European Union, adopted these economic policies. I was intrigued at how the Germans spoke of tariffs and their disgust with our trade war. After all, the trade war wasn’t helping anyone but America (if even) and we weren’t in America anymore. On the flip side, I was really intrigued by the different political parties in Germany and how it contrasted to America’s two party system. The speaker was the US equivalent of the chief of staff for the Green Party, a very liberal and climate-aware party that was recently gaining momentum in Germany. The speaker detailed how over the past decade, the party had earned nearly 10-15% in support in the government. What really hit me, was that they had actually also gained 10-15% influence in the government. In the United States, unless you hit near majority, support won’t translate into influence. Take the libertarian party, for example. They have nearly 6-9% support of the country but, on average, 0% influence in the government. It made me think about which system better represented the people, and which country had a more stable government. Many are led to believe that when the peoples’ interests are best served, the government is working the best, but that’s exactly the mentality our Founding Father’s fought. By setting up the stage for a two party system, the Founding Fathers anticipated and invited gridlock and a slow moving government. Therefore any potential harm would also have to be done slowly. The Germans, however, did not adopt this philosophy or even seem to give it any consideration. It didn’t mean they disregarded it, it just means that they have a very different point of view when it comes to government. I was really content with what we had learned from the speaker, and the different perspectives I had gained. I spent a little more time in the University of Augsburg, specifically ~2 more hours, planning the company visit and our strategy for presentations with my group. We were the last company to visit, less than 48 hours before presentation time, so we had a lot of prep work to do. Jeff stayed with us at the Uni and worked on his blogs and we headed out together. Once we reached königsplatz, the central train station, Jeff and I broke off from the group and explored the city of Augsburg.
We went to a variety of different shops, determined to get clothes imbued with German fashion and little trinkets and souvenirs for people back home. Enamored by the H&M in Regensburg, which is pretty different from the one in the US, we went again in Augsburg and shopped around for a while. There, I supported some poor decisions Jeff made, such as getting really American sunglasses, PacMan socks, and dolphin shorts. Nevertheless, we took really cute pictures, depicted above. After a few hours of exhaustive shopping, we went to refuel. For dinner we went to a cute place called The Picnic, and hit a gold mine. The restaurant was really nice, had English menus, good food, and an amazing setting. We took more cute pictures, depicted below, and then headed back home to rewind, meeting Arielle and Dr. Feick on the way! We suggested The Picnic to them, but I’m not sure if they took the suggestion.
Jeff and I had some more of our favorite Rocky Road ice cream, finishing the entire tub together. Was I a little concerned that the calories were gonna catch up to me? Nope, I was in Germany! Anyways, we headed out with some of our friends to visit some new ice cream parlors with the German students. Jeff and I broke off after a little bit and had some deep discussions. We came back to the hotel, and even met Dr. Feick and Arielle in the lobby again! As we went to bed, I reflected on the day and was really glad how it turned out in the end. Jeff and I had a great time exploring German fashion and culture and easily solidified our presence as best bromance. I went to bed thinking about how great the next week would be, since everyone was now really, really comfortable with each other. Well that’s all the sentiment I have for today, see you tomorrow in Munich! 🙂