May 24th, 2019
Tough blog today. One week ago at this time, Lucas and I would be finishing up at the Porsche Museum and getting ready to head over to Mercedes on the S-Bahn in Stuttgart. Three weeks ago I would be arriving at Pitt for our overnight stay at Nordenberg Hall.
It would be an understatement to say I miss everyone on the trip. I miss the packed schedule we had each day, even though I remember being exhausted. I miss getting on the bus to whatever mind-blowing experience was awaiting us that day. I miss talking with the German students and getting to know the culture. I miss Augsburg; just as we were getting familiar with the city, it feels like that part of me was torn away when we left. And yes, I miss having my Döner sandwich each day for dinner.
That’s enough whining from me, though. It’s incredible to me to look back at myself going into my freshman year and how cynical I was about study abroad programs. Never could I see myself traveling abroad for any reason. But then on one important day in Engineering seminar, I first heard about Plus3 Germany. It was perfect. A short program, three credits, and two weeks of learning about cars and German culture. I knew immediately I had to go, and I am happy that I made the choice to apply and that I was graciously granted admission into the program. (It must not be omitted that my parents were also very gracious for allowing me to go. It was definitely a challenge for them to allow me to travel to Europe without them, but I am so thankful that they trusted me.)
Fast forward through some long lectures, a pretty brutal quiz, and the most intense course load I had ever had in the spring semester, and it was time to leave for Germany. During a period of just two weeks, we got so much valuable insight into both the automobile industry and German culture. Even though I like cars, I was uninformed about the major shifts occurring in the automobile industry. From our visits to Hirshvogel, Continental, Audi, Faurecia, and Continental, I learned about large trends like autonomy and electrification in automobiles, and how businesses are adapting to them at all levels of the supply chain. The company visits allowed me to become much more informed about the automobile industry and, to some extent, made me wish I lived in Germany so that I could use my mechanical engineering degree in a job at one of the major German OEMs. Even if that never happens, I still have valuable experience and insight now that will help me in my search for a mechanical engineering career. It was also refreshing after a year of engineering courses to dive into some of the more business-oriented aspects of industry on the trip, which will be valuable to me in my pursuit of an MBA.
If that experience wasn’t enough, we filled our other days with one-of-a-kind cultural experiences, including a trip to Dachau, Munich, Ulm, Neuschwanstein Castle, and many other cultural sites in Bavaria. In addition to these, we learned about the German culture through our interactions with the German students on our teams. I learned a lot from working with them; our styles and strengths were very different, but this allowed our team to come together and create a great presentation. Our relationship with them wasn’t just confined to schoolwork; we had some great times just chatting with them or visiting some fun places around Augsburg with them. One thing I am especially thankful for is how accommodating everyone in Germany was of our inability to speak German. Without that, the trip would have been much more of a challenge. These experiences overall have allowed me to gain a great appreciation for the German people and culture, which are just as valuable as the experience I gained from our company visits.
After all of our classes, I’m embarrassed to say that I barely knew three or four names of the people on our trip. However, by the time we were ready to go on our first company visit, I already felt like I could call everyone on the trip “a friend of mine”. Our team formed a really special bond in those two weeks, and I am hoping that our friendships will carry over into our remaining years at Pitt. Between you and me, I did not have the easiest time making friends last semester. There were a lot of people who I knew and talked to about homework assignments, but it rarely got to the point that I was comfortable hanging out with many of these people outside of school. Fast forward to Germany, and I made almost two dozen new friends that I wouldn’t mind meeting for lunch in the fall or hanging out with on the weekend. In short, I think that the experience of making all of these close friends in a short time has helped me to grow personally, and I’m happy for that.
I still can’t believe it is over. There are a lot of things I miss, which I’ve already discussed at length, but I didn’t just bring back souvenirs from Germany. I brought back friends and experiences that I couldn’t have had otherwise. These are perhaps the best souvenirs from the trip, and they are something that I am going to remember for the rest of my life. I hope to see all of my teammates around campus in the fall, and I look forward to seeing Dr. Feick, Arielle, and all of my friends at the reunion dinner. Until then, I wish all of them the best.
And now, I would like to culminate my two weeks of blogs with a car of the trip. This is EXCEPTIONALLY tough, considering the number of nice cars that Lucas and I saw during our time in Germany. There is one car that sticks in my mind though, and it definitely deserves to be called the car of the trip.
And the award goes to…
The Porsche Carrera GT. A lot of thought went into this decision, and I will explain why this is my choice. Obviously, the car is German-made, symbolizing our trip to learn about the German automobile industry. The Carrera GT had a total production run of 1,270 units from 2003 to 2007, making it exceptionally rare (and Lucas and I saw FOUR of them!!). They sell for north of $800,000 on the used market today, a price increase since its introduction. This is a production vehicle, which means it is designed for people to use on the road. Make no mistake, though; this car is a beast. Power comes from a 5.7L V10 engine, originally designed for Formula 1 racing, that puts out a respectable 605 horsepower to the rear wheels. The engine absolutely screams, with an 8400 RPM redline. The 0-60 MPH time is 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 205 MPH. The car comes solely with a 6-speed manual transmission. And let’s not forget it looks amazing.
In an industry that is rapidly changing, the Carrera GT represents one of the last of a dying breed of sports cars. Don’t get me wrong, these trends we are seeing in the auto industry are important for the environment’s and for our own safety. However, cars will not afford the same thrill once these changes do occur. The Carrera GT is a pure sports car that is missing many of the new trends that are making cars less “fun”. I guess you could call it nostalgia on my part. The car is driven by the rear wheels as opposed to evermore common all-wheel drive systems that are fast but less fun (donuts are really hard to do in an AWD vehicle). The engine is naturally aspirated, meaning that it is missing forced induction (turbo and supercharger) seen in many cars today. This makes the exhaust note as pure as possible without any interference from the whistling of a turbo or supercharger whine. Building off that, the engine is a V10. In today’s market, automakers are abandoning naturally aspirated engines with more cylinders for downsized, forced-induction alternatives. The use of a naturally-aspirated V10 would be almost unheard of in today’s market; why wouldn’t you just use a twin-turbo V8 to get the same power output? Or how about a hybrid motor like the one in the LaFerrari? Finally, the car is offered exclusively with a manual transmission. Manuals are all but dead today because dual-clutch transmissions, which were heavy in the past, have gotten much lighter. This eliminates the lightweight advantage that the manual has offered in the past. However, many consider the manual to be a much more engaging driving experience. But in today’s market, the trend seems to be to take the driver out of the equation almost entirely (something I don’t buy into). A small detail, but the position of the gearshift is very unique in the Carrera GT, and it just looks fantastic.
To conclude, the Carrera GT represents a pure sports car of a generation that has past. Big changes are coming to the automotive industry, and even though they are inevitable I’m not sure I like them. But Porsche truly built one of the best production sports cars in history with the Carrera GT that embodies everything that is vanishing from modern sports cars. And I got to see four of them.
P.S. Thanks for reading my blogs!