USD Business School students visit Ratingen USD Business School students, as well as two faculty members, were able to once again benefit from Vermillion's connection to Ratingen, when they stayed with host families in that German city for more than a week starting May 16.
On the very next day the group was also officially welcomed at the Rathaus (city hall), which was followed by several hours of sight seeing in the city which celebrated its 725th birthday last year. It's perhaps of interest to note that for its 700th birthday, then Gov. Richard Kneip had been the guest of honor.
The Business School group was able to use Ratingen as its base to visit different German and American firms, such as Mercedes Benz and Wal-Mart, plus the Duesseldorf Trade Fair grounds and the area health care insurance fund, to get an idea how business is run differently there than in the U.S.
Wal-Mart, for example, is not permitted to keep its stores open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and virtually every person is covered by the German universal health care system, which includes both eye and dental care.
Before the group left for Brussels, Belgium, a meeting was arranged between Ratingen Mayor Wolfgang Diedrich and Dr. John (Jack) Powell (in his function as president of Vermillion's City Council). During the meeting, the Ratingen city leader agreed to visit Vermillion during its Lewis and Clark celebrations.
In Brussels, where the 14 students and their two professors stayed for more than a week as well, the emphasis of their briefing program was more on issues that were especially relevant to South Dakota, such as agricultural trade (at the European Headquarters of the American Soybean Association and the U.S. Mission to the European Union) and tourism (by an official of the U.S. Embassy).
But there were also briefings on Europe's new currency, the Euro, at the European Headquarters of Citibank and at Deloitte and Touche (a large accounting firm). The USD students used the weekend to visit the medieval trading town of Brugge and the seaside resort of Zeebrugge.
The final nine days of the study tour were spent in Paris, but included a side trip to Versailles, with its famous palace and gardens. Most of the Paris briefings were again South Dakota oriented, such as a visit to Credit Agricole, the world's largest agricultural bank, and to the U.S. Embassy, where European fears over U.S. food exports (which some European politicians want to be labeled as being produced with growth hormones, among other things) were discussed and tourism issues (the high value of the U.S. dollar and fears of flying on U.S. airliners) were taken up.
At the International Energy Agency the USD students were informed about the latest developments in finding alternative sources of energy such as ethanol and wind power around the world. Even the world wide effects of the Enron debacle were taken up during briefings at another large accounting firm KPMG.
But students and faculty members learned a lot by simply living for almost four weeks in four different European countries. In Amsterdam, for example, students were quite surprised to find houses of prostitution virtually surrounding a church. Another surprise was seeing beer being offered at McDonalds in each of the four nations. Students were also frustrated in finding it almost impossible to obtain ice with their beverages. It was almost as if Europeans had never heard of it being used in soft drinks.
Students did seem to enjoy taking advantage of Europe's excellent public transportation system and even were able to ride a train (between Brussels and Paris) which reached speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. But in the end, everyone seemed to be happy to return to the greater tranquility of the upper plains states.
Indeed, the group did not seem to mind arriving at the Charles de Gaulle airport, outside Paris, the night before the departure date in order to avoid getting delayed due to security concerns and possible strike by French transportation workers. It was time to go home!