Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Belgium: Brussels and Bruges

Hey everybody-

So the good news is we made it to Cambridge (relatively) safe and sound. After two weeks of traveling and the dirty clothes/lack of underwear becoming a serious situation, it's nice to finally move in to a relatively permanent home, providing a little stability in our lives (and a washing machine). We started class today at Hughes Hall and will tour Cambridge tomorrow.

However, let's talk about our trip to Brussels and Bruges. After three days in London we arrived in Brussels via train that went 100 meters under the English Channel which was cool. We spent three days in Belgium (Monday-Wednesday of last week).

The first day was purely an exploration day in which we could drown ourselves in Belgian chocolate and waffles. The main attraction was the Grand-Place, a neat square with lots of little shops and markets surrounding it.

On Tuesday we attempted to solve the Euro crisis and visited two branches of the European Union: the European Commission and European Parliament. Both places were informative and interesting to listen to as both representatives lectured on their branch of government and how they viewed their role in the European Union as well as the current financial crisis. At the European Parliament we were able to observe the parliament in action, which was kind of like watching C-SPAN live except more exciting. It was interesting to watch as delegates argued their points in different languages (we had headphones so we could listen to a translator in English or test our language skills by switching over to German, French, or Spanish) however the common language to convey one's point on the floor was English. Our trip to Parliament was so successful that our guide sent Mike an e-mail proclaiming that we were the best and most engaging group that he has had since taking his job in December. This is probably more of a credit to Travis Nordgaard ('13), Andrew Tiano ('13) and Mike Chappell's ('14) thought-provoking questions and less credit to Mike Elder ('13) who spent the majority of the time sampling Belgian chocolates in the back row. They are good though.

The crew in the lobby at the European Commission

Posing at the European Parliament

Observing the European Parliament in action. Jens Lillehei ('13) tried to start the wave but was swiftly denied.

On our last day in Belgium we took a trip to the historic town of Bruges. The trip was great for two reasons: (1) the program was gracious enough to purchase bicycles for us so after a week of walking, it felt like in 30 minutes you could traverse the entire continent of Europe on a bike and (2) Bruges is a great town with sites such as a large Bell Tower that always has bells ringing. Visitors are able to climb the 366 steps to the top and look out at the city. The group split up and went their separate ways. Some found suitable napping ground in the park and enjoyed the sun while others channeled their inner Lance Armstrong and rode out to the coast or the Netherlands, both of which are around a 18 km bike ride.
A large group of Carleton students deciding where to explore.
Up next: Paris (bear with me as a collect all the pictures)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First Week--London

After arriving in London, Professor Mike Hemesath decided a good way to keep us from sleeping immediately and thereby throwing off our sleep schedule would be to take us on a two hour walking tour around London. The tour was informative and a great way of getting a quick lay of the land (we walked by various monuments and historical sites, such as famed economist John Maynard Keynes' old house) but by the end most of us were either thinking of sleep, food, or how easily we could get away with stealing a car so we didn't have to trek the 30 minute walk back to the hotel. However, the plan worked as we all got back from eating around 9pm and slept soundly.
Outside the County Hotel waiting for the tour to start. Fun game: Try to find Katherine in the crowd of students.

Throughout the next couple of days we were lucky and fortunate to visit with some distinguished alumni in the banking and news sectors. For example, we visited Richard Greene ('91), a news writer for CNN International. The fun part about visiting with these alumni was to listen to their career path and how they got to their current job. It was also fun visiting their place of business and getting a behind the scenes look at how mutual funds or newsrooms really work.
Richard Greene giving a brief introduction to CNN International

The gang in the main CNN International studio
Along with exploring London on our own time, we were able to see Henry V at the renowned Globe Theatre as a group. Although the last time I read Shakespeare was in ninth grade, and the dialogue was tough to follow I believe the general gist was that England dominated France in a war. I'll have to ask someone from France once we arrive in Paris tomorrow. The theatre was a great experience though, with the majority of the crowd standing while there was a gallery surrounding the stage. 
Our seats in the Globe Theatre. My favorite performance was by the pillar. Notice how we had the (grateful) luxury of seats while most of the crowd had to stand for the entire play.

Soon to come: Brussels, Brugge, and how we solved the Euro crisis ( j/k we didn't. )

First Week Pre-Trip

Hello family and friends of the Cambridge 2012 program--

Sorry it's taken so long to get going on this I'm sure many of you are anxious to hear about our experiences thus far. For a brief introduction my name is Max Timm ('13) and I am a senior economics major at Carleton College. I will primarily be doing most of the blogging although I may enlist some other Carls that are better writers than me. 

Right now its 11:30 at night (seven hours ahead of time) and we are procrastinating repacking our luggage for the 9am train to Paris. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about what's been going on so far. 

Some students decided to forgo the week in between the end of spring term finals and the start of the program on June 13th and travel around Europe. Although we had a shorter time to say goodbye to friends and family, and leaving early meant that we were especially busy during finals week (planning hotels, planes, etc.) it was a nice built-in excuse to our parents when our grades came out last week.

Michael Elder ('13) bounced around Eastern Europe via trains and lived like a king while Michael 'Miami' Austin ('13), Andy Zweber ('13), Jens Lillehei ('13) and Max Timm ('13) lived off of street hot dogs and complimentary breakfasts in Northern Europe, visiting Reykjavik (Iceland) and Stockholm (Sweden). It was a great way to start the trip and a good introduction to the European lifestyle (note Miami's placement of his sweatshirt in the pic below). 

Lillehei, Austin and Zweber in Stockholm
Elder in Budapest