Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Summer 2009

Some experiences last a lifetime. I’ll always remember the rush I felt while walking down the boulevard in formals to the biggest investment bank in Central and Eastern Europe. Sharing my experience at the International Scholar Laureate Program with thirty distinguished and very talented students from around the world made it special for me. The eight days of my summer that I spent in Vienna, Budapest and Prague inspired me and made me aware of so much that I didn’t know existed around the world. As a student of Architecture, it was a visual treat. The dim-lit streets by the moonlight, Hungarian Parliament and the Buda Castle in Budapest were stunning to look at. It was a business delegation and for each aspect of Business, we visited different places. In Budapest, we had a discussion with the country head at the American Chamber of Commerce that was informative. The American Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of foreign businesses in Hungary and has worked to increase investment and enterprise in Central and Eastern Europe. We discussed big scale ventures, maintaining a dominant market presence through advertising, expansion and partnerships in the region, foreign entry and amazing development at the Mc. Donald’s there. St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Heroes Square and the Turkish baths of Budapest were among the many historical sites we visited.

The next morning, we drove down to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The view out of my bus window seemed surreal- like a background in the video of your favourite love song. Prague was the city I heard the most about. Situated on the banks of the Vlatva River, Prague boasts a wealth of cultural opportunities and nightlife which are signs of economic and social development that we took advantage of. Everything about the “city of spires” seemed magical. From the cobbled streets and men on horses, the buildings mostly made of lime and stone to the stunning Gothic architectural wonders, it took my breath away. We visited the Budejovicky Budvar factory which manufactures Budweiser beer and handles distribution. There, we learnt about balancing brand preservation, trademark effectiveness, quality control and maintaining superior production from a single source in the global market. Prague Castle, St. Vitus’ Cathedral and the Old Town Square which is known as the “pedestrian pulse of Prague” were visual bliss. The Charles Bridge by night looked spectacular.

Does ‘venture capitalism’ sound interesting to you? It didn’t for me, until I met the Head at Raiffeisen Investment (RIAG) where my friends and I discussed the relationship between financial firms and the global market with him. We were also made aware of the contrasting systems of banking and tax that was very informative. Trust me, you need to know. You’ll probably use an investment firm to stabilize your own architecture firm in a few years! Our visit to the Schonbrunn Palace, which was the summer residence of the Habsburg aristocracy and St. Stephen’s cathedral, was made very interesting because of our tour guide who belonged to Austria. He educated us about the history of Austria and the common practices of the people. Being a person that has been brought up loving music, I was overwhelmed to have an opportunity to watch a Mozart and Strauss performance by the best troupe in Vienna at the Schonbrunn Palace. It was certainly the highlight of my trip. Our visit to the OPEC(Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) Headquarters, got me the most excited, because I wanted to understand how the organization that controlled the world’s thirst for this non-renewable source of energy works. After being educated about the politics and economics of oil, supply and demand, we travelled about four hours away from Vienna to a town called Krems in Austria to the IMC University of Applied Sciences where we discussed education policies and practices. The University faculty and students were very hospitable. The dinner at Heuigen Maly, a restaurant overlooking the vineyards, where we exchanged our views on the current global business scenario and other global issues in general was amazing. Networking with expatriates and being building a professional network was a pleasure. If you’re a person who loves museums and history, Vienna is the place for you! The Kunsthistoriches Museum, Liechtenstein Museum, Albertina Museum and Museum Quartier Wien were spectacular. I got to see original Rembrandt pieces that were on display!

Amidst all the formal suits and gatherings, there was a lot of time we got to spend getting to know each other over the week at the Conference. I made some friends that gave me the assurance that I could call on them whenever I needed. It does seem cool to say I have friends all over the world from the ISLP and the previous conferences I attended! The locations were brilliant and travelling always topped my favourite-things-to-do list. I believe that it opens up your world to another extent.