A chance to learn hands-on leadership skills and examine the sustainability efforts of one of the world’s leading countries on the topic—that’s how 12 Georgia College business students will spend the next month.
It’s a new study abroad opportunity in the Netherlands developed by Jehan El-Jourbagy, assistant professor of business law and ethics.
“My mom is actually from there. Because I had visited many times and knew the people there, I felt I could develop an engaging experience for the students,” she said. “Many relatives of mine actually work at or have connections at the businesses and corporations we will visit.”
The trip begins June 9 and includes site visits in three countries: the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
The group plans to visit a Tesla Showroom, the international headquarters of Interface, an Atlanta-based carpet manufacturer and tour “Sustainable Amsterdam,” where students will learn about smart urban design, innovative water management, renewable energy projects and unique community initiatives.
“For each trip beyond Maastricht, our home base, a student or pair of students will serve as navigators,” said El-Jourbagy. “Leading the group gives them a chance to learn how to get around a place they’ve never been before. In addition, they will be responsible for thanking the host organization on behalf of Georgia College.”
The group will also visit Brightlands Chemelot Campus, which is a revolutionary institute consisting of researchers, innovative entrepreneurs and companies leading the field in human resource management and smart services, as well as Castle Vaalsbroek in Vaals, an estate in the picturesque hills of Limburg, near the tri-point of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
To prepare for the trip, students busily researched the country, culture, geopolitical climate and sustainability laws—even visiting the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Atlanta at his house. They presented their research on topics like the European Union and Paris Climate Agreement for consul representatives.
For some students, like senior Mary Caroline Tracy, this is their first trip out of the U.S.
“I chose to go on this study abroad trip because it offers an in depth look at business abroad,” said the marketing major. “It exposes students to cultures outside of the U.S. while challenging them to learn and grow as individuals.”
Senior Julian Lopez is taking full advantage of his time abroad, not only taking courses with El-Jourbagy, but also completing an internship.
“Thanks to help from Professor El, I have secured an internship with the Maastricht chapter of Amnesty International, a well-known human rights advocacy organization,” said the business management major. “I will be conducting research regarding the promotion and retention efforts of the Maastricht chapter and how they can more effectively garner long-term volunteers.”
For Lopez and others, it’s the hands on experience that gets them excited—taking their learning outside a traditional classroom and into a new, rich environment.
“I'm really looking forward to the various trips that we have planned,” said Lopez. “Professor El will be taking us to many attractions and historical sites throughout the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. I'm especially excited for our brewery visits and the Tesla showroom in Eindhoven.”
“I have taken Professor El before, and I knew that she would be very thorough in helping her students learn through many different experiences, topics and exposures,” said Tracy.
As they learn by seeing and experiencing a new place and culture, El-Jourbagy knows it’s something that will benefit the students for the rest of their lives.
“Study abroad experiences like this give students something meaningful to talk about during job interviews,” said El-Jourbagy. “It’s a real-life, hands-on experience that, combined with their academic skills, can show employers the value they bring to the company.”
Check back for updates on their trip.
June 10 - During our first official day in Maastricht, we took a walking tour around the city! Historical highlights of the city included Vrijthof (main square), Jeker Quarter, Helpoort (also known as the Gate of Hell or Hell’s Gate), Bisschopsmolen (water mill), the Market Square, Sint Servaas bridge, Stokstraat Quarter, the Basilica of our Lady, and Boekhandel Dominicanen.
June 11- On a very rainy and cold morning, we departed for Den Haag (The Hague) and toured the Peace Palace, which was largely financed by Andrew Carnegie. During lunch, Megan Wimberly told us more about Andrew Carnegie, the steel industry, and the Carnegie foundation. The students then toured the Royal Delft Museum and factory and painted their own tiles before returning “home” to Maastricht. In addition, Sarah Schneider give a presentation on KPN, a major telecommunication company in the Netherlands.
June 12- We visited Boekhandel Dominicanen, a beautiful bookstore re-purposed from a church built in 1294. We learned about CoffeeLovers espresso bar that holds business in a corner of the store. The family who owns this business runs exemplary CSR with their recent scholarship grants to four young, Guatemalan students who aspire to be coffee farmers. Next, we visited the ECDPM, an NGO “think-and-do-tank” that uses their expertise to help African leaders establish policies to benefit their communities. After picking up our new bikes, we ended our day in class with an engaging lesson in personal carbon footprints and international management of hazardous waste.
June 17- Today, we traveled to Rotterdam to learn more about the historic port city and its influence in business and trade. We learned that Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the second largest city in the Netherlands next to Amsterdam, despite significant losses the town experienced during WWII. Our tour guide showed us the modern architecture and how the city has come together to rebuild the missing pieces. We also visited Blue City, a local business collective that focuses on a circular approach to business, finding new ways to turn waste into products. For instance, a coffee company sends the waste from the beans to a company that grows mushrooms, merging sustainability with economic profit. Next, we visited Kinderdijk to learn about the windmills that are used to pump water into canals, so the land could be used. We learned about the engineering behind it and were even able to tour the inside. To end our day, we ate dinner and listened to Molly explain the vast and influential financial corporation of ING and Jake talk about consumer goods giant, Unilever
June 19- Today we had a great day of learning and sightseeing in the beautiful city of Maastricht. We started the day off with class at Maastricht University. During class, we had a guest speaker come to talk to us about corporate culture and how different cultures can help improve businesses and increase their employees’ happiness. After class, we had a three-hour biking tour of the city. This was really neat because we were able to see parts of the city that we haven't explored yet. On the tour, we learned that the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992, which led to the creation of the European Union and the beginning of a common currency, the Euro. We also learned that Maastricht got its colors red and white from the Maltese cross. Once we finished our bike tour, we went back to class and learned about industrial agriculture. It was really interesting to learn that pesticides and fertilizers were created using the factories that made poison gas and nitrogen plants during World War II. To end class, one of my classmates gave a presentation on his internship here in the Netherlands. He is working for a NGO (non-profit) called Amnesty International. This organization is having an aging problem with their volunteers. Julian is working to help recruit younger volunteers for Amnesty.
June 20- Today we traveled to the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam! We had an early train ride into the city and arrived at MacBikes to embark on yet another bike tour. This tour focused on sustainability programs throughout the city and was led by the founder of Sustainable Amsterdam, Cornelia Dinca. We started with an introduction regarding the city’s history and how far it’s come to today, as far as sustainable efforts. We learned that by 2024 they intend to prohibit diesel/gas transportation and fully convert to electric transportation. This has already begun with their clean taxis available at the train station, along with the supporting infrastructure of over 2000 electric charging stations. We then travelled to De Ceuvel, a 10-year project site built completely by up-cycling on top of polluted land. The project focuses on implementing sustainable energy efforts and cleaning the land it’s built on. Last stop was NDSM, a former shipyard turned into an artistic and cultural hub for innovators and entrepreneurs. Here you can find the largest street art museum, music festivals, and restaurants made out of shipping containers and a greenhouse that offer sustainable menu options. This closes our second week abroad, tune in next week to see what else we discover.
June 20- We started our journey on the 7 am train to Scherpenzeel from Maastricht. Our group toured the Awarehouse and did presentations in regards the history, values, and corporate climate at Interface, a Georgia-based carpet tile manufacturer. We then went on a factory tour to learn about the process of making their product and their sustainability efforts in the manufacturing process. The head of sustainability then spoke to us about Mission Zero, their past sustainability focus, and Climate Take Back, their current corporate focus. From Scherpenzeel, we traveled back to the train station where our travels were put to a halt. Due to phone outages across the entire country, hundreds of trains were canceled. After around six hours of travel, several trains trips, and a car ride, we finally arrived home safely
June 25- Today while studying abroad, we traveled to Cologne, Germany, where we first explored the Lindt Chocolate Museum. The Chocolate Museum is a member of the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa, a joint initiative working to improve the living conditions of cocoa farmers while conserving and protecting natural resources and biodiversity. Due to their unique stance, the museum gave an intriguing look into both the origins and rich history of making chocolate, as well as its process. Before going to Schloss Drachenburg, we stopped and ate lunch at Früh Am Dom, the second largest restaurant in Germany. After a filling meal of traditional German food such as bratwurst and schnitzel, we had high tea and took a tour of the Schloss Drachenburg castle. Built from 1882 to 1884, the castle was commissioned by its original owner to serve as a single detached home. Having made his fortune investing in the Suez Canal, he built the castle as a symbol of his success. Unfortunately, he never got to live on the grounds due to a bad investment in the Panama Canal. Since then, ownership has changed hands multiple times, eventually settling with the State Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia. We finished our day getting an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the castle.
June 27-Today we started at Train World where we learned about the history of Belgium's trains and train system. The first railway in continental Europe was built in Belgium in 1836, and by 1843, every big city was connected through railways. During the 19th century, around 16,000 engines were built after the Belgians bought one from England and started making copies. After leaving Train World, we headed to the Brussels Journey and learned more about the city of Brussels, including iconic landmarks such as the Manneken Pis and Grand Palace, got the chance to try many local treats, and toured four different local chocolate shops. It was interesting to learn that each chocolate shop has a different marketing strategy with regards to how they reach their customers.
July 1- After busy a travel weekend, our group was in need of a break. In the morning, we had class from 9 to 12. After, we walked through Maastricht as a group for a lunch at Harvey’s (which was themed off of the main character from Suits) to celebrate some of our last classes as a group. Professor El also treated us to ice cream at Pinky's, one of the group’s favorite places in Maastricht. After our fun, it was time for some work. Danielle presented on Anheuser-Busch and their CEO Joao Mauricio de Castro Neves. She taught us about their efforts for equality in the workplace for the lgbtq+ community and women. Another area they excel in is sustainability through water stewardship and reducing emissions.
July 2- Another day, another castle. Today our first destination was Bilderberg Kasteel Vaalsbroek in Vaals, Netherlands. Vaalsbroek had been here since 1420 and the hotel has been ensuring outstanding service for over 100 years. The hotel has 130 hotel rooms and 23 conference rooms. They specialize in business customers, but also host weddings almost every weekend and have a good tourist clientele as well. Inside the hotel, there is an al a carte restaurant in two contrasting styles. In addition, a bistro was constructed around an old water mill that is still preserved inside of the bistro. The hotel was separate from the castle, so there are still parts of the castle that are intact from its original construction in the 15th century. We learned how influential textile magnate Johann Arnold von Clermont was on the building of the castle, as well as the business aspect of the property. He cared for the people that came through, especially artists and musicians. He allowed them to stay for free as long as they shared their talents during their stay. If you're looking for a historical getaway with a touch of modern, Vaalsbroek is your destination
July 3- After the cheese festival in Edam, the class headed to Haarlem to get our rental bikes. Three of the bikes were electric and were unreal: they were so smooth and easy to ride! Our next stop was to eat lunch at Hofje zonder Zorgen where we got to sit in the middle of the court yard outside of the restaurant and try their famous homemade banana bread, which was fantastic. We also got to meet the owner and learn more about the history of the restaurant and area. We then took a 30-minute bike ride out to the Bloemendaal aan Zee beach where we collected sea shells, wrote in the sand, enjoyed the sunshine and got to sit in the Bloomingdale Beach Club to enjoy the view. Today was our last day out of Maastricht before departing from our study abroad session, which is very bittersweet; however, it was such a beautiful day with great weather and the best company. It was quite the way to end the trip.