Class Reunion, Borneo style: Faculty member returns to his Peace Corps roots

Jonathan Hall

Guest post by Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics

Penn State Behrend

Forty years ago, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia, teaching students in the only secondary school in the district of Sipitang, Sabah (formerly known as North Borneo). This summer, I returned to visit my former students and fellow teachers. I brought along my daughter, Liz Hall, who was a student at Behrend in 2003-04 before attending the U.S. Naval Academy.

Our trip started with a fourteen-hour flight from the United States to China, and then to Kota Kinabalu (“KK”), the capital of Sabah. We arrived late in the evening, and checked into the hotel. When the receptionist found out that I had been a teacher in Sipitang, which was near her hometown of Beaufort, it resulted in all of the staff wanting to have their picture taken with the “guru from Sipitang.” It was a warm welcome back to Sabah.

After a recovery day on the beaches of the South China Sea, we headed to a downtown hotel for a reunion dinner with some of my former students who live and work in KK.

It was Ramadan, a month-long religious observation during which Muslims fast each day from dawn to sunset, so we joined them for their evening meal when they broke the day’s fast. It was a buffet offering a wide variety of dishes, from curries to satay, which was an excellent introduction to Malaysian cuisine for Liz.

After eating, we went around the table, telling our stories from the past forty years. A friendly competition emerged regarding the number of grandchildren each person at the table had. The person with the most had seven.

 

Class reunion

First, a little history

Malaysia was formed from a collection of colonies in the early 1960s. In order to develop as a nation, expanding education from the few to the many was the number one priority of the government.

To accomplish this, Malaysia “imported” teachers from other countries to teach, especially topics such as math and science, in rural areas. This is how Peace Corps volunteers came to be in Malaysia from the early 1960s until the early 1980s, helping until Malaysia was able to train enough of their own teachers.

As is common in other nations in Asia, your academic success, and your future career, is largely determined by the results of national standardized exams. The exams are given at the end of Form 3 and Form 5 (ninth and eleventh grade). Math is a mandatory pass. If you fail the math exam, that is the end of your education.

The parents of many of my students were subsistence farmers or fishermen, but they knew that education was the key to a brighter future for their children. Unfortunately, because they lived in a remote area, many of my students did not have teachers who were qualified in math during their early years in school. We had a year or two to catch up through practice in class, daily homework, and extra classes after school and on Saturdays when necessary.

At the reunion dinner, several of my students said that they came to high school unprepared in math, but learned and became proficient enough at it to pass their exams, which enabled them to move on to careers in teaching, nursing, banking, business and law. It was very gratifying to hear that.

I don’t think that I did anything special or was a particularly good teacher as I’d just graduated from college, but it was enough for me to volunteer to be present where I was needed. In that place and time, it was critical to have a qualified teacher who was willing and able to help them prepare for their exams.

Mountain climbing with former student

On day three, Liz and I went to Mount Kinabalu to meet up with my former student, Daring Laban.

When I taught Daring, he lived in a remote village, Long Pa Sia, close to the Indonesian border. Students from his village traveled five days on foot through the rain forest to attend secondary school, where they lived in a dormitory.

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Liz, myself, and Daring

Today, Daring is the manager of Sabah State Parks. Sabah Parks administers several state and national parks, including Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, and the Danum Valley Conservation Area, a mostly undisturbed rainforest that is the home of orangutans, Sumatran rhinoceros, pygmy elephants, and more. Sabah Parks host 1.3 million visitors a year, playing a major role in tourism, the second largest sector of the state economy. While much of the rainforest has been lost over the past forty years, ecotourism has replaced timber as a mainstay of the economy and is helping to preserve the remaining rain forest.

On Mount Kinabalu, we traveled through four climate zones as we climbed—lowland dipterocarp rain forest, montane forest, cloud forest, and sub-apline vegetation—before reaching bare rock and the peak at 13,400 feet.

Daring Jon Liz Mt KinabaluDaring, me, and Liz on Mt. Kinabalu

Liz & Daring climbing

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu

Mt Kinabalu peak

Mt. Kinabalu peak

The park was formed to preserve its great biodiversity, including some of the world’s largest pitcher plants, and the Rafflesia, said to be the world’s largest flower. During the 8.5-kilometer hike, we climbed 2 kilometers in altitude.

In June 2015, there was an earthquake at the mountain. Rockslides killed eighteen climbers; most of those killed were students visiting from Singapore. The trail was closed for six months for repairs. The violence of the earthquake was still very evident, with large areas of newly exposed white granite where the rockslides occurred instead of dark, weathered rock seen elsewhere.

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Rockslide damage on Mt. Kinabalu

We celebrated a successful climb by stopping at an open-air restaurant specializing in wild boar, which are hunted in the oil palm plantations.

Visiting Long Pa Sia

After hiking, it was on to the interior village of Long Pa Sia. Back then, it was a 50-mile trek. Now, it is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles over a logging road.

The village is named by the native Lun Dayeh people1. Long = mouth, Pa = river, and Sia = red. In traditional Borneo, the river was the lifeblood of the community and was used for transportation, water, food, and bathing.

We spent a day hunting and fishing with another of my former students, Lukas. Lukas retired from banking in the city to hunt, a traditional way of life in the interior. We caught several small fish in the river. Lukas and his hunting dogs brought back a barking deer.

Long Pa Sia

The village of Long Pa Sia

Liz at Pa Sia river

Liz at the Pa Sia river

Lukas & Daring after hunt

Lukas and Daring after hunting

Many changes, but friends remain

Sipitang was my home far away from home when I was in the Peace Corps. All of the towns and cities in Sabah have grown and developed so much over the last forty years, that they were nearly unrecognizable to me. (In Long Pa Sia, which was known very being remote, there is now excellent cell phone reception!) Sipitang was no exception.

In Sipitang, changes included a hospital, paved roads, enough cars to have traffic jams, new schools, factories and industries, and many more people. Gone is the old open-air fish market where fishermen off-loaded from small praus their catch of prawns, squid, fish, and rays. Also gone is the fruit and vegetable market where farmers brought baskets of bananas, durians, rambutans, and other tropical fruits. Now there are two supermarkets instead.

Taking a walk down memory lane, I showed Liz the school where I taught.

Next it was on to a “Hari Raya” dinner, celebrating the end of Ramadan. The dinner was hosted by Ramawi, another former student. Ramawi’s family happens to include Wan Musa, a fellow science teacher. We worked closely together forty years ago and became dear friends. I attended Wan Musa’s wedding, where I was the Malay equivalent of his best man, which included having the groom’s face and mine smeared with rice flour.

It was great to see him again, however briefly.

Jonathan & Wan Musa

Me and Wan Musa

Weddings, coffee, and longhouses

Speaking of weddings, the next day we traveled to Sarawak, the other Malaysian state on Borneo, crossing the Lawas River by ferry to attend a Lun Dayeh wedding.

Ishak Liz Lawas river ferry

Ishak and Liz at the Lawas river ferry

After a Christian wedding ceremony, there was a reception for the entire community, which included traditional songs and dance, and the giving of baskets of gifts by the bride to members of both families.

Lun Dayeh wedding

Lun Dayeh wedding in Sarawak

The next day, was a road trip to Tenom, to drink the locally grown coffee and visit the Sabah Murut Cultural Center. Built as a traditional longhouse, but on a much larger scale, the center includes displays of traditional dress, baskets, musical instruments (gongs), and other aspects of the culture and history of the local native people.

On the way back, we stopped at two longhouses—a traditional wooden longhouse and a new one made with modern materials. Regardless of the building materials, the basic design is the same. Longhouses are an elevated building in which each family has an “apartment” consisting of a living room, bedroom, and kitchen. All of the apartments open onto a verandah, which runs the length of the longhouse and serves as a common area.

Sipitang Longhouse

At a longhouse

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Stock photo of a typical Borneo longhouse

Math teacher turned voice coach?

After visiting Sarawak, we returned to KK to prepare for our 3 a.m. flight home the next day. But, before leaving, we met up with other former students for the most sumptuous Chinese dinner I’ve ever had.

In my three years in Sabah, I taught one English class. Being a math/science teacher, and learning TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) on the fly, I decided to incorporate singing in the lessons. Albert, one of my former students who was at dinner that night, was in my English class and said that I inspired him to become a pretty decent karaoke singer. (As a teacher, you plant a seed and…)

Durian McFlurrys

What has changed in Sabah over the past forty years? Every town has a KFC. Also, there are McDonald’s restaurants and they serve Durian McFlurrys. This is a flavor that would not go over big in the United States.

McDonalds durian

While many Asians love the taste of durian, as do I, others have been known to object to the scent of durian. One writer described durian as “eating a delicious raspberry sorbet in a revolting public lavatory.”

Durian smells so bad, that it is banned in many public places. Upscale hotels charge large cleaning fees if it is brought into a guest room.

no durians

Final reflections

In Malaysia, one is struck by the hospitality of people. It is part of a way of life, of forming relationships with others, and strengthening those relationships is valuable and important to them. My students thanked me for teaching them. I thanked them for welcoming me into their lives.

While I taught students science, math, geography, and English, they taught me something of great value that I have kept close to my heart. The students in my class came from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds, with different cultures, languages, and religions, but they were all classmates together. They worked and learned together and respected one other.

In the classes I taught, I never witnessed anyone being left out or excluded because of differences. The class was only successful if every student was, so students helped each other.

Forty years later, that has not changed. It is normal and natural for Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan to invite Christian and Chinese classmates to their home to share a meal. They don’t let their differences divide them, they respect and celebrate those differences2. This was particularly striking to me now because in our current times, there are some who openly advocate that if people are different, they should be kept separate.

The native people of central Borneo; the Lun Dayeh (also known as Lun Bawang), Kelabit and Sa’ban, are involved in the Heart of Borneo Project, dedicated to the conservation of the remaining rain forest in central Borneo. Preserving the environment impacts the preservation of traditions, languages, culture, and a way of life for the people there. Their slogan is: “Serurum. Selawe. Meruked.” This translates from Lun Dayeh as: “Friends. One way (united). Forever.”

Thanks and terima kasih3to the students of Sipitang for teaching this “guru” the most important of lessons.

NOTES:

1. Though we live on opposite sides of the globe, the Lun Dayeh people have a history of friendship with Americans. Before World War II, American missionaries with the Borneo Evangelical Mission lived in Lun Dayeh communities. When Borneo was occupied early in WWII, these missionaries and their families were executed. Later in the war, two American bombers crashed in the interior. Surviving crew members were found by the Lun Dayeh, who recognized them as Americans. The Lun Dayeh leaders, then made the decision to shelter, protect, and defend the American crewmen, at the risk of their own lives and communities. The Americans were guided to a location where British special forces established a small airfield to return the crewman to safety. For the full story, read The Airmen and the Headhunters by Judith M. Heimann, or watch the PBS Secrets of the Dead episode of the same name as the book title.

2. If you like holidays, Malaysia is the place to be. You can celebrate Muslim, Christian, Chinese, Hindu, Buddhist, national and harvest festival holidays!

3. While terima kasih is how you say thank you in Malay, I prefer it’s literal meaning, which is “receive love.” The response, sama sama, means “the same to you”!

Game on: Students Make Connections at Conference

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

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For the past five years, students enrolled in GAME 495: Senior Internship have had the opportunity to attend the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Eight Penn State Behrend students and two faculty members recently returned from this year’s conference which was held in late March.

GDC is the world’s largest professional game industry event. There, students join game designers, programmers, artists, producers, and business professionals for five days of education, inspiration, and networking in the global game development community.

“Students are exposed to the game industry from the inside, get a chance to talk to professionals, and make connections that are invaluable as they set course for their own career in the game industry,” said Dr. Heather Lum, assistant professor of psychology.

Students who attended the GDC were not only from the School of Engineering, but also Psychology majors from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences who are in the human factors track, which focuses on user interface and user experience.

Lum was a GDC trip leader along with Dr. Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering.

“The students who went to the GDC are enrolled in the interdisciplinary minor in Game Development,” Zhao said. “While we can teach students the technical and artistic skills needed to design and develop games in other classes, GAME 495 provides students the opportunity to showcase their product and interact with the world in a way that a traditional classroom is never able to.”

One good example: face-to-face networking with industry insiders at the GDC.

“I met a user experience analyst, which is my chosen field, from my favorite gaming company, Blizzard,” said Tiffany Eichler, a senior Psychology major. “We have been e-mailing since the conference and it has been so enlightening. I have learned a lot about the industry and why psychology has a place in it. He shared with me the best time to apply for an internship with Blizzard, so I am biding my time until I can get my name in there.”

“Students who have attended GDC in previous years have gotten internships and job offers from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and others,” Lum said.

Prior to the trip, students in GAME 495 write and practice their elevator pitches, create resumes and business cards, and learn how to get noticed and have a meaningful conversation with professional contacts, including alumni.

“We had a chance to meet up with some Penn State Behrend graduates who are now working on the west coast,” Lum said.

Students who attended the GDC trip included, Computer Science majors: Cole Trexler, Matt Benkart, Jordon Torunian, and Morgan Farabaugh; Software Engineering majors, Frank Corso, Joe Craig, and Richard Shultz; and Psychology majors, Tiffany Eichler and Donald Fromknecht.

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Puerto Rico Trip Sheds Light on Island Still Recovering from Hurricane

Andrea Konkol, associate director of admissions at Penn State Behrend, recently returned from Puerto Rico, an island still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria, which tore through the Caribbean six months ago. Hurricane Maria was the worst natural disaster to ever hit Puerto Rico and is responsible for at least 112 confirmed deaths. Some people are still missing. The death toll in Puerto Rico is believed to be much higher than reported, possibly more than 1,000. The hurricane wrought catastrophic damage to the island, with much of the housing and infrastructure beyond repair. Total losses from the hurricane are estimated at upwards of $91.61 billion. We asked Konkol to share what she saw while she was in Puerto Rico attending College Week in the Caribbean.

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By Andrea Konkol

Associate director of admissions, Penn State Behrend

College Week in the Caribbean is a weeklong series of high school visits and college fairs coordinated by the Caribbean Counselor Association (CCA), a group of college and school counselors based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I traveled with representatives from twelve other college and universities. This was my twelfth College Week since 2011. Students in Puerto Rico have only a few options for college on the island and many are looking to go to the mainland United States to pursue new and different opportunities.

I was apprehensive about traveling this year because I wondered what the condition of the islands would be like post-Hurricane Maria.

I was surprised by how green everything was when I looked out over the landscape. If you saw pictures of Puerto Rico after the hurricane, you know that the landscape and trees were stripped bare and appeared totally brown. Mother Nature can regenerate at fantastic rate! (Check out this slideshow with then and now photos of Puerto Rico).

There are certainly bruises on the infrastructure, though. Buildings with boarded-up windows, twisted and bent street signs, and the occasional out-of-order street light were all things I witnessed.

For the most part, though, life seems to be back to somewhat normal conditions. People go to work and to school. Life has gone on. As I reflect on my week, I am struck by one thought: the people living on these islands are incredibly resilient!

I should say that our travels did not take us directly into the hardest hit areas that are, by many accounts, still without water or power. I was mostly in the San Juan metro area.

However, we did spend one day traveling southwest of San Juan, to Ponce. The drive took us through the central mountains of the island. It was hard to miss the telltale bright blue FEMA tarps that dotted the hillsides and marked homes damaged by the storm. Again, the greenness of the mountains was astonishing! Both people and nature were hard at work rebuilding.

My hotel appeared to be serving as some kind of logistics center for the island’s power restoration efforts. Early in the morning and late in the evening, the elevators were filled with electrical line workers. I spoke with one gentleman from Con Edison who lived in New Jersey. He had been on the island for more than a month and was also on the island for the month of November. He asked if I was on vacation. I wish! When I told him I was a recruiter for Penn State, he told me he had a 17-year-old looking at colleges. “Keep Penn State in mind!” I said as he exited the elevator. As admissions recruiters we are always working to recruit our next student, even in elevators!

We visited eighteen schools in Puerto Rico and two in St. Thomas during our five days of recruiting. School counselors consistently told us it was a tough year. Maria hit just as students were applying to colleges for fall admission. Yet, they told stories of students and neighbors helping each other. They shared a few scarce Wi-Fi hot spots with friends so they could complete their college applications. Several schools greeted us with cheers when we arrived. Students in Puerto Rico are hungry for college information.

My time in Puerto Rico often reminds me why I love my job. I like to think higher education is the business of changing lives. While I hope some of the students I spoke with will explore Penn State further, perhaps the most important thing they learn from College Week is that a college education is possible and opportunities abound.

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Andrea Konkol, right, at the the big public college fair. The other woman in the picture with Konkol is Glendalys Millan, mother of one of our current students Paola Maldonado-Millan.  Konkol said Millan graciously volunteered to help her at the fair because the Penn State table tends to be so busy.

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Students at Academy San Jose.

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The San Juan skyline.

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Oustside the American Military Academy in Puerto Rico.

 

Students Will Spend Spring Break Aiding in Hurricane Cleanup

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By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

When Hurricane Harvey blew into Houston, Texas, in August of 2017, it altered everything in its path, causing at least $125 billion in damages and claiming 108 lives.

More than 1,350 miles away, Harvey continued to effect change, motivating those planning Penn State Behrend’s Alternative Spring Break service trip to veer off course.

“We had spent all summer looking for a trip that would focus on homelessness, but once Harvey happened, we felt that the need for volunteers would be more prevalent in the south,” said Elizabeth Mamros, a senior Mechanical Engineering major and president of Reality Check, the service club that orchestrates Alternative Spring Break each year.

“We got in touch with Community Collaborations International, a company that coordinates experiential education projects, and they already had people there assessing the volunteer situation and potential projects for spring break,” Mamros said.

Twenty-four students and four advisers will be leaving Behrend early Saturday morning to spend a week working in Beaumont, Texas.

“I think students are going to be surprised at the disarray that still exists six months after the hurricane. Most people have forgotten about it or assume it’s all cleaned up by now,” said Chis Fox, assistant director of civic engagement and the Smith Chapel. “But there’s still plenty of work to be done, especially in less populated and less affluent areas.

The Behrend group will be joined by students and advisers from other Penn State campuses, including Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Scranton, University Park, and York. In total, 100 Penn Staters are expected to be in Beaumont next week, helping residents recover from the catastrophic flooding that occurred as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Teams of students will be dispatched to various sites around Beaumont to work on projects ranging from mucking out and gutting flooded homes to cleaning and reconstruction.

Groups will stay in the Community Collaborations International Volunteer Facility, and sleep in a gym or classrooms with men and women in separate quarters. Volunteers will work, rain or shine, and time will be spent each evening reflecting on the work of the day.

Penn State Behrend students attending are: Emily Archer, Hannah Carlino, Seth Cowen, Safinaz Elhadary, Joshua Hecht, Janelle Housler, Ashley Jankowski, Ashlyn Kelly, Kris Knorr, Nicole Kuhn, Kaitlyn Lacey, Max Magera, Celeste Makay, Liz Mamros, Kelly Miller, Angelica Miller, Katie Murphy, Priya Patel, Pearl Patterson, Brianna Riley, Gretchen Shaffer, Alex Sienerth, Lidong (Thomas) Wang, and Danielle Wieczorek.

The four staff members who volunteered to accompany the students are: me — Heather Cass, publications manager in the Office of Strategic Communication; Chis Fox, assistant director of civic engagement and the Smith Chapel; Chris Harben, assistant teaching professor of management; and Will Taylor, an Americorps VISTA intern at Penn State Behrend.

Behrend’s ASB group have been preparing for the trip by discussing the disaster in Texas and relief efforts, participating in safety and basic maintenance workshops, and watching Trouble the Water, a documentary about the devastating flooding that occurred in New Orleans’ 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina. They have also been taking part in ice breakers and other activities to get to know one other better.

Check back here….or follow this blog (click on the “follow” button in the lower right hand side of your screen)…to see updates from Texas all next week.

Note: If you wish to support the students efforts in Texas with a donation to the Alternative Spring Break Program, contact Kathryn Buesink, assistant director of development, at klb44@psu.edu.

PLET students explore Austria and Germany

Guest Post by Haley Palys, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 12th, a group of PLET majors embarked on a 10-day trip to Austria and Germany. We asked student Haley Palys to keep a travel log and tell us about her trip. Here’s her report:

Oct. 12-13 — The Journey Begins.

Our bus to Toronto-Pearson Airport left at 9:00 a.m., so a few of us in the group decided to enjoy the Breakfast Place’s food one final time. We later arrived at Toronto early, leaving ourselves PLENTY of time to enjoy the airport’s free Wi-Fi and long lines. A couple hours later, and we were off to Austria (not Australia).

As soon as we arrived in the Vienna Airport, I knew this city was beautiful. Unfortunately, the jet lag wiped out majority of the group. I decided to walk to the famous Museum-Quartier square, and in the Volksgarten, enjoying the perfect weather and sunny skies. Others in our group opted to check out the Natural History Museum and explore.

Everyone got to experience the famous Viennese food, including my first bites of the wiener-schnitzel (and my favorite now)! Meat, cheese, bread, and Italian food were on menus across the town, yet it was all in German, so we couldn’t read it anyways. Later into the night (7:30 p.m.), I was fighting the jet lag while others were still getting to know the city.

Oct. 14 — Exploring Vienna

Everyone met at 8:30 a.m. after a refreshing breakfast of orange juice, sliced meats and cheeses, and bread. Within 30 minutes of walking through the fresh air, I was awake and feeling good.

Our group of six got to the Schloss Schönbrunn as it opened and began to walk the yards. The entire estate was jaw-dropping, especially how large it was. Then we learned it was only a summer-house for the royal family. We then toured thirty-six of the rooms in the palace, which all were stunning—my favorite being the ballroom and porcelain room. Out of the whole experience though, the pretzels and fresh-pressed orange juice at the café blew our minds. We were all done sooner than expected, giving us time to head over to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There we toured the catacombs, saw some bones, and then climbed 343 steps for a gorgeous view of the city. After a long day of walking, we found a spot on the Danube River to sit and watch the river boats do 180°s.

For lunch I had a grilled salmon with hollandaise sauce, while the others enjoy more traditional dishes like bratwurst. Some even opted on trying out the non-alcoholic beers, and I struggled to avoid ordering “fizzy” water. Later for dinner, we shared some laughs at a nice outdoor-patio café and wine bar.

Oct. 15 — Saying Goodbye to Vienna

At 8:30 a.m., we were all packed and ready to head out to start the day. After locking up our stuff, we headed off to the Technology Museum. It was located close to the Schönbrunn, and had gorgeous views of the palace.

The exhibits were awesome, and the whole place was huge! We were enjoying the interactive exhibits along with the kids for a while, then realized just how much information there was. The whole museum was about four stories high, with about ten different areas ranging from Energy to Media based technology. After rushing through to get a look at everything, we enjoyed some delicious pizzas and pastas before heading back to pack up. We hopped on the train, and got a stunning view of the countryside and Alps.

Oct. 16 — ENGEL Tour

Our group started the day with some more cold cuts and cheese and bread, then an hour long bus ride to Schwertberg. We were lucky enough to be touring ENGEL, a global injection molding machine manufacturer. We spent the morning there and were served the fanciest lunch plates I have ever seen, with of course sparkling water and orange juice.

After touring the Schwertberg headquarter plant, we set off to the Dietech plant where the automation, or robot, equipment is manufactured. It was a quick tour, but we got to see a lot.

Afterwards, we left for St. Valentine where the big machinery is manufactured. This was truly incredible to see, because everything was bigger than anything I have seen or worked with. Tommy Vervoort and Joe Donofrio were familiar with these large tonnage machines thanks to past internships, and were able to ask questions to the engineers. At the end of the tour, my group was allowed to step inside the machine platens for a picture—that’s how big it was!

We said our thank-you’s and goodbyes, and headed off to the train station. We then left for Munich, enjoying even more views of the Alps along the way to Germany.

A small portion of the group will spend tomorrow in Innsbruck, Austria to spend some time on the slopes of the glacier, so they left to catch their own connection train. They stayed the night there and will spend the next day skiing until their train to Munich arrives.

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Innsbruck, Austria

We who went straight to Munich found their way to our own hostels. After the long day of traveling I needed some comforts of home—so we went to the KFC down the block for dinner, while the others spent a little more time trying to find a good place to eat and walked around Munich.

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ENGEL tour, Austria

Oct. 17 — Munich Adventures

Today was another free cultural day, and I had planned to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. Our group arrived close to the opening time, so the already somber camp seemed even more chilling and empty. The actual museum was moving and gave an in-depth look into life at Dachau. The grounds were serene, despite the immense history surrounding us.

After the solemn tour, I wanted to cheer myself up, so we wandered through Munich past the Marienplatz, and ended up at the Hofbrau Haus for lunch. We each enjoyed some traditional Bavarian meals and drinks, and I was ready to buy all the pretzels I could find.

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With our stomachs full, we decided to walk it off and check out the famous English Garden. Specifically, we wanted to see the Eisbach, or the man-made “perfect surfing wave” in the streets of Munich.

On the way there we ran into some others in our group at an art museum. Ryan Bauer then clued us in on some architectural history of the museum. It was once a Nazi headquarters, and was converted to an officers’ mess hall after WW2, but evidence of its origin, swastika tiling, could be found on the ceiling right outside the front door.

After we had out fill of the street surfers, we strolled past a nude park [unexpected], and began our walk back to the hostel. We walked through the Hofgarten and saw the Bavarian State Chancellery, which also had evidence of the war. Along the front columns, large bullet holes painted the façade.

Oct. 18 — Neuschwanstein Castle

Everyone made their way to the train station at 6:30 a.m. promptly, and boarded the train towards Füssen. Half the group got their tickets for the tours of both castles, and we started our uphill trek towards Neuschwanstein. The fifteenth-century castle was stunning from all views, but the scenery around us was even more breathtaking. We climbed the mountain adjacent to the castle for a birds-eye view of not only the castle, but the mountainous landscapes, pristine lake reflections, and miles of farm land.

Once we had our fill of Neuschwanstein, we took a horse carriage ride down the hill and headed to the other side of the valley to see Hohenschwangau castle. And once again the views took my breathe away. After eating some bratwursts for lunch, we met up with another group to head back to Munich.

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Oct. 19 — Rosenheim University Tour

Today we were fortunate enough to spend the day at Rosenheim, a university in which some Behrend students have studied abroad at. We were shown around their plastics lab, and got to see all the machines and capabilities they had. We were then treated to lunch, and then sprinted to catch our train back to Munich. We retrieved our bags, and headed to Bieberach to spend the night and rest.

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Rosenheim University, Germany

Oct. 20 — FAKUMA Show

After enjoying some more lunch meat, orange juice, and bread for breakfast, we left for the FAKUMA show, a case show for companies in the plastics industry to network to customers and showcase their newest technologies and capabilities. We had about five hours to walk around eight different buildings which were each jammed-packed with companies.

We somehow made it through everything (and still missed a lot), and showed off our gadgets and trinkets with each other. The highlight of this was a watch that Arburg, and injection molder manufacturer, was assembling and giving away.

Oct. 21 — Heidelberg

As this was our last day to enjoy Germany, I decided to relax and just walk and see how much of the city I could see. One group hiked up to a famous outlook of the city and Heidelberg Palace, and discovered some more castles along the way. We even found an American themed bar next to the hostel, and showed everyone there how to properly eat a burger (not with a fork and knife).

Auf wiedersehen, Deutschland!

 

 

 

 

 

PLET Students in Germany – Days 6-10

Guest Post by Ian Duchene, Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 20th, thirty-three PLET majors embarked on a 10-day trip to Germany. We asked them to tell us about their journey. In this blog post, students give us a report on the remaining days of the trip:

Image result for Mercedes-Benz Museum

Day 6 — Tuesday, October 25, 2016

An early morning checkout from our hostel lead to a couple sleepy train rides to Stüttgart. Upon arrival the group split in two, one exploring the city while the other boarded yet another train to the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Once at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, the students were guided through the spiral halls which showcased the many automobiles produced by the company throughout their long history.

The students who stayed back from the museum went sightseeing in the city with a couple of professors. First, they went to the Schlossplatz and the palace Neues Schloss. Neues Schloss was the seat of the Kings of Wurtemburg and had multiple neat statues.

They also checked out the Schillerplatz, which was named after the famed poet Friedrich Schiller, but today houses many market stalls. For sale at the stalls were a multitude of goods, including exotic fruits and freshly baked bread.

The Stiftskirche, next to the plaza, is a beautiful church that was home to evangelical Lutherans in Stuttgart. Johanneskirche is another church the students visited. It had a spectacular view, showcasing a pond full of ducks and a swan. For lunch, they went to a German brauhaus to eat traditional German food, including spätzle.

After the tour, the two groups met again at the Stüttgart HBF and proceeded to the hostel. The hostel was perched high on a hill which provided a beautiful overlook of the city.

Schlossplatz was a hub for foot traffic as the setting sun lit the city’s small streets just in time for dinner. Shops, restaurants, and historical bullrings created a maze around Schlossplatz. The extra exercise gave way to an early night for the young student globetrotters; although a 6 am wake up call the previous and ensuing day may have been a factor as well.

Ian Duchene, Myles Mike, Eric Santini, and Glenn Spiering 

Day 7 — Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Needing to be at the train station by 8:15 a.m., it was yet another early morning wake-up call. Everyone was reaching for a cup of coffee!

By 10:00 a.m., the class reached the Arburg injection molding manufacturing plant in Loßburg, Germany. Upon arrival, everyone received a name tag with their full name.

At the facility, we went to a brief video presentation which gave an overview of the company and their current strides within the plastics industry. Following the video, we split in two groups to tour the facility.

For a private, family-owned company, their facility was enormous. Everyone was in awe with the size of the facility as well as the project management and creative thinking that goes into running an operation this large. There were automatic robots on rail tracks from the ceiling that would carry parts from one work station to the next. The robots had sensors prevent collisions.

Unfortunately, we were not permitted to take any pictures while in the facility. So, you’ll have to trust us when we tell you that it was incredible.

At the end of the tour, students received a delicious free lunch. Before leaving, everyone was given a parting gift, an Arburg umbrella. We then boarded a train back to Stüttgart where we would yet again split in two groups.

One group would head to the Porsche Museum while the other began their journey to Munich where we will be for the remainder of the trip.

— Ian

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Neuschwanstein Castle

Day 8 — Thursday, October 27, 2016

A 6:45 a.m. train took us to Neuschwanstein Castle in Fußen, Germany. The castle was built for King Ludwig II in 1869 and took many years to build. Unfortunately, he only lived there for 172 days before he was found dead in a nearby pond. To this day, his death is still a mystery. Neuschwanstein became open to the general public within six months of the Kings passing. Since then, it has grown to be a major tourist attraction in Southern Germany. (I wonder if he was killed so they could make a small fortune on tours! LOL.).

Following a tour of the inside of the castle, everyone took a ten-minute hike up a pathway that led to a bridge with a beautiful view of the castle. A foggy morning led to great speculation of whether or not we would be able to see the castle from the bridge. Thankfully, the fog had cleared by the time we reached bridge and the view was astounding…

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Following the trip to Neuschwanstein groups parted ways to explore Munich with many students eating dinner at the original Hofbräuhaus.

— Ian

Image result for rosenheim university of applied sciences

Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences

Day 9 — Friday, October 28, 2016

Students had yet another early morning wake up call—this time for Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences. Every student was in shock upon learning that there is no tuition for students of Rosenheim. The only fee is 52€ per semester for activity and facility fees. After viewing two presentations, the students split into two groups to tour the plastics engineering facilities.

Spread across a few different buildings, the labs consisted of a few different injection molding machines, multiple different extruders, thermoformers, a few stamping presses, and something that was new to many of us, a wood chipper and grinder for wood fiber additives.

The plastics program itself seemed very research-oriented and heavily influenced by industry needs. The tour was interesting and it was interesting to learn how another plastics program runs on the other side of the world.

— Ian

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Dachau Concentration Camp today

Day 10 (Final Day) — Saturday, October 30, 2016

Many of the students took the morning to visit the nearby Dachau Concentration Camp from WWII. The weather for the visit was appropriately somber and heavy and the students carried that with them while trying to imagine the horrors that took place on the very ground on which they walked. For the first time on the trip, there was no jubilant conversation or laughter, just simple and respectful silence.

Following the trip to Dachau, the students were granted the day to explore Munich and collect souvenirs for their loved ones back home. There was a mandatory check-in at 6:00 p.m. after which students were led to their final dinner where the professors and Chancellor Ralph Ford were present!

— Ian

 

 

 

 

PLET Students in Germany: Days 2 & 3

Guest Post by Ian Duchene, Plastics Engineering Technology major

No matter how vivid the photos or descriptive the lecture, there’s nothing quite like seeing and experiencing another country in person. And, in today’s increasingly global business climate, it’s vital that students be versed in the culture and business practices of international partners. There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it. That’s why, every year, students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program have the opportunity to travel overseas to visit plastics companies and universities and attend a plastics trade show, too.

On Thursday, Oct. 20th, thirty-three PLET majors embarked on a 10-day trip to Germany. We asked them to tell us about their journey. In this blog post, students Ian  Duchene gives us a report from days 2 & 3 of the trip:

cologne-cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Day 2

We landed in Frankfurt, Germany, at 6:00 a.m. We quickly boarded a train to Cologne (Köln). Upon dropping off luggage at our Youth Hostel, students enjoyed the day out discovering Cologne.

A staple of the city is the Cologne Cathedral where it is claimed the three Wise Men are buried. The cathedral is open to the general public so many students went in to appreciate the walls of stained glass and the rich history and sanctuary of the cathedral.

Another large attraction where students spent some time was the Museum Ludwig across the square from the cathedral. This art museum is home to three floors of artwork with a strong focus on pop art. The main attraction of the museum was that it is home to over 50 Pablo Picasso pieces.

Aesthetically beautiful cobblestone streets lead to many venues and bars where students found delicious meals of bratwurst and doner kebabs.

german

Day 3

Today marked the second cultural activity day where students were permitted to travel in their own groups across the city doing activities of their choice. With about ten hours under our belts in Cologne, students have already become more comfortable in the environment and getting around the local area on their own.

One group traveled to the nearby Kölner Zoo. Another larger group traveled to a soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim. And multiple groups went to the Shokoladen Museum and the Cologne Cathedral with a few groups climbing to the top of the cathedral.

One student remarked “the soccer game was a great experience, the energy in the stadium was intense, and it was interesting to see how a different country passed their free time.” The team that they were supporting was Bayer Leverkusen, but they lost after ninety minutes.  After arriving in Cologne, they learned that Leverkusen is not the home team.  The scarves purchased from the game that represented Leverkusen were quickly removed!

At the Shokoladen (chocolate) Museum students enjoyed plenty of free samples of Lindt chocolate. There was also an exhibit of chocolate rotational molding that really grabbed the groups attention as it is a similar process to plastic rotational molding.

 ~ Ian