All posts by Jochem Elsinga & Richard Gankema

Daily blog: 11 November – Veterans Day

Today we had a culture day: in the USA today was veterans day, which is a public holiday and meant we couldn’t have any company visits. This was not necessarily a bad thing as it gave us a chance to explore San Francisco as a group. The committee had organized a fun day out for us. The day started at 9:30 (a luxury for study tour standards) with breakfast.

After breakfast, at around 10:30, we grouped up and walked to a nearby muni bus which would take us to pier 33. First thing on the list of cultural activities was visiting Alcatraz which used to be a USP and is located on an island in the San Francisco bay. It is quite a famous prison which is known from pop culture and from its inmates, which includes convicts such as Al Capone. We would take a ferry from pier 33 to the island. Once on Alcatraz we were free to take a look around for approximately 1.5 hours before we had to move on. Most participants, including myself, took the audio tour of the cell blocks in which life on Alcatraz for both officers and inmates was described. The Alcatraz visit was wrapped up by the ferry ride back to the mainland.
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Once back on the mainland the next cultural activity was going to be a bike tour over the famous Golden Gate bridge. All we had to do was take a “relatively small” walk to the bike rental shop called Blazing Saddles. At the store the guides were, in typical american fashion, very enthusiastic about giving us a tour of the bridge. We all had to wear a helmet and got a bike. We then had to prove we could ride it by cycling a short distance and breaking. The guide was also really excited about this highfiving people as they breaked.
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The bike tour was not only of the Golden Gate bridge but also of the surrounding area. For example we cycled through the marina district of San Francisco (which is one of the richest areas) and also made a stop at the Fine Arts Dome which was very impressing. Many pictures where taken at the Dome including a very fun group shot with several people still wearing their bicycle helmets.
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The final stop before the bridge was a beautiful lookout point, which used to be an army barracks, from which we had an amazing view of the Golden Gate bridge. Again many pictures were taken including several selfies and some group shots. Once all the pictures were taken and everyone had a small rest it was time to “cycle the bridge” which included a steep climb to the top and then about a 0.4mile bike across the Golden Gate.
After crossing the bridge we had to reach a ferry which would take us back to our side of San Francisco so that we could return the bikes and go to dinner. On the ferry we got to see Alcatraz from another angle and as it was getting dark we got the see the whole of San Francisco light up in front of us which was a beautiful sight.
Back on land everyone was very excited for dinner, not only because we were hungry after a long day of cycling, but also because we were going to have burgers. Also not just any burgers, the committee had done some research and had found the best burger joint in San Francisco. This time instead of a short walk we luckily took public transportation to get the the burger place. Although we do not know how good other burger restaurants are in the city we can say that this place definitly had some great burgers.
So dinner was great and afterwards it was around 8:30. Although it was not yet that late most people were ready to turn in. It would be about a 30 – 60 minute trip back to the hostel and we had a very busy day ahead of us. On Wednesday we would have to wake up around 5:00 in the morning to get ready to visit Berkeley Labs and Berkeley University, which you will all be able to read about tomorrow.
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Daily blog: 8 november – Almost There

Written by: Jeroen Vollenbrock, Travel Coordinator USB 14.0

A study tour is an odd thing. When you join the University you are usually expected to study, and perhaps partake in some activities. Then all of a sudden, you’re walking arround as one of the travel coordinators for the new study tour. It seems like a lifetime ago, however cheesy it may sound.

To be fair, it HAS been over a year since our committee was formed on the 6th of June 2013 and a lot has happened since then. Long before we met most of the participants, we were already having heated debates about our theme, name and destinations. We’ve asked many professors what would be interesting countries to visit and what kinds of Smart Surroundings they are developing there.

The second step was getting all of the participants on board, while Kaspar also started to prepare the research. 2014 came around and we decided on who we would bring on our travels, giving Robin all the necessary information to get started with the task of arranging all contract research assignments in order to get a positive cash flow going.

As travel coordinators, we have had the advantage of our work starting last, and the disadvantage of our workload steadily increasing. In January of this year, we made a first start with all travel related tasks for our tour. We started to set up visits by using our slowly expanding network in the destination countries. After a while, we also started contacting companies outside of our network. This often required us to stay awake till early in the morning, as the time difference between us and the companies could be as much as 9 hours.

Our evenings were mainly filled with calling, sending e-mails, improving our schedule and keeping up our good spirits. Whenever we tended to fall into a routine we would inevitably get an e-mail from another company we wanted to visit, or find an e-mail in our inbox announcing a cultural visit had been confirmed. Only when a company confirmed our visit, we would finally be able to fall asleep while feeling great!

Time was racing toward us and while most of the participants were working on their CR assignment, we got down to business to defeat the still empty spots in our schedule. Aside from organizing company visits, we never got to catch our breath with more and more tasks heading our way, such as booking transfers, accommodation, dinners and cultural trips, and not to mention the creation of the travel guide.

With less than 5 hours left before departure, i’m now finishing up this post. This will allow me to get a few hours sleep before i will have to wake up, grab my luggage, and the box containing all travel guides, travel scripts, name badges, emergency recovery plans, travel vouchers and all other required documents. Then, i will head towards the spiegel where we will all depart. As you’re reading this we’ve probably already departed, and are on our way to what hopefully is going to be the greatest tour of our life.

Oh, i almost forgot to mention: the tour schedule can now be found here.

Tour details

The specific dates for the study tour are now known! The tour will depart during the 8th of November 2014, and end at the 2nd of December.

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A more detailed route is also available:
- San Francisco ~ 7 days
- Los Angeles ~ 3 days
- Sao Paulo ~ 4 days
- Brasilia ~ 3 days
- Rio de Janeiro ~ 5 days

About 30% of the tour will consist of cultural activities, while 70% of the tour will consist of visits to high-tech universities and companies related to the theme ‚Smart Surroundings’.

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We’re also happy to announce the study tour info drink at 16:00 on the 16th of December 2013 in the MBasement (Edu-Cafe). If you’re unsure wether you want to participate or still have some questions, you’re welcome to have them answered. If you are sure you will participate, you’re also invited to socialize with other participants or help convincing those still in doubt. Be there!

Please note: this schedule has slightly changed, the new schedule can be found at the tour page.