GlobalMBA Cohort 19: Coronavirus update

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WARSAW— The grocery stores are madhouses, as are the Rossmans (think CVS or Wal-

greens). The soap/hand sanitizers aisle and toilet paper aisles at the latter are near empty. Classes at the University of Warsaw (UW) are canceled until April 14 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.  The World Health Organization today declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic.

A Polish colleague in the cohort first found out classes were canceled through the news and notified the rest of us late on March 10. Classes were canceled as of March 11.

The University of North Florida (UNF) has suspended all summer study abroad programs. 

As of today, March 11, Cohort 19 was specifically told via email by UW and UNF program directors to stay in Poland, for now. The plan is to continue classes here remotely.

As of today, there are 27 reported coronavirus cases in Poland. According to Restriction III in UNF’s Coronavirus March 10 update, if there are more than 100 cases in the country in which students are currently abroad on university travel, students are required to return to the U.S. and recommended to self quarantine for 14 days. See a global map here.

The GlobalMBA program, which the eight U.S. students have collectively invested more than $160,000 in tuition alone, is a double master degree program with one semester in each of four countries: fall in Germany, spring in Poland (our current residence), summer in China and fall in the U.S., with students from each country participating together. 

Due to U.S. immigration office safety precautions and regulations, the fear is the non-US students will not be allowed into the U.S. after going to China to complete the semester. 


This leaves Cohort 19 with a whirl of questions*:

  • If we do continue our semester in Poland, which recently started, remotely, what does reimbursement for our tuition look like? It is common knowledge that in-class instruction is generally more expensive than remote courses, and in-class instruction is what we paid for.
  • Many cohort members invested in the program specifically to be able to live and study in China, as this is such an incredible opportunity especially when considering a career in international business. How are the program directors working to adapt the program to still accommodate this expectation? Have they considered delaying the China semester to Spring 2021 or Summer 2021 with next years’ cohort?
  • If our semester in China is also remote, how much will the cost of tuition decrease?
  • What happens to our program if none of the non-American students are allowed into the U.S. due to immigration office restrictions from fear of the coronavirus?
  • For some cohort members, graduating on time in Dec. 2020 is the priority. For others, the intercultural experience of a semester in China is the most important factor. Will the cohort’s concerns be weighed into the  options and decision-making for the future of the program?
  • And, perhaps the most important one, how will the Chinese government all governments be held accountable on the global stage for their part in the spread of the coronavirus with their own false narratives or secrecy and suppression of the danger, to help ensure a global situation such as this will not happen again?

*Note: not all Cohort members share every question or applicability of affectedness

Welcome to Warsaw, now eat some pierogis

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The semester in Cologne ended with finals and more group projects than I’ve worked on throughout my entire prior university career.

So long, Cologne!

I found an awesome apartment on and flew via RyanAir straight into the Modlin Airport just about an hour from Warsaw’s city center.

Agnieszka, a Warsaw native and fellow friend in Cohort 19, showed me around the Old Town and took me straight to Zapiecek, a traditional Polish restaurant where I enjoyed a plate full of pierogis.

Classes at the University of Warsaw have begun and the vibe is totally different than it was in Cologne. It is a welcome and refreshing change. Na Zdrowie!

GlobalMBA Cohort 19

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Our small groups of international dual-degree graduate students that had been trickling into Cologne from different parts of the world became Cohort 19 on Monday, September 30, when we were all together for the first time. Students from the United States, Germany, Poland, China, France and Italy filled the seats in Ubierring 48, room 211.

We started the day with orientation and a campus tour which included the other building, Claudiusstraße, and had lunch in the Mensa (student cafeteria). We thought we were going on a City Tour after lunch, per the schedule, but it turned out to be a hurried scavenger hunt.

We returned to Claudiusstraße, and champagne was poured. There was even a barrel of Kölsch specifically for us. (Talk about cultural differences! Drinking has never been encouraged in an academic setting in the U.S. in my experience.) At this point, everyone was exhausted, but managed to keep drinking, eating and socializing through the full 10-hour day.

Tuesday and Wednesday were Intercultural Training days. This presented us the opportunity to get to know each other a little better with games and activities before classes begin next week. We talked of differences in the university settings in each country, among other surface cultural differences. While some of us looked forward to delving a bit deeper, we are going to keep looking forward to it, because it was not the space for dialogue beyond the bullet points. The place for those conversations will likely be in our actual Intercultural Communication classes.

October 3rd is Germany’s National Day of Unity, so everyone had Thursday day off, and the shops were all closed (like on Sundays here). Friday we had off, too! Monday we have our introduction class with Professor Sander, and on Tuesday the semester officially begins. 

International Center KARIBU Buddy Potluck

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I didn’t meet my buddy, because he’s in Brazil, but I did attend the International Center of Technische Hochschule Köln’s KARIBU buddy potluck on Friday! The room was packed and the tables were full of food from all regions of the world. The idea was to bring something you would find on your table in your home country. So, what did a couple of students from the U.S. bring? Peanut Butter and Jelly. A classic.

Walking tour of Cologne

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The photo above represents the architecture before World War II. Across the street, the buildings look much more modern.

I went on a walking tour of Cologne with FreeWalk Cologne at 16:11. Our tour guide was Kristina, and I learned all sorts of historical tidbits about the city from her. (Don’t worry, you will still learn a ton if you do one yourself! Psst…Kristina, if I got anything wrong just let me know, okay? Edit: Kristina has reviewed! Thanks, Kristina!) For instance, there were once 12 medieval gates surrounding the city and three are still standing, including the one that the seal pictured below was on. The three crowns represent the Three Kings, or wise men, who brought the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on the day of Jesus’s birth. The remains of the Three Wisemen are kept in the Cologne Cathedral, which was constructed specifically for this purpose.

I learned of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, and how Cologne girls are said to “have pepper in their butt.” Which means, they get what they want. Agrippina wanted to marry her uncle Claudius, the emperor of Rome. So, they married in 49 A.D. Agrippina also wanted the name of the town she was born in to become a Roman colony. And hence, “Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium” was born, which was shortened to Colonia which morphed into “Cologne” and in German “Köln.”

I learned of Ursula (who’s since been sainted) and how she was having what has come to be known as a bachelorette party with 11 virgin women (which has evolved to thousands in folklore), and decided to go have a chat with the Huns to try to convince them not to destroy Cologne. Well, the Huns leader thought the women were meant as a “gift,” and burned or drowned (hence the flame or droplets in the seal, though some accounts say beheaded) them all and left Cologne alone.

The red and white in the seal represent the colors of the city, and together they make pink! Cologne is full of heart, and is also home to the biggest gay community in Germany.

The street art above by Thomas Baumgärtel  is supposed to symbolize conquering the city with a banana, and was crafted in protest of the local government and business’s attempt to drive the artists out of their former galleries and workshops.

Because Cologne is SO proud of their Cathedral, and it is SO important in Cologne, it is its own sign of protest to picture the Cathedral in the background or as insignificant (as it is above).

The banana has become a “stamp of approval” that the artist paints on the outside of art houses in Cologne.

Above is the inside of a former Jesuit church in Cologne, now home to the Italian Catholic Community here, St. Mariä Himmelfahrt. This church, also featured below, is a block from the Cologne Cathedral.

Cologne itself was hit 262 times by bombs, and 650,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the entire state of North-Rhine Westphalia during WWII, and some are still in the ground. When construction is happening in the city and one is found, the whole neighborhood must be evacuated. Not only bombs are found. The wall featured below was built around the year 50, while a parking garage was being built in the center of the city, right next to the Cathedral. The garage was built around it.

While the Cathedral was being built, the architects went off the rule “as above, so below,” as there were no precedents set for building a skyscraper in year 1248, so the foundation is huge. Fourteen aerial bombs hit the Cathedral (der Dom) during the war. Citizens of Cologne would run out at night with buckets to put the fires out. “Home is where the Dom is” is a common saying here, meaning that the people of Cologne feel a strong connection to the Cathedral.

Construction was nowhere close to completion by the time Napoleon arrived. He thought it would be a great stable for his horses and ammunition. The Prussians offered to finish the Dom even though the Catholic Church had been working on on and off for 500 years… Nowadays, there is always scaffolding, so, it is essentially under constant construction.

Cologne has even added its own goat-gargoyle, which urban legend has it is “Hennes,” Cologne’s real-live goat football (-not American football, obviously-) mascot, as seen below.

Pictured below is the old City Hall. Can you guess who up there suggested taxing alcohol?That’s all for my virtual tour! You’ll have to go on one yourself to find out why it started eleven minutes after the hour. Tschüss!

7 Instagram-Worthy Things To Do in Cologne

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1. Festivities. What makes the time you’re there special? I arrived in the midst of Cologne’s fourth annual Chinese Festival, which took place right outside the Cologne Cathedral. The Cathedral, it so happens, is right next to the Hauptbahnhof where I first arrived in Cologne 24 hours before. I walked around the market and ate vegetarian spring rolls and noodles.

2. Rhine River. It was 76 degrees Fahrenheit on a Sunday in September, which meant the sunlight was swiftly slipping away as the winter months approach. So we walked along the Rhine, one of the major European rivers. It flows in a northerly direction, and right through Cologne.

3. Shopping District. The blocks near the Cathedral are where you will find all the shopping you could want. The roads are flourishing with pedestrians, people just don’t drive there. There’s an H&M, Zara, New Yorker and even an English market. TK Maxx (it’s TK Maxx here) isn’t far either. The Apple store was not home in the modern build often seen in its U.S. stores, but housed in architecture that made its logo almost look displaced.

4. Love Locks. Walk across the Hohenzollern bridge and maybe even lock your own love up there! Tens of thousands of couples have pledged their love this way already, and it is truly an overwhelming amount of love to walk by if you think about it.

5. Cologne Cathedral. It was built to house the remains of the Three Kings (Three Wisemen) and took more than 600 years to build. The foundation was laid in 1248 and it was finally completed in 1880. For those first four years, it was the tallest building in the world.

6. Sunset. With the Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge, you can’t go wrong. If you stick around long enough, you may even get to see the Cathedral light up at night. I ate with my colleagues across the river at Grissini, a restaurant with walls of windows so you can’t miss the view.

7. Nightlife. The trains run late into the night here, so whether you go out for one Kölsch, the traditional brew of Köln, or twenty (they come in small glasses for less than 2 euros a piece + your server will continuously refill your glass unless you put a coaster over it to signal you are done), you will be able to get home without operating a vehicle yourself. From art exhibits, to brew houses, to karaoke, to opera, techno, jazz and punk, there’s something special here for anyone.