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Culture and Commerce in Central Europe

The arrangements for the travel, housing, meals, excursions and course content of this program have been made by the leader. Questions about this program can only be answered by the program leader listed below.

Program Type Departmental
Program Location Munich, Germany and Rotterdam, Netherlands
Course # SA 11003
Duration Spring Break
Upcoming Program Dates
Spring Break 2022 03/12/22 to 03/20/22

Program Leader

Name Jim Tanoos
Due to COVID-19, programs may be altered or adapted with little notice

Enrollment Details: Enrollment Currently Closed
Program is full for spring break 2022. Please check back for future opportunities.

Program Description

Hello.  I'm here to help, so feel free to get ahold of me.  I've taken Purdue students to these cities on past Study Abroads for years and have traveled to these cities for decades.  Go here- - for past trip reports from these cities (and others).

Boiler Up, Jim



Below is a rundown of the trip.  Feel free to get in contact with me if you want to see the associated pictures from past trips via the full proposal (you can also go to for a rundown of our adventures from past trips!... keyword "Rotterdam" or "Munich")



The mission of the Purdue University Honors College is to create and foster well-rounded, well-educated global leaders. The proposed Study Away (SA) program described here has been designed to fulfill these worthy aims.

Dean Phillips of the Honors College stated that “An honors-enhanced education is all about mind-expanding opportunities”, and this trip has been created with this goal in mind. In addition, the experiences on this trip are tailored to address several pillars of the Honors College through applicable and relevant experiential learning, specifically 1) global experiences, 2) interdisciplinary content, and 3) leadership development. Truly, this Study Away allows for a complete student learning experience in conjunction with the Dean’s stated goal as well as valuable pillars of the Honors College.

Students will fully experience the dynamic Central European cities of Rotterdam, Netherlands and Munich, Germany for four days each. They will take part in tours and excursions associated with the overarching themes of “culture” and “commerce”. The host will use his experience as well as his logistical know-how from serving as a developer and host to past Purdue SAs (see pictures from previous trips below) in order to provide a vibrant and memorable student experience.


Two Inter-Related Trip Themes: Culture and Commerce

Cantor (2018) said that the beginning of culture was in the 19th century “up until 1800, the world was too poor to care about art. The triumph of capitalism created a mass audience” for cultural development such as the arts. The rise of management and economic pedagogy and eventually division of labor facilitated discretionary income and the willingness to use downtime such as Sundays as leisure time. Eventually, holidays became more commonplace, facilitated by enhanced innovations in transportation, that allowed travel to other countries and interaction with other cultures. Soon, multinational companies and trade ensued, furthering the intersection of culture and commerce and need to cultivate it. “Without attaining a certain sophisticated level of economic development, cannot have what we now think of as culture” (Cantor, 2018).

Commerce has been both positively affected as well as hindered by changes in cultural norms in Central Europe. The past several generations have seen notable political events that have dramatically altered the destiny of commerce in the region, which has witnessed historic shifts in styles of governments. This evolution has had far-reaching effects on every aspect of the lives of the citizens. For instance, the importance of basic port access and control and their relation to the economic viability of the region changed greatly time and time again because history has proven that control over the goods transported via ports as well as control of operations are of key importance in both wartime and peacetime. This is especially true in Central Europe.

Both the culture and the commerce of Central Europe are world-renowned. Rotterdam, Netherlands and Munich, Germany, were chosen for this SA because of their proximity, influence, and linkage to this booming economic epicenter, which also comprises the heart of world-influencing culture and political change. While these cities have rich recent histories of strong economic competitiveness in the international marketplace and are considered economic hubs, they also maintain and innovatively enhance their distinct cultural imprint. Truly, culture and commerce are intertwined and interrelated in this area of the world. As such, our group activities for this SA have been developed based on these themes.

For instance, inherent cultural experiences consist of partaking in the local cuisine. In Central Europe, dining with colleagues and collaborators plays a significant role in successful organizational relationships. A core component of the trip will be gaining insight through experiential learning related to local food and regional cuisine. The food in both Rotterdam and Munich provides a link to history, culture, common bonds, and social relationships, and we will experience a variety of local food through guided tours and food vendor-hopping journeys which will be distinct in both cities.

Central Europe is known for its political history, and another aspect of this SA is political leadership as it relates to commerce, with a specific focus on historical sites where governmental actions have had major impacts on local and national economies. There are many rich, significant destinations in these cities that will give students firsthand insight related to the history and innovation of commerce in each city. For instance, the Germans controlled and operated the Port of Rotterdam during World War II, which gave it control over the region’s goods and access to commerce.


Rotterdam, Netherlands: (3.5 days)


Rotterdam is a progressive, multicultural city whose mayor is the first in the country to be an immigrant (a Muslim, no less). New Economy (2016) noted that “Rotterdam has embraced innovation and experimental programs in order to develop into one of the world’s most sustainable cities.” It has been chosen as the host of the 2025 World Expo, an international conference that addresses major global issues. In the past generation visitors have been "drawn to the city because of its new smooth-running transportation networks” (Rotterdam Marketing, 2016). The New York Times (2014) included Rotterdam as a top global “Place to Go”, Lonely Planet (2016) named it one of the world’s top 10 cities, and The Independent (2019) listed it among the best European cities to visit. It is quickly becoming a hot tourist destination, with overnight stays in hotels going up by double-digit percentages in recent years (Economische Verkenning Rotterdam, 2016).

Generally, food in Rotterdam is high in carbohydrates, allegedly because foods high in carbs were needed for the working class during the formation of the country. Similar dishes are eaten for breakfast and lunch in Rotterdam, consisting of bread (bagels) with toppings such as Dutch cheese. Mashed potatoes are common for dinner, and natural juices are a customary beverage. Many students will notice that bottled water and juice are served in a glass bottle with a separate glass to drink from. De Rotterdamsche Oude is a Rotterdam-made cheese developed to compete with the Amsterdam-made cheese that was being served at De Kuip, a famous Rotterdam sports stadium. The stadium owners decided to develop their own cheese they could claim for the city. This Rotterdam cheese can officially be called old if it has been aged more than 1 year.
Our group will experience Rotterdam via a South Holland Food Tour. Among other distinctly Dutch items, we will eat stroopwafel (Dutch cookie made of caramel and waffles baked in a waffle iron), Dutch bitterballen (gooey meatballs with a crispy coating), and Dutch-seasoned French fries eaten on a stick, dipped in mayonnaise.

The traditional last stop of the trip’s food tour is Fenix Food Factory, where we will cap off the food tour by eating exquisite Rotterdam cheese. It is located across the harbor, but it is scheduled to be torn down in 2021 so that a museum dedicated to the Holland Amerika Line can be built. The Holland Amerika Line was a cargo and transportation fleet originating at the Port that operated from 1873-1989. It took millions of travelers from Europe to America, including many persecuted European Jews before and during WWII. The Holland Amerika Line building is shown below in the picture on the left. The logistical center of the port (shown rising above the Holland Amerika Line building in the far right of the picture, below) coordinates all vessel transportation and management of the Port.

The City Center district of Rotterdam was completely flattened on May 14, 1940 during the Rotterdam Blitz, the surprise aerial attack by the German Air Force in the midst of official German-Dutch negotiations that prompted immediate surrender by the Dutch government. In their desire to gain immediate control over the integral Port of Rotterdam, the Germans threatened to destroy Amsterdam next if the Dutch did not surrender. The Dutch had been neutral in World War I, but were one of the first targets of the Germans in World War II. Only 4% of buildings survived the Blitz. The 80th anniversary of the Blitz will occur in 2020. Throughout the city are reminders of the Rotterdam Blitz and the city-wide fire that ensued. Markers at the boundaries of the fire show the perimeters of the fire within the city, which will be pointed out by our tour guide (seen in the picture below). Our walking tour of the city will take us through the heart of the area affected by the Rotterdam Blitz.

The Church of St. Lawrence (seen below, left) is the only medieval building left in Rotterdam. Erasmus (below, right) lived only a block away from the Church of Lawrence and was born during the initial construction phase of the church. Below, the St. Laurence church after the Rotterdam Blitz (picture below, center from Wikipedia) and how it looks today (left) are picdtured. The church was intentionally left by the Germans as an aerial landmark.

Built in 1914, the City Hall of Rotterdam (the Stadhuis op Coolsingel in Dutch) is one of the very few buildings in the city to survive the German bombing campaigns in World War II. It was no coincidence that City Hall survived the German bombs during the Rotterdam Blitz. German aerial precision strategically spared the City Hall and Post Office, since the records and data kept there would help them identify any supposed political enemies of Germany. Below is a picture of the outside of City Hall (right) with visible bullet holes from when German soldiers invaded the buildings in the immediate aftermath of the Rotterdam Blitz.

Rotterdam’s modern, international architectural look exists only because local leaders decided to rebuild in modern style after the Rotterdam Blitz. An example is the Markthal (Market Hall, see photo below, left), a public venue built in 2014 that has been labeled the food mecca of the Netherlands. It contains 96 restaurants and 228 apartments. Because Rotterdam’s City Center was rebuilt with mostly office buildings after World War II, there tended to be a problem for businesses after the close of the workday due to the lack of activity. Since the 1980s, new venues have been built (including the iconic cubed houses, below left) with apartments and residential accommodations in mind.

The first Rotary club in the Netherlands was chartered in 1923. Rotary became so successful in the Netherlands that by 1928, American Rotary founder Paul Harris visited some Dutch Rotary clubs. Today, the Netherlands has 478 clubs around the country (see pictures below of various Rotary club visits). Attending Rotary club meetings (coordinated by the host) provides a meaningful opportunity to dine with others in a formal setting.

An enjoyable daytrip consists of a visit to the city of Delft alongside Amsterdam, where we will visit the Anne Frank house (below, right). Both cities are accessible by public transportation. Delft resembles a typical Dutch town with its canals and quintessentially Dutch buildings, most of which are over 500 years old (see picture below, left). The New Church (“Nieuwe Kerk” in Dutch) was constructed in the 12th century and its tower was constructed in 1356. William of Orange, who lived there in 1572, led the Dutch resistance in Delft against the Spanish in the Eight Year’s War, and was entombed there in a mausoleum in 1584. Delft is a quiet, slow-moving, quintessentially Dutch town that stands in stark contrast to the modern architecture and fast-moving style of Rotterdam and the ultra-touristy Amsterdam.

-Commerce (Rotterdam)

The Netherlands employs the smallest percentage of its citizens in manufacturing of all European nations (European Union Eurostat, 2019) but serves as a supply chain epicenter. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and an integral cog in the European supply chain. It handles more cargo than any American port. The Port currently boasts “safety, accessibility and sustainability” as key priorities (Port of Rotterdam, 2019). In hopes of becoming the smartest port on earth, Dutch leaders recently put forth a comprehensive plan called Port Vision 2030. The Port recently received a loan of €900 million from the European Investment Bank due to the need for increased capacity, and it has been labeled by the EIB as a “vital organ” of the European region (European Investment Bank, 2015). Annually, it sees 323.2 million metric tons of incoming throughput and 145.7 of outgoing throughput (Port of Rotterdam, 2019). Automation and technology in the Port are constantly being upgraded. Automated cranes usually pick up and unload containers, and only 50,000 of 19 million containers are inspected in full.

There are said to be 13.5 million active cyclists in the country out of a population of only 16.5 million, the most per-capita bike usage of any country. Reflecting Dutch culture, our Port tour will be via bicycle. Our tour guide will first provide us a history of the construction of various phases of the Port, which tends to coincide with the peak of imports and exports of certain products. For instance, the massive Container Terminal was built in the 1960’s to accommodate the influx of American electrical appliance imports. Each area is constantly being modernized, including full automation in the Container Terminal. One of three consumer products in the EU goes through the Port of Rotterdam at some point. Below are pictures from our bike tour of the port.

The Dutch are trying to enhance their already-vibrant bicycle culture. Bikes are an important means of transportation for Dutch citizens, and the Dutch zest for innovation has translated into more than 3 million electric bikes being used in the country. The Dutch Parliament has banned sales of petrol and diesel automobiles by 2025, so all vehicles sold in the country will be electric by that year. In 2019, 200,000 of the 8 million cars in the country are already electric. The picture below displays the bike repository beneath Central Station where we will pick up and deposited our bikes for our port tour, and where hundreds of thousands more bikes are secured.

The corporate tax rate in the Netherlands is lower than that of neighboring Germany and France, and many attribute this business-friendly rate to the rise of Rotterdam as an affluent, global city during the past 20 years. Many multi-national companies thrive in Rotterdam as they take advantage of the city’s logistical amenities, including access to efficient water transportation. Water transportation is an important component of many harbor towns, and Rotterdam is no different. Erasmus University in Rotterdam features the internationally recognized School of Economics and School of History, Culture, and Communication. One means of getting to Erasmus University and around the port is by water taxi, which is free for all college students attending school in Rotterdam. We will also have the opportunity to utilize water taxis to better get from place to place. The Erasmus bridge can be seen from the water taxi (below, upper right). We will take a waterbus to get from point to point on our Port tour (seen in pictures below). 

One modern usage of the Port of Rotterdam includes the RDM (Research, Development, and Manufacturing) Innovation Dock, a collaborative effort with Hodgeschool Technical College. The campus runs several operations in the Innovation Dock, which is a group of inter-modal manufacturing workspaces occupied by young entrepreneurs who seek improved supply chain access for their products. Pieter Van Gelder designed the Innovation Dock area to include a community of houses and residential spaces behind it (which we will tour) so workers wouldn't have to travel far for work. Today, student machining and robotics labs work in conjunction with the Innovation Dock’s startup organizations. Students attending the various colleges and universities located on or near the harbor are often employed by these startups. We will be able to look around at the various projects, including a new energy concept for a Formula 1 vehicle.

The emphasis on pedestrians and bicycle riders will be apparent in our logistics. Unlike the other cities on the Study Away, Rotterdam gives precedence to bikes and pedestrians at all crossings, with the recognizable red bike lanes seemingly everywhere (see picture below, left). In lieu of any specific stop signal, pedestrians and bikes assume the right-of-way, and as such the red bike paths are very noticeable. They also accommodate mopeds and some delivery vehicles like the innovative bike lane-accessible UPS vehicles (see picture below, right).

We will visit the Windmills at Kinderdyk (see picture below), which are 19 windmills built in 1738-1740, originally intended to pump the excessive amounts of water out of the local village into a reservoir. Water from the Rhine River in Switzerland has long been a problem for the Dutch. Today they pay €250 per family in taxes for water management each year. It costs the country €5 billion annually to manage the water supply.

Like other aspects of its infrastructure, Rotterdam actively pursues modernization to help facilitate transportation in the city. Parking meters are modern and electric charging stations are common on the streets. The Rotterdam Climate Initiative is a comprehensive plan to turn the city green, including the Port. Below are pictured (left to right) a phone charging device commonly located at local establishments, one of the 1,800 electric car charging stations in the city near parking spots, and a smart parking meter that drivers can locate via GPS if they lose track of their vehicle.


Munich, Germany (3.5 days)


Germany has the strongest economy in the EU, and the southern region of Bavaria has the strongest economy in Germany. Munich, the largest city in Bavaria, is both a cultural hub, as the center of Oktoberfest, and the economic engine/high-tech center of Germany. The city boasts an advanced public transportation network and world-renowned infrastructure, which can be partially credited for its supply chain capabilities. President Eisenhower observed the German transportation infrastructure as a General in World War II and used it as an inspiration for the Interstate Highway System program of the 1950’s. In Munich, culture is within reach, as long as you take advantage of their innovative public transportation system. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the efficiency of the U-Bahn (subway) (see picture below) as a method of getting from place to place. We will utilize the U-Bahn dozens of times to help us get around, and many of the students will become proficient in navigating it. We will also utilize trams, the S-Bahn (subway to the suburbs), buses, trams, and other common modes of European public transportation.

We will experience numerous cultural activities, including seeing the Royal Palace. First constructed in 1385, the Royal Palace (below, left) is the largest city palace in Germany and was formerly home to Bavarian monarchs. It was rebuilt after being damaged during World War II, when 88% of the city center buildings in Munich were destroyed. The 15th-century Cathedral of our Lady, or Frauenkirche miraculously survived the bombs. Some German cities established commissions to determine how to rebuild after World War II. While some such as Hamburg in the north chose to rebuild in a modern fashion, Munich chose to study old photographs and rebuild its old town area to replicate the original design, which includes all the relics of the city’s historic center that we will tour.

The Munich Town Hall in Marienplatz, where the mayor and city council conduct business, suffered damage during Allied air raids in 1944, but was later rebuilt in the same style. We will enjoy the famous Glockenspiel (below), which plays twice every day.

Bavarian cuisine, inspired by the Bavarian dukes of the Wittelsbach family, was originally intended to be for the refined specifically for royalty. It includes bratwursts, German potatoes, sauerkraut, warm red cabbage salad, veal, and German pretzels. These foods became more widely available over time as commoners started making more money. Today, these foods are especially popular during the Biergarten season, which starts in May and lasts until Oktoberfest. Of course, trying new foods is an important part of learning about new cultures. Like experiences in any new culture, food is new, fun, and different but part of discovery, from appetizers like our Bavarian dinner rolls (below, left) to dessert like Mutzenmandeln (below, right).

The popular image of Germany (bratwurst, lederhosen, pretzels, etc.) comes from Oktoberfest, which originated in 1810, when King Ludwig I celebrated his wedding by inviting Munich’s citizens to eat and drink with the Royal Family. In this same spirit, we will have dinner at the Hofbräuhaus (below), founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria. It formerly served as the royal brewery in the kingdom of Bavaria, but the general public began was admitted starting in 1828. Today it is owned by the state of Bavaria and is touted as one of the original key “brands” of Germany that is now being expanded nationwide and internationally as an “American-style” chain.

Dachau Concentration camp was the first concentration camp in Germany and was a model for subsequent German camps as well as Joseph Stalin’s gulags. It was initially constructed to hold German and Austrian political dissidents after the prisons became overcrowded in March 1933, and many prominent politicians were sent there. It eventually took in Soviet prisoners and also served as a concentration camp for more than 10,000 Jewish men. More than 4,000 political dissidents were killed there, which was against the Geneva Convention. After it was liberated by the Americans, it was used by the Allies to hold SS guards awaiting trial and as a military base until 1960. Its official records totaled 206,206 prisoners. Below is a photo to the gate to the Dachau Concentration Camp with its inscription, “Work Sets You Free” (left) and students in front of the restored prisoner accommodations (right).

-Commerce (Munich)

The City of Munich (2019) website states that “In terms of turnover and the number of employees, automotive engineering is the single most important branch of industry in the Munich Metropolitan Region”. Germany leads the EU in automobile production and has been called the world’s automotive innovation hub (Germany Trade & Invest, 2018). Bavaria boasts “modern solutions for sophisticated requirements in supply chain management of automobile manufacturers” (Invest in Bavaria, 2016) and claims 180 Tier 1-4 automobile suppliers, including factories for Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Opel (GM), Audi, and BMW. The City of Munich (2019) states that “400 automotive companies employ around 128,500 people” in the city and “The entire value chain is based in this region, including everything from research and development through production to the supply industry.” BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Porsche alone account for 80% of global sales of luxury vehicles. And with 835,000 workers, the auto industry is Germany’s biggest employer, responsible for a fifth of the country’s exports (Bloomberg, 2019).

BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) is a German automaker known for quality vehicles and value-added components. They have embraced their responsibility to the environment through green manufacturing that reduces landfill requirements, paired with a water conservation initiative that saves 9.5M gallons of water each year across their global facilities. One of the many quality initiatives in place at BMW is the usage of methane gas to power factory turbines, which supplies 50% of the total energy demands for the company. BMW was one of the first organizations in the automotive industry to earn the prestigious ISO: 14001 certification (BM W Manufacturing Co., 2018). BMW’s global supply chain includes 30 industrial sites in 14 countries on 4 continents and includes 13,000 suppliers in 70 countries (BMW Group, 2018). The SA group will tour the BMW factory and observe the behind-the-scenes production of this world-renowned automobile from press works to assembly. The museum/showroom (where pictures are allowed) displays many innovative products (seen below).

The tour of this state-of-the-art facility will give students a close-up view of the Press Shop, Body Shop, Paint Shop, Engine Shop, Production of Interior Equipment and Seats, and Assembly. The factory produces 222,000 of BMW's 2,367,600 vehicles worldwide per year (900 cars per day in 2019), making it the 5th-most productive of their 14 worldwide plants. It encompasses 400,000 square meters, making it the second-largest BMW factory behind the factory located in South Carolina. Management is currently exploring a new production digitization process including 3D-printing capabilities and an innovative data matrix code to trace individual parts for defects. The plan is for the factory to be the first in the world to assemble internal combustion, hybrid, and full electric vehicles all in the same facility by 2021.

A fun game that students enjoy is the try to find a pothole or bumper sticker game while traveling on the German autobahn. Both are rare and are quintessentially American phenomena. Students also noticed that there is no speed limit for cars, and trucks are strictly prohibited from driving over a certain kph on the autobahn. Many notice that this precision is very unlike the interstates in Indiana.
Observing the various brands of cars in a country is a great way of learning about their automobile culture. In Munich, students are surprised to find that taxis are often Mercedes, and Lamborghinis and Ferraris are often spotted. However, students don’t generally see any pickup trucks. Below, students peer into a Maserati dealership in Munich. The top-quality infrastructure facilitates the high-end vehicles on the streets.

Like all Study Away experiences, some of the best memories are unstructured adventures that occur outside of official outings. As such, student side-trips and exploring are explicitly encouraged.

Program Video


Academic Credit

This 8-day trip will be worth 2 credits


Students must have a 3.0 gpa and be in good standing with Purdue University

Program Cost

Students pursuing program participation accept financial responsibility. Purdue will take measures to mitigate financial risks, although will not be liable for loss.

This program will cost approximately $1,200 (part of the "tuition" of the trip, which is covered in Spring financial aid).  Funding and grants have been utilized to keep costs low.  This does not count the trans-Atlantic flight.  It does include all of our tours/excursions, many dinners, all breakfasts, public transportation passes, hotel expenses, and all intra-trip transportation, including the bullet-train from Rotterdam to Munich.  Students will not be asked to pay for any additional tours, excursions, or transportation on their own during the trip.  Students will be responsible for paying for their own lunches. 




The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal processes for travel and created much uncertainty for planning. Students,’ faculty, and staff health and safety are our priority. For these reasons, the College is taking a circumspect approach to study away programming for the spring semester, spring break, and summer 2021.

All spring break programs are TENTATIVE. Applications will be accepted on or after October 1, 2020. Although you submit an application or might be accepted into a program after this date, your participation in the program is still TENTATIVE.

Please do NOT make any financial commitments toward the program (such as purchasing airfare) until instructed by the program leader. The Honors College nor Purdue University will be liable for refunds should programs be canceled owing to mitigation measures taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please do not rely on this program to fulfill graduation requirements if your expected date of graduation is May 2021. All students should register for a full/regular course load during the spring semester with the proviso that spring break study away programs may be canceled.

Application Deadline

See your advisor during the Fall semester so that you can package this trip into your Spring schedule.

Financial Aid

Purdue University financial aid may be applied to the costs of studying abroad. Students interested in receiving financial aid should

NOTE:  Recipients of certain tuition remission and scholarship programs should pay careful attention to the regulations for using those benefits for study abroad.  Ask your financial aid advisor about any limitations.

Click here for a list of scholarships and grants available to assist with the costs of studying overseas.

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