What better place to begin my sabbatical than the Netherlands, home of all my grandparents. Hope College has a new relationship with Hanze University in Groningen, Netherlands where we send four students to their summer program and they send a student to Hope for our fall semester. To evaluate the program (and the school) to see how this "Doing Business in Europe" summer program at Hanze fits into our business curriculum, I volunteered to accompany the students for the first year. So I began my sabbatical by spending three and a half weeks in a wonderful city.
I have described the "Doing Business in Europe" program in detail in one of my other blogs (Hope Goes to the Netherlands: http://vtenhaken.blogspot.com/), so I won't go into detail about it here. I had a wonderful time in Groningen - birthplace of one of my great-grandmothers. Because Groningen is way in the northern part of the Netherlands (see map, above) it is not on the typical tourist path. People don't know what they're missing: the core city itself is what one thinks of as a typical Dutch city with canals and traditional architecture - much of it closed off to motorized traffic. It also contains many modern retail stores, great little cafes and restaurants, the 400-year-old University of Groningen...basically a dream to walk through and wander around.
The main canal ringing the city was just a few short blocks from my hotel.
The 400-year-old University of Groningen, just across the street from the University Hotel.
Just some houses I pass on my bike ride to Hanze University.
And some buildings in the main square, including the landmark Martinitoren. Below, the Vismarkt square on market day.
Everyone rides a bike here and Hanze provides each student in the program with a bike. Since I was staying at the Groningen University Hotel in town I had a 20-minute bike ride to get to the Hanze campus from the city center, but that meant once I was back "home" I had the city at my doorstep. It was great.
Once out of the city center, the buildings were modern and the Hanze campus contained some very interesting architecture.
I spent most of my free time in Groningen, but was able to see some of the rest of the country on trips sponsored by Hanze. We traveled through the province of Friesland learning about the Dutch system of dykes and water management; to the province of Overijssel visiting the Grolsch brewery; to Pappenburg, Germany on a visit to the huge Meyer Werft shipyard; and a day trip to the Frisian Island of Schiermonnikoog. We also had a weekend trip to Amsterdam that included a visit to Philips headquarters (including meeting with their CEO) and an overnight in a castle hostel outside of town. Again, all this is described in the other blog.
I loved my time in the Netherlands, thought the Hanze program was great, and left feeling I could live here.
A great way to start my sabbatical!
Soccer fever hit the city just before I left as the Dutch were preparing for the World Cup. Orange was everywhere!