The adjustment to the time difference was finally setting in, though adjusting to the arduously long yet amazing schedule was a whole separate ordeal. After following the same breakfast routine at each hotel with the same food that was available, I met with the group in the lobby to hear our itinerary. It was going to be another action packed day as we to an interesting location, the John Deere Deutschland factory. The last thing I think of when I think of Germany is John Deere. We hurried along to the train station, that unbeknownst to me, was right next to our hotel (it looked like an office building). We took a train to Mannheim, a nearby, neighboring city. Along the way we noticed the landscape shifting to a more industrial setting. Arriving in Mannheim, we had to walk only a few blocks to reach the John Deere plant, though we took Mercedes taxis to the factory anyways. It was this day that it seemed Alexander and I struck up a wonderful kinship as I threw my limited, but odd knowledge of German pop culture his way; referencing Werner Herzog, Downfall the movie, Klaus Kinsky, and the lot. When arrived at the factory, it finally struck me that several colleges cleverly dressed up in their bright green outfits to match the John Deere aesthetics. The main purpose of the visit to John Deere was to see the cooperation and relationship between the vocational program and the companies working with them. On the outside of the building was a mammoth bright green and yellow crop combine, which dwarfed over the entire group. Inside the building, seemingly every model of tractor, combine, and agricultural equipment was on display. We were greeted by a man who is in charge of the plant who was proud to share the successes of not only the factory, but of the program that they had with their interns. In Germany, all interns not only get their learning experience, but they also receive a stipend. It seemed like the businesses were providing so much, with little monetary returns, but this didn’t seem to phase the factory manager. He mentioned that they have to turn down the majority of the applicants as this is a sought after job. Though, anyone who does get the internship, they hire 99% of the people they train. This creates a stable workforce that will work at John Deere for many years. Germany is a leading manufacturing company, but what sets it apart from other leaders like India and China is that they pay their employees much better. In return, the quality of the products from Germany is often seen as a much higher quality. When walking around the factory on a tour, we had several different stations where we would go and see the different skills that students are learning. It was very impressive to see the hands-on learning and practical learning that was occurring. The kids were using real equipment that was being put to good use as they were working on the tractors or parts from it. There was also an engineering and electronics station, so it was only mechanical work. After the tour we saw a presentation that was great from the factory manager. He explained how important the interns were, yet mentioned how expensive the program was. After finishing at John Deere, we went to the Training academy of the Regional Chamber of Trade and Crafts. Here we sat through a translated presentation regarding how trade and crafts are being less and less sought after jobs, yet the academy stressed their importance. This would be jobs like hair cutting, plumbing, mechanic, painting, chef, massage therapy, etc. We took a tour of the building and of the students learning. Afterwards, we went back to the train station and had 45 minutes to grab some lunch. I wasn’t super hungry at the time, which I would later regret, as we didn’t eat dinner until very late this night. I sat with Amy, Kristin, Kimberly, and Michelle as they had Thai food. When everyone finished, I quickly bought a postcard and joined the group on the tram, which brought us to downtown Mannheim. Downtown Mannheim was far different from where John Deere was stationed at it had numerous historical buildings, shopping center, and people walking around the streets. We had a guided tour of the area from a kind woman with grey hair. She took us first to the wonderfully spectacular Mannheim Castle first. This was the large castle in Mannheim which was colored brownish-red with yellow/gold lining. The building was magnificent in its size. After taking some pictures outside, we learned what would be a common theme with several cities and buildings in Germany, that this castle was severely destroyed after WWII. Mannheim was a strategic location for the allies to attack since they manufactured weaponry nearby. We only were able to see inside the church portion of the castle, where Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart would play. Inside, it was another glorious church, unlike any I’ve ever seen. It had a colorful painting adorning the ceiling and a large area where the priest would preach. After Alexander pointed off that a lot of this was rebuilt due to it being heavily damaged, he showed how it was a poor mans job at recreating the original look. This is totally understandable since the sheer amount of money needed to rebuild one church, let alone a whole city and country is unfathomable. We went through the city center of Mannheim, saw how old meets new culture with the posh shopping stores next to seemingly old buildings. We finished our tour at the famous Mannheim water tower, which could have happened any sooner. We took the tram back to the hotel, had 15 minutes to get situated, and headed back out to get dinner. It was 9pm when we started to eat, but it was worth it. We went to a small pub in Heidelberg, teaming with rich German culture. In the basement they played traditional German drinking songs and you could hear the people singing, laughing and dancing below. Even Asterid got in to the swaying and singing with us. I ordered a delicious steak and enjoyed the conversations with my table. Mannheim was a city of rich history and home to hard working people.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.