/ #SPOCK #study tour 

Study Tour: Rising Technology

In the spring of 2019 it was possible to sign up for a study tour to Japan. After some interviews I was one of the lucky 26 persons who could join the group. The plan was to go to Japan in the fall of 2020, but because of a well-known reason this trip was postponed. Eventually we had to make the decision to change our destination to a bit safer and closer: Europe. As I was part of the travel committee, I was partly responsible for planning the trip and I had a few busy months reorganizing the tour. On the 15th of October 2021 it was finally the day of departure. Almost 2.5 years later we could enjoy all the hard work. In this article I will give a short summary of all the wonderful things we experienced during our almost four weeks of touring across Europe.


We started the tour in Vienna, the beautiful capital of Austria. We fortunately collected enough money to rent our own private touring car for the full duration of the trip and we started with a long bus drive to Vienna. We had an interesting hotel in Vienna, called the student hotel. There was a slide inside the hotel! The first evening we had to, of course, explore the city. We quickly found ourselves in an area that we later learned to be called the “Bermuda-triangle”. In this area one could find enough bars and clubs to get lost a bit… The next day we started with a nice visit to the clock museum. I’m still not completely sure why we went to this museum, apparently some members got really excited about clocks, it was fun nevertheless. In the afternoon we explored the center of Vienna by means of a historical walking tour called “Hitler’s Vienna”. This gave an interesting perspective on the city and we learned quite a few things. In the evening it was time for some culinary adventures as we ate some Wienerschnitzels and apfelstrudels. Naturally, the evening ended with a pubcrawl in the Bermuda Triangle. On Sunday we started a bit slow (we had to recover a bit from the night before) and went to the Prater Park, which is a permanent carnival. On our website you can find a chart of our favorite rides.

In the afternoon we went to the musical The Wizard of Oz, which was performed in the Volkopera building in Vienna. The musical was performed in German, which was a challenge, but we managed. The most confronting part was that children laughed at jokes that were apparently made. On Monday we finally got to visit a university. One might wonder after reading the previous text why our trip was called a study tour… well the intention of such a tour is to actually learn something about university life and companies in foreign countries. In Vienna we visited the electrical engineering and information technology faculty of the TU Wien. We had some interesting presentations about MEMS design and got a tour through the quite historical building to see their measurement setups. In the afternoon we went to Schloss Schönbrunn, where we walked through the immense gardens and got lost in the many mazes. Enjoying the view at the top of the hill in the last bit of sun (it was actually really great weather that week), we felt far away from the Netherlands. The last day in Vienna was mostly spent in the Techniser Museum. We enjoyed an interactive presentation with some old tesla coils and an interesting exhibition on future technologies. Later that day we visited the Powerplant Vienna Freudenau. Apparently hydroelectric power is widely used in Austria and we had the chance to walk through the building. The tour guide was quite enthusiastic and filled more than an hour telling us about the powerplant. The visit was nevertheless quite impressive. After this visit we all got back in our touring car and went to the second stop in Austria: Graz!

One might wonder after reading the previous text why our trip was called a study tour…

We arrived late in the evening in Graz and after we were settled in our hotel we decided to explore the city center a bit. As it would be my birthday at 12 o’clock, I was in a bit of a rush to make sure we could toast at that time, and we quickly found ourselves in an Irish Pub with some beverages. The next day we climbed the Schloßberg. The weather was great that day and we had a beautiful view of the city. The way down the mountain was worth mentioning, we went by a 175 meter long slide. In the afternoon we went with our touring bus to Schloss Seggau, with the main purpose to learn about the history of the castle, although we also very much enjoyed the wine tasting. We had dinner in a local restaurant, where we again explored the Austrian kitchen. During the evening we found ourselves again in the local Irish pub. The next day, which was our last day in Graz, we visited the Aerospace team of the technical university of Graz. They just returned of a competition where they launched their first rocket. It was nice to learn from students of another university and we had the chance to talk with them afterwards. After this visit we went back into our bus and continued our tour to the second country: Germany!


On our first day in Munich, the city we visited in Germany, we went to the largest museum in the world: the Deutsche Museum. We had the whole day to walk around in this museum and we could see planes, submarines, walk through an artificial mine, look at transistors. To rest our legs a bit we enjoyed a nice show in the planetarium. That evening we had a traditional Munich dish: (half) pork knuckles, with beer of course. In the evening we explored the night life of Munich. This resulted in some struggles with the next Munich dish that we had: the Weißwurst Frühstuck, which consisted of sausage and half a liter of Weizen. When most of us were ready to continue the day, we had a nice walk through the city with a tour guide. With a smaller part of the group we went our own way later in the afternoon, as we had tickets for a soccer match of FC Bayern München. We could experience the atmosphere of the stadium and walked around singing the fan songs the whole evening. Luckily, Bayern München won 4-0! After dinner we went to a nice pub where we enjoyed some high quality karaoke performances, including some of our group. The next day we explored another thing that Munich is famous for: BMW. We went to the BMW museum and saw some classic cars and newer technologies. The afternoon was filled with another Schloss, namely Schloss Nymphenburg. After the visit we enjoyed the beautiful weather again and later that afternoon we went to the Augustiner-Keller: a biergarten and restaurant. On our last day in Germany we visited ABB near Münich. This is a research and development branch of ABB, focussing on collaborative robots. We had a nice presentation and we could have some interaction with the robots. On our way to Switzerland we had a short stop at the Andechs Monastery for a beer and some nice views. The rest of the day was spent in the touring bus.


We started in Zürich with a visit to CSEM, which is a Swiss research center. We had a presentation about the projects they were working on. After this we had some free time and with a part of the group we visited the Landesmuseum Zürich. This museum had a surprisingly interesting exhibition on stones and the museum owned about 100 iPads, interactive screens, augmented reality technology and more, which was a great experience. In the afternoon we visited the robotics lab of ETH (technical university of Zürich). We had a cool presentation about their robots and some demonstrations. The next day we left Zürich and on our way to Geneva we visited Sonova. Sonova specializes in hearing aid systems and we had some presentations and a tour. We also had the opportunity to talk with some of the employees during the lunch break. In Geneva we went to a Swiss themed restaurant. We obviously had to eat some cheese fondue and to complete the theme a musician played some traditional songs, including some yodeling and blowing the alpenhorn. The next day was a busy day, as we started with a drive to Morges, where we visited Omnisens. This company designs equipment to monitor temperature and stress along pipelines and cables using fiber optic cables. We had a presentation and a demo and we were all quite impressed with their results. We continued our day with a drive to Bevaix, where we enjoyed our lunch near a lake. Everyone could show off their stone skipping skills and some even took the chance to refresh their legs in the Swiss lake. After lunch we visited Melexis, which specializes in analog chip design for the automotive industry. We enjoyed some nice in-depth presentations from two of their engineers. For dinner we made the choice to go beyond the European kitchen and went to a Colombian restaurant.


The next morning we left Switzerland for France, as we drove to Grenoble. After we arrived we went to visit several research centers. The first institute was Néel, where they work on condensed matter physics. We had a few presentations and a quick tour through the labs. After this we walked a few hundred meters to Spintec. They work on magnetoresistive random access memory, but they used to work with nuclear reactors hence after a security check that wouldn’t look out of place on an airport, we had a nice tour with presentations. We could even enter their clean room. In the evening we were joined by one of the professors of the institutes to have dinner and eat some classic French food. We also took the opportunity to try out some good French wines to match with our escargots. The next day (a Saturday, do you keep up), we went for a climb to the Bastille in Grenoble. I think we walked for about an hour after which we reached the top. We had some beautiful views and some members of the group played music from the Lord of the Rings to set the vibe. We were supposed to go back with an aerial lift, but the weather was not suitable for such a ride. A part of the group decided they were up for a challenge and started a hike over the mountain tops. I saw some great pictures of their views. The other part decided to relax a bit and I decided to go to the cinema and watch the movie Dune (with subtitles, my French is not that good). As it was a Saturday evening it was hard to get group reservations for the whole group, so we split up and had in smaller groups some dinner.


On Sunday we continued our journey to the last country of our tour: Italy. We left Grenoble and drove to Milan. This took quite some time and after we arrived at the hotel we took the free time to relax a bit, explore the city or, in my case, prepare for the cantus. We had an early dinner (for Italian standards) and we had some fancy Italian food. After our dinner we went to a karaoke bar, but not for karaoke, we had a private room to host our cantus. This was a lot of fun, we reviewed the past two weeks, explained our slang to our newly arrived supervisor Chris Zeinstra and sang a lot of songs. The private karaoke room was quite convenient when the cantus came to an end, because we simply turned on the karaoke machine and continued the fun. The way home to the hotel was an adventure, as apparently internet reception is not that great in the city center of Milan and without it quickly becomes quite complicated to figure out the bus/metro/train times. The next day was a holiday in Italy and we decided to visit a museum. We went to the science museum that also hosted an elaborate exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci. During lunch we had some free time and we decided it was finally time to eat some real Italian pizza. In the late afternoon we had a guided tour through the center of Milan, starting at a very modern part of the city. The fashion district was not excluded from the tour and we ended with some aperitivos, to end our day again with some great Italian seafood.

You might think… Parma, that sounds familiar…

The next day we learned that electrical engineering means power/energy engineering in Italy (opposed to electronics engineering, which most of us believe we’re doing), as we visited the technical university of Milan. Nevertheless we had a few interesting presentations and demonstrations of their battery setups and high voltage labs. In the afternoon we returned to the city center of Milan and climbed the Duomo Cathedral, after looking inside of course. We reached the top at the golden hour, which resulted in beautiful views of the city. That evening we ate some local Milanese dishes and although our plan was to have a party at a rooftop bar, we decided to walk back home as we were full of food and tired of the tour. The next morning we left early for our next and last city of our tour: Bologna. However, we had an intermediate stop in Parma. We visited the university of Parma, where we had presentations from different research groups, including the computer vision group and communication engineering department. We had lunch in the canteen of the university and then we continued our trip. You might think… Parma, that sounds familiar… They’re famous for their Parma cheese and Parma Ham. We visited a factory where they make this Parma ham and the tour was luckily concluded with a tasting. After which we continued our trip to a farm where they produce Parmiganio reggiano cheese. The tour started with the cows and ended, again, with a tasting.

We continued our drive to Bologna where our last supervisor joined our company: prof. Stefano Stramigioli. His roots lay in Bologna and he combined his tasks as supervisor with visiting friends and family in Bologna. He took the task seriously and made sure we started our visit with traditional Bolognese food that evening. The following day we visited the university of Bologna, where we had some nice presentations from their power engineering department. In the afternoon we went to CNR, a research institute in Bologna. We visited numerous departments, ranging from clean rooms to start-ups on boats. On Friday we visited the radio astronomy station near Bologna. We had a few talks from researchers at the center, a short visit at the small museum at the visitor center and looked at the immense antenna setups. In the afternoon we had a tour through Bologna by prof. Stramigioli, including a stop at the best ice cream shop. As it was our one-but-last night of our study tour, we decided to have some drinks after dinner. The last full day of our study tour started with a cooking class. We made some traditional dishes: tortellini, tagliatelle cake and gnocchi. The pasta making was especially a laborious process as we made it completely by hand. In the afternoon we had to buy some souvenirs for our families (as it was the last day to do this) and in the evening we concluded our study tour in style: at a very fancy Japanese restaurant. After being completely stuffed with sushi, we had our last beers and toasted to an unforgettable journey.

The complete journey was a great experience, from organizing the trip, doing the case studies for funding the trip and the tour itself. I learned a lot and although it was quite stressful and frustrating from time to time, especially with the uncertainties of the corona measurements in all different countries, I’m very glad I participated and I would certainly recommend it to other students.