The road end…

Almost there! The final part of my course at Aston is running and this made me think, what is next? Well, I have several things I would like to talk about my experience as an MSc student in Aston so far; however, I would like to highlight three I consider the most important ones.

First, this year has been certainly one of the best in my life so far. Studying abroad is a great and breathtaking experience, and I believe that every student should experience this amazing opportunity. Moreover, studying in a foreign country for a long period will not only improve your language skills, you also can grow and learn a lot from this intercultural environment. I chose Aston based on the UK’s superior quality in higher education and Aston Business School’s reputation among top universities. In addition, I was willing to have the opportunity of meeting students from different cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, Aston Business School global alumni network and support to career development are also among the reasons that interested me. Now, I truly believe I have improved my mind-set and awareness towards different subjects in the world. I feel better prepared to contribute positively to international companies in order to develop their businesses.

Second, the United Kingdom is a great country. I feel pretty good living here and the British people must be proud of their nation. In addition, one of the best things about living in Europe is the opportunity to visit other countries. Among many countries I have been so far, Denmark is a special one. It is an amazing country that I had the opportunity to visit for the first time during New Year’s Eve holiday in 2015. Danish people are truly happy in many ways and I felt very welcome during my stay in the country. Besides, Danish people’s mind-set towards environmental issues is something that makes me feel keen to take part in this movement. As Denmark is a major player in the global wind power industry, and I have great interest in it, I have been applying for job positions there. I believe I will feel quite comfortable working at some company’s office in Copenhagen or any other city. However, after my time in Aston, I feel better prepared to pursue a global career, maybe in different countries and I am also open to travel to work around the world.

Last, my experience at Aston has been quite dynamic and challenging. In addition, I had a great interaction with other students, professors and staff creating everyday opportunities to learn and share experiences. I strongly believe I can build a successful career at any country blending my previous work experience in Brazil with the knowledge acquired throughout the course. This time at Aston enhanced my worldwide perspective for business and contributed to my aspiration of working with global businesses in a myriad of industries and countries. I already possess significant amount of experience working in manufacturing environments in international companies and I fully trust on my skills and global mind-set to help any company to achieve its goals for best results for business units and their end customers. In addition to that, now I possess excellent social, communication and presentation skills and a profound technical knowledge of international business challenges and opportunities. Moreover, my natural ability that allows me to communicate with people at different environments and/or interact positively with anyone working together as a team.

The future? Please don’t ask because I don’t have a clear answer. My time at Aston has broadened my perspectives and made me more confident to try new things. I strongly believe that wherever I work I will make my best to achieve the best feasible results balanced between businesses, social and environmental aspects.

To my readers, thank you for reading my blog this academic year and I wish you all the best in your personal and professional lives. If you would like to know more or if you think, I can help you in some way. Do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

 

Sincerely,

Julius Silva
MSc International Business – Aston Business School
Aston University Aston Triangle Birmingham B4 7ET UK
araujofj@aston.ac.uk

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Visit at Jaguar Land Rover

At the beginning of Term 3, I went on a visit to the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull, UK. The visit was provided by Aston Business School as part of the International Operations module in Term 2. It was a pleasant morning at JLR’s industrial plant, where we were impressed of how clean and organised the factory is with a friendly and well-trained staff. In addition, how modern the company is with a high level of automation in the production of its cars.

Jaguar Land Rover is a company that brings together two much loved, highly prestigious British car brands. After Tata Motors acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008, it merged the two marques into a single company and its success has flourished, with memorable vehicles and innovative technologies that add to a long-lasting legacy.

The origins of Jaguar can be traced back to a company that began by making motorcycle sidecars in 1922. The Swallow Sidecar Company later started building automobiles and moved to Coventry, switching its name to Jaguar after the Second World War. It produced premium saloons and sports cars, including the legendary XK120.

Around this time, Rover started to develop a new all-terrain vehicle, inspired by the American Jeep. Lightweight and rustproof, the first Land Rover was clad in aluminium alloy, due to the post-war steel shortage, and cost £450. It introduced 4×4 capabilities to road cars and was soon adopted by the military as well.

Adding to Jaguar’s reputation was its motorsport success in the 1950s, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours race twice with a C-type – in 1951 and again in 1953 – and then with a D-type in 1955, 1956 and 1957. In 1961, the company launched what became perhaps the most iconic sports cars of all time, the E-type. In 1968 it merged with BMC (British Motor Corporation), which later became part of British Leyland and included Rover.

With an increasing demand for recreational off-roaders, the Range Rover made its debut in 1970. So popular was the new car that British Leyland made Land Rover a standalone company in 1978. Very little about the first Range Rover was altered over the years – 1981 introduced a four-door, while a diesel arrived in 1986. As the Range Rover became seen as more upmarket, the Land Rover Discovery was launched in 1988 as a third model in the range.

After splitting from British Leyland, Jaguar became independent again in the 1980s, before being purchased by Ford in 1989. Land Rover, meanwhile, was bought by BMW in 1994, which expanded the range further by introducing the Freelander. It then joined Jaguar under Ford in 2000, with the two companies becoming closely linked, sharing engineering knowledge and facilities.

In 2008, the two brands were bought by Tata Motors, India’s largest automobile manufacturer. Sales and profits have risen year on year and in 2013, the company officially joined Tata Motors Group.

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Visit at the Hampton Court Palace

During the last break, I went on a visit to London and the Hampton Court Palace. The place is known as the official residence of Henry VIII, however, there is lots of history behind that fact.

According to history, the first tenant was the courtier Giles Daubeney, who took out a lease on the property in 1494. Daubeney was on the way up (he became Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VII the following year), and needed a house close to London. Daubeney’s choice of Hampton Court was rewarded by a series of visits from the royal family. Henry VII and his queen stayed there on a number of occasions and seem to have particularly favoured Daubeney’s country residence as a peaceful retreat away from their London homes at Westminster and the Tower of London. Daubeney died in 1508 and few years later, Thomas Wolsey became the next ambitious occupant of the Hampton Court.

Wolsey acquired Hampton Court in 1514 and began building work a year later. He built a vast palace complex at Hampton Court, immeasurably transforming a grand private house into a magnificent bishop’s palace. Wolsey added new sumptuous private chambers for his own use, as well as three suites for the new royal family: one each for King Henry VIII, Queen Katherine of Aragon and their daughter Princess Mary.

Throughout the 1520s, Hampton Court hosted important European delegations. These were occasions for ostentatious displays of wealth and conspicuous consumption, but also – and the two purposes were not mutually exclusive – for doing deals and signing treaties that would help improve England’s position in Europe. Wolsey was thus criticised by many of his peers for his extravagant lifestyle, epitomised by his ostentatious palace at Hampton Court. Nevertheless, this was not what brought Wolsey’s fall from grace. By the late 1520s, Henry was desperate to obtain a divorce from his first wife. Katherine had failed (in Henry’s eyes) to provide Henry with a male heir, despite numerous pregnancies. Henry’s desire was now the much younger Anne Boleyn.

However, after years of political manoeuvring and discussions, Katherine still refused to comply; the Pope did not grant the divorce and in 1528 Wolsey lost Hampton Court to Henry.

By the time Henry finished his building works at Hampton Court Palace in about 1540, the palace was one of the most modern, sophisticated and magnificent in England. There were tennis courts, bowling alleys and pleasure gardens for recreation, a hunting park of more than 1,100 acres, kitchens covering 36,000 square feet, a fine chapel, a vast communal dining room (the Great Hall) and a multiple garderobe (or lavatory) – known as the Great House of Easement – which could sit 28 people at a time. Water flowed to the palace from Coombe Hill in Kingston, three miles away, through lead pipes.

All of Henry’s six wives came to the palace and most had new and lavish lodgings. The King rebuilt his own rooms at least half a dozen times. The palace also provided accommodation for each of the King’s children and for a large number of courtiers, visitors and servants. In addition, he used Hampton Court to impress. Most famously in August 1546 Henry feasted and fêted the French ambassador and his entourage of two hundred gentlemen – as well as 1,300 members of his own court – for six days. An encampment of gold and velvet tents surrounded the palace for the occasion. A year later, Henry was dead, with three surviving children – the 9-year old Prince Edward and his older sisters Mary and Elizabeth. Hampton Court would continue to play an important part in the lives of Henry’s heirs and in the history of the English royalty.

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Crossing the thirties’ barrier

Last Wednesday I turned 31 having experienced my first birthday celebration outside Brazil. All I can say is it was a pleasant moment among new good friends I have made in Birmingham so far.

Well, I am not a huge fan of partying heavily when celebrating my own birthday, so I have always preferred just inviting some friends for a gathering in a pub for having some drinks, cake and to chill out. Most people might think that birthday celebrations are always the same, but there are some slight differences between having birthday parties in Brazil and in the UK. In this post, I will make some comparisons about those differences. However, just remember this is mostly related to celebrating your birthday at a pub/bar type of place.

First, there is a considerable difference regarding the size of tables in pubs. In Brazil, tables are usually larger or you will have more space available for putting tables together to accommodate many people at once. On the other hand, in the UK, space in pubs is a bit more limited and tables are sized for a maximum four to six people. It was quite a challenge trying to accommodate 25 people in a British pub, but in the end, we managed to sort everything out.

Second, speaking about food in a pub. The British culture is more individualist so people will order their own food apart from the other’s choice. Food platters for two or three people are not a common thing. However, the Brazilian Latin culture is focus on collectivism and people usually order a large plate for sharing with everyone in the table. This is a good thing if everybody shares pretty much the same taste for food, quite common in Brazil. Nevertheless, in the UK and especially among an international group of students, it is practically impossible to find a single palate satisfying all members.

Last, how service is provided. Being served at the table is quite a common thing in Brazil, even at a pub or bar, while in Britain; the common sense is that a bartender at the bar serves you. So do not expect a waiter/waitress to come at your table and take your order. The reason is that in the British culture, people drop by a pub for a drink or food but not for long. In Brazil, nonetheless for drink or food, people will stick longer in a pub, particularly if the reason is a birthday celebration.

 

Hope you can find this information useful.

 

Thanks for reading, cheers!

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End of 2nd term: half way

After six months, we have finally reached the end of the taught modules in the course. All I can say is it was not as easy as I thought it would be. Some weeks were quite tough with a large amount of assignments to do. But, apart from lectures, professors and group work, the best bit in both terms was being among good people with different cultural backgrounds.

Well, based on my experience, I would like to give some recommendations to future postgraduate students:

First, make friends! Do not be shy during the first weeks. Try to go out and get to know new people, especially the ones taking the same course as yours. Those people might probably end up in one of your syndicate groups and if you know a bit about them first, it will probably be easier for to know how to deal better with them when working together. The main idea I am trying to explain is that some people are quite shy and reserved while others more sociable and talkative.

Second, try to be organised! Since first weeks, you should focus on saving time for daily activities. This means that as you will be living alone you need to care of every aspect from organising things in your room, getting laundry done, cooking for yourself and reserving time for studying. You will probably think that you will have plenty of time when living on campus. However, this can be tricky since you cannot rush housework and this will take time anyway.

Last, balance work and life! Course work and exams will be quite demanding and some weeks will drive you crazy. However, do not forget that studying abroad is a quite unique experience. For this reason, you should try to make the most of it and find the right balance between your course commitments and social activities.

 

Hope you find this information useful.

 

Thanks for reading, cheers!

MasterChef’s Flat at Aston!

Well, first I would like to start saying that I believe I am lucky for having my flatmates. One of the best things about life on campus is that you will be forced to share a flat with people that you probably have never seen before in your life. Some people do not enjoy sharing a place with someone else, but fortunately, this is not my case.

In my flat, we are five guys from different countries: Brazil, Italy, Philippines, India and China. Even before coming to Aston we started contacting each other via Facebook, and this was a good thing for “breaking the ice” when we had the chance to meet in person. Yes, some people say they find it hard to live among people with different cultural backgrounds, but in my view, that is the good bit about it. Every day we talk to each other most of the time in the kitchen, our common area and special place. The main reason for us spending so much time together in the kitchen is simple, we love cooking! Even having different nationalities, we do share this common thing about cooking good and healthy food (not only the frozen ones). Some days we get together to go to the Outdoor market in the city centre for buying fresh fruits and vegetables. Also at the Indoor market, we can usually fin good and cheap meat such as beef, chicken, pork, fish and seafood.

My neighbour Daniele is Italian and loves cooking guess what? Italian food. He is the ideal friend when we want to try a new Italian place in town based on his expertise. Another interesting flatmate I have is George from Philippines. He is a well-rounded young man who previously have been working in many countries around the world. Rahul is a brilliant smart lad from India. He is always in a good mood, focused at the gym and a good host arranging some gatherings at our kitchen. Last, we have Lang our excellent Chinese chef. He is responsible for providing the best Chinese meals ever! He loves sports and follows many leagues such as NBA, NFL and football ones.

As you know, I am from Brazil and we love cooking beef in the grill “the Brazilian barbecue style”. In addition, Brazilian food is not just about beans and rice; most Brazilians usually like trying every type of cuisine: Japanese, Italian, Chinese, etc. This characteristic has been helping me to enjoy even more the national cuisine of my flatmates every day.

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget. But life put us together and I believe for a good reason.

Thanks for reading!

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The Business Strategy Game

In my opinion, this term, the module of International Operations is one of the best in the course so far. First, the module has not just one but two lecturers, a British, Dr. Chris Owen and a Brazilian, Dr. Breno Nunes. Despite the fact that both lecturers together possess several years of work experience in the global markets such as China, UK and Brazil, the content itself in the module is quite interesting where we have been analysing not just supply chain and operations but also how globalisation affected the configuration of processes within companies which operate at an international level.

Second, one of the most interesting characteristic in this module is that we have the “live-action” the Business Strategy Game. This game is an online tool where you and your co-managers (group mates) are taking over the operation of an athletic footwear company that is in a neck-and-neck race for global market leadership, competing against rival athletic footwear companies run by other class members. All footwear companies started having the same worldwide market share and the same market shares in each of the four geographic market regions – Europe-Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and North America.

In addition, every company was in sound financial condition, performing well, and their products were well regarded. The aim of this game is the group acting as a company’s board of directors in charge the development of a winning competitive strategy, in order to capitalise based on continuing consumer interest in athletic footwear, keeping the company in the ranks of the industry leaders, and boosting the company’s earnings year-after-year.

Every week means that the company will run “a year” competing in the market. We started leading the competition but after the other companies set up their strategies, we are having an intense competition for the first places. Well, so far what I can say is we are having so much fun also being able to learn a lot about how to manage an entire company. We have been responsible for developing strategies for sales and marketing, operations and production, financial and investments and even CSR initiatives.

I believe that the most important bit about this activity in this module is to provide a “feeling” of how the real competition takes place in a competitive market. I am sure that even if my group not finishing as first we will able to say that we learnt a lot when writing our report. Part of the job will be explaining what went wrong and which strategy was successful.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers!

Living on campus: Is it right for you?

Following a previous post last year of my friend and also scholarship recipient Garet Quigg who wrote about advantages when living off campus, in this post I will talk about some advantages for those who prefer living on campus. I will try to follow the same style of Garet, since I believe by doing this it will be easier for you to compare and choose which option is the most suitable for you.

Firstly, I would like to say that these are my thoughts about living on campus based on my experience in Aston so far. Remember, you could find some changes regarding accommodation on campus in the next academic year 2015/2016.

 

Pros

  • Accommodation fee includes all basic services: Living on campus means that you will not worry about monthly bills because your fee will include not just rent, but also essential services such as internet, energy, heating, maintenance and cleaning (please look for specific details on Aston’s website).
  • Refurbishment in rooms and common areas are quite new: In case of renting a place on campus, the university provides brand new refurbishment, so this means that you will not need to buy additional items for you “home”.
  • You are really close to attend lectures: This is a tricky question. Sure, it will be faster to leaving home to attend lectures, but remember that you may need to use lifts and walk for at least 3-5 minutes to get into the buildings. In addition, the British culture for time management says that you should get at any appointment with a minimum of 5 minutes in advance.
  • You have the opportunity to know people quite well: Living on campus is also a nice opportunity to get along with your classmates, other students and your flatmates (I suggest putting an effort and establishing a good relationship with them). Life is easier with friends around.

 

In general, I would say that living on campus is more suitable for those who are single (based on Garet’s experience, I believe that off campus is more suitable for couples who wish to live together). There is also a risk of being “isolated” from life in the city as most activities are inside campus such as lectures and events, and some things here were made for facilitating your life such as supermarket, gym and pubs on campus. So, my final advice will be: if you wish to live on campus, make the most of your time among your friends in class and those who live with you. Explore the city a bit; invite your friends who live off campus for some activities here and there. At the end, your time here can be quite nice.

 

Thanks for reading!

End of year holidays: lots of fun and findings.

I consider myself a very lucky person based on the friends I have made so far. Feel people can enjoy of the companionship of such good friends. During the last holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I had the pleasure to visit many friends in the UK and overseas. Being reunite over this period was quite pleasant and having fun was part of our daily activities.

For starters, I left Birmingham to visit some friends in Tunbridge Wells, Southeast England. Royal Tunbridge Wells (often shortened to Tunbridge Wells) is a large town in western Kent, England, about 40 miles (64 km) southeast of central London by road and 34.5 miles (55.5 km) by rail. The town has a population of around 56,500 and it is close to the border of the county of East Sussex. The town came into being as a spa in the Restoration period and had its heyday as a tourist resort under Beau Nash when the Pantiles and its chalybeate spring attracted visitors who wished to take the waters. Though its popularity waned with the advent of sea bathing, the town remains popular and derives some 30% of its income from the tourist industry. In the UK, Royal Tunbridge Wells has a reputation as being the archetypal conservative “Middle England” town. As being a conservative town, it is quite easy to find many buildings with different British architecture styles such as Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Elizabethan. Therefore, Tunbridge Wells is the perfect place for a walk around history. During the Christmas period, I also have the opportunity to visit Brighton, a nice town on the south coast of Great Britain.

After Christmas in Tunbridge Wells, I joined some friends for New Year’s Eve in London and we were looking for watch the fireworks at the London Eye. Previously, the event was free but its popularity put too much of a strain on transport and safety, hence this year the London’s Mayor offered just 100,000 tickets costing £10 each, but these sold out in early December. Thus, we managed to find a nice spot at Lambeth Bridge, since Westminster and Waterloo bridges were closed for open public, just ticket holders were allowed to be in those areas. Well, even with some difficulties we have chosen the right “free” spot for watching the event from there it was possible to follow the whole spectacle. In addition to that, we spent some days enjoying London.

Further, I went to Denmark to visit some friends on a one-week trip. It was my first time in Scandinavia. I had the opportunity to visit Copenhagen and Aarhus (second largest city in Denmark). Copenhagen is the capital and most populated city of Denmark, with an urban population of around 1,200.000. The city is situated on the eastern coast of Zealand and it was founded as a Viking fishing village in the 10th century. The Danish capital is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, with bicycles actually outnumbering its inhabitants. The city’s bicycle paths are extensive and well used by everyone. There are 400 km of cycle lanes not shared with cars or pedestrians, and sometimes have their own signal systems. The atmosphere in the city is quite pleasant and pretty safe, not just in the capital, but in general around the whole country. Danish people are friendly and almost everyone is able to communicate in English with you, so do not be afraid about the signs (most of them are in Danish language).

 

I hope you can find the information presented useful.

 

Thanks for reading!

Cheers!

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2014 an year of planning!

Resilience. This was the most important word for me in 2014. This year I discovered that I was more tenacious than I thought. At the beginning, the process was just about applying for a master’s degree programme in the UK, however, when you decide to study abroad other things will come out such as English language test, visa application and financial planning. The main point is how to manage that while you are still an employee in a company. Well, my advice for you is simple, focus on planning everything you might need to make things easy for you.

First, the official language in the UK is English and this means that you will have to take an English exam as a requirement to enter any course in Britain. Therefore, I suggest you prepare making use of official materials from renowned publishers such as the Cambridge University Press. The amount of time for preparing for an English exam it will depend on your previous knowledge of the language, but some courses and universities ask for higher scores. Second, the UK visa application process can take from two weeks up to three months, so be aware about the processing times for you country. In some cases you may need to travel to a different location from yours to be able to apply for a student visa. Last, in my opinion, the financial planning is the most important part in the process. The UK government requires a certain amount of money held for a specific number of days in a bank account, so do not leave it for the last moment or you might face some problems when getting your visa.

In general, I would like to say that things will be not that easy when planning for a study period abroad your country, but this type of experience will teach you more than you ever imagined. In addition, make the most of your time in this new country. Enjoy your time there and make new friends, they will probably be the best bit from this experience.

 

Happy New Year and thank you for reading!