Wednesday December 10th, 7.45 A.M.. A bus picks up 40 students in the heart of Antwerp. The orange morning glow is telling us to wake up, but the lack of coffee makes it hard to do so. It is the first time this Semester – and it will be the last as CEBS (Master in China-Europe Business Studies) is leaving for China in the beginning of 2016 – that students of MIM (Master in Management) and CEBS embark on a joint venture field trip.
Where we are headed? An all day visit to several companies, extraordinary harbor infrastructures and Port authority offices of what is the second biggest port of Europe: the Port of Antwerp.
For people of Antwerp, its port is both given and unknown. The port is there and on a daily bases, media and politicians smack people in their faces with figures of growth, yearly numbers of container overlays and new maritime companies choosing the Port of Antwerp as its new European hub.
Yet, most of Antwerp’s citizens have never visited the vast surface – the Port itself consists five to six times the Antwerp city centre – and the high-tech production facilities of for example Total, BASF and Esso it holds on its grounds.
As we are lucky students, AMS gave us the opportunity to obtain behind-the-scene insights on what most people do not get to see. We got to see the storage and shipment of cacao beans, the centre of Belgian banana importation and the process of how ships get loaded and unloaded. All of this was under guidance of two well-experienced members of the Antwerp Port Authority.
While discovering Antwerp’s’ most important industrial activities, the two groups of students bonded as if they already knew each other for ages. With a little hunch of exaggeration, Alexander Suykens, Belgian MIM-student says that: “the moment we all almost got squeezed between two containers really created a strong connection. These kind of breath-taking moments are the ones that bring people together.”
In the evening, the students of CEBS still had to take their Chinese exam. Junior Moens, also a Belgian student, but in the CEBS-program felt that: “the support of the MIM-student was really appreciated. The few moments of time we could spare, we used to practice our Chinese words and phrases, and the amical atmosphere elevated our levels of motivation to do so very intensively.”
At the end of the day, it took us some time to get back – as traffic in Antwerp is worsening every day. Maybe, a boat ride from the harbor to the city centre would have been the cherry on this day’s cake?