Wednesday, May 30
After around three hours on the Eurostar we arrived at London’s St. Pancras train station. Our tour bus took us back to the Royal National Hotel where we had dinner at Blooms and took the Tube to the Apollo Theatre in Victoria to see Wicked, a musical loosely based on the Wizard of Oz. After the show we were exhausted and went back to the hotel to settle in and prepare for the upcoming day.
Thursday, May 31
We started off our busy morning with a quick breakfast and then met our guide in the lobby for a walking tour. We took the Tube to the Tower of London where we walked along the River Thames and had an excellent view of Tower Bridge. From across the river we saw the building that is the tallest in the European Union, the Shard. After touring the grounds and taking pictures with the sentries, we went into the Jewel House where we saw the beautiful Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. This was especially exciting considering that this weekend London would be celebrating the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60th year on the throne.
Next we took the Underground to the South Bank where we rode on the London Eye, the tallest ferris wheel in Europe. This observation wheel is the most popular in the UK; over three million people visit per year. From the top we had a spectacular view of Westminster Palace, Charring Cross, Cleopatra’s needle, and more. After the 30 minute ride we went to lunch at an authentic pub, then made our way to Edelman.
At Edelman, we were briefed on the company’s different practices and their global influence. Then we were shown case studies that demonstrated the importance of developing a strong connection between the brand and the consumer. We were encouraged to always have a broad range of knowledge, and to stay updated on current events.
Our last professional briefing was at APCO Worldwide where we met with Lionel Zetter, a lobbyist and published author of a book on the power of political persuasion. Lionel educated us on the global and ethical issue of public relations firms and taught us that lobbying is a basic function of life. It was nice to have many of the issues that we discussed in different countries come full circle because it allowed us to truly see how much we had learned throughout our travels.
Finally we took the Tube back to the hotel where we quickly changed and met with Aimee Bateas to have dinner and explore Covent Garden. When we parted ways that night, we were all sad that our trip was over but excited to go home and share our amazing experiences with our family and friends.
Monday, May 27
We were greeted at the airport by a driver who was more than happy to show us around Paris before dropping us off for a cruise up and down the Seine River. Throughout the hour-long river cruise we saw Notre Dame, Parliament, the Eiffel Tower and so much more. We were lucky enough to find seats along the side of the boat, all facing the water, which give us the perfect view. An added delight were the radios attached to each seat. The recording told us the history and significance of each building or monument as we passed by. After the river cruise we settled in to our hotel, Le Meridian. It was then time to walk around the nearby streets to familiarize ourselves with the area. We soon realized that our hotel was in the perfect location, only a short walk or cab ride to the Eiffel Tower and many other tourist friendly areas. After a couple hours of shopping and sight seeing we relaxed at a local restaurant and enjoyed a lovely dinner, mostly consisting of pasta. All of the traveling and early morning flights had finally caught up to us, so we called it an early night.
Tuesday, May 28
After much needed rest, we were ready to take on Paris. On our half day tour of Paris we were able to stop at the Arch of Triumph, Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's Tomb, Notre Dame, the Lourve, and Moulin Rouge. In addition we passed by the le Petit Palais, San River, French Parliament, Pont de l'Archevêché, Sorbonne University, Luxembourg Palace and much more. At the end of the tour we were dropped off at Montmartre, an area that overlooks Paris. The view from the top was absolutely breath-taking. While there we saw the Saint Pierre de Montmartre, got charcoal portraits on the street, walked through a festival, and enjoyed a delicious lunch and our first nutella crepes. We then used the metro to find our way back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the evening at an italian style restaurant before heading over to see the Eiffel Tower lit up after sunset.
Wednesday, May 29
We meet with Lionel Benatlia, consultant senior, and Lorie Lichtlen, director corporate/financial, at Burson-Marsteller in Paris. During the briefing we talked about B-M's evidence-based communication and thought leadership strategies. Lionel spoke with us about public affairs and the three-part method of image, mobilization, and influence. He then spoke with us about his passion, crisis communication. According to Lionel the stages of crisis communication are emotional, rational, and controversy. He believes they need to remain in this order and not mix or skip, because if they do it can cause even bigger problems than those already present. After the briefing we were off to the Paris Nord train station for a two and a half hour train ride to London.
Wednesday, May 23
“When you all have some time, make sure to visit the 7th floor.”
Upon following this advice from Dr. Kalupa, we ventured to the top floor of City Center Hotel. It would have been impossible for our group to prepare for the magnificent view from the roof of the hotel. Several stories high, we were presented with a panoramic view of the city, admiring the beauty of the Bosporus in the distance surrounded by historically famous buildings such as the Suleymaniye Mosque and Hagia Sophia. This was a moment that redefined “breathtaking.” This was unlike any beauty we had experienced before. This was Istanbul.
Our journey in Istanbul started in Istanbul Atatürk Airport after another early morning flight. After our arrival, we were fortunate to have our Harrisonburg travel agent, Brandi Simmons join us for the remainder of the trip. The location of City Center Hotel was conveniently minutes away from the well known strip of shops and restaurants named Istiklal Street. Before we explored the area, a couple members of the group ate lunch at a small café called Cook Time. It only took a few minutes to realize that our lacking skills in the Turkish language might create a little confusion and require a lot of patience.
Afterwards, we strolled down Istiklal Street where we browsed clothing stores and tourist shops in the midst of the chaos of the lively street. Istiklal Street radiated with high energy and magnificent culture which provided an enjoyable few hours of exploration. Additionally, we could not help but notice that Istanbul also served as a dessert haven. After being tempted by several Turkish dessert shops, two members of the group bought dondurma (ice cream) from a street vendor who transformed the simple act of scooping ice cream into an elaborate and highly entertaining performance.
In the evening, the group chose to eat at a nearby restaurant that provided a menu that was translated in English. The ability to read the menu was a breath of fresh air, even if ordering our food was not as effortless. In the end, we enjoyed our meals and headed off to rest and prepare for an early morning.
Thursday, May 24
By 8:00 a.m. the next morning, our group was ready to attend the 10th International Symposium: Communication in the Millennium (CIM) hosted by Istanbul University. Organized by the Association of Turkish and American Communication Scholars (ATACS), the itinerary for the symposium included keynote speeches and presentations on a variety of topics by impressive participants from all over the world. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by Dr. Serra Gorpe and Dr. Adem Ayten who were actively involved in the planning and coordination of the event. After a ten-minute documentary on Istanbul University followed by opening remarks and speeches by ATACS Board Members, Dr. Kalupa delivered a keynote speech about the professional expectations and the preparation of future public relations practitioners for strategically managing social media. He focused on how social media was not about the tools; instead, it was about the people and the content and therefore suggested the term “social media” be renamed “social communication.” He also focused on the importance of meaningful public relations education in order to properly prepare students for the field. After Dr. Kalupa spoke, we heard Dr. Judith K. Litterst speak about evaluative listening and questioning and Dr. Werner Severin present about social media in the political process. During the coffee break, Dr. Adem Ayten arranged for Ghengis, a friendly student who attended Istanbul University, to give us a quick tour around the area. Our group took pictures at the Square of Beyazit and Ghengis led us to the Grand Bazaar. In the Grand Bazaar we were instantly surrounded by an overwhelming selection of items. Each vendor made their best attempt to entice individuals into their store to negotiate prices. After spending an hour in the Grand Bazaar, we made it back to Istanbul University just in time for lunch. The main dish was a mouth-watering Turkish classic, doner kebab.
After lunch, most members of the group decided to take a Bosporus Cruise to one of the Princes' Islands where we once again were astounded by the beauty of our surroundings.
Friday, May 25
On our third day in Istanbul, we were scheduled to visit Istanbul Municipality, APCO Worldwide, and then attend the gala dinner for the CIM at the Social Club of Istanbul University at Baltalimani.
We started the morning at the Public Relations Division at Istanbul Municipality, where Fatma Durak assisted in translation and helped educate our group on the functions of the government in Istanbul. As Fatma explained the process of residents reporting their problems, our group was shocked to learn the types of issues the government was held responsible for assisting. These issues varied from a woman unsatisfied with her hair color to a family suffering after a death in the family. Istanbul Municipality is dedicated to achieve their goal of handling all complaints in order to benefit the city as a whole.
They also explained an ongoing project of creating Communication Corners, which serve as information stations where assistance is available for anyone with questions. These Communication Corners were strategically placed in the busier areas of the city in order to reach a large population of individuals. When we were shown the picture of what these Communication Corners looked like, we realized that we had just visited one the day before in order to receive directions on how to get to the Bosporus cruise. From this experience, we knew first-hand how helpful and efficient these information stations were. One of the most admirable aspects of the Communication Corner was how its function preserved the value of face-to-face communication. As students studying communication in the United States, we understand the worth of face-to-face communication but in a society that relies heavily on technology, face-to-face can sometimes be avoided between individuals due to its inconvenience. Creating Communication Corners is a hard working attempt to keep that aspect of communication alive, and we were extremely impressed by the efforts of the Istanbul Municipality.
Next, Managing Director Zeynep Dereli hosted an excellent visit for us at APCO Worldwide. Although we had visited an APCO Worldwide office earlier in the trip, our visit to the Istanbul office allowed us to understand how the economy of a country could lead to different functions of specific offices. In the Istanbul office, we learned that the APCO Worldwide focuses a lot of time in the area of business diplomacy. Zeynep and her team spent a great deal of time with us discussing the government and the different economy drivers (IT, biomedical, real estate) in Turkey. We also discussed ways that Turkey could improve their brand value as a country and their current weaknesses in doing so. The APCO Worldwide team in the Istanbul office helped our group understand how these factors played a vital role in different businesses. Zeynep’s knowledge of the issues around the world was fascinating and we were privileged to have met with her and the others in the APCO office.
After our visit, our group took a trip to a nearby Starbucks and enjoyed a coffee outside alongside the Bosophorus before we left for the gala dinner. At the gala dinner, there was delicious food, great entertainment, and a lot of dancing. The excitement of the traditional Turkish music and dancing during the reception delighted our group as we talked to the professors and other students in attendance.
Saturday, May 26
On our last day in Istanbul, Tarik Dagdir guided us through parts of Istanbul where we were given the opportunity to learn about the amazing history of the city. Through the rise and fall of many empires, Istanbul is rich with history. On our tour we visited unforgettable sites including the Hipprodrome, the Blue Mosque, the German fountain, and the Topkapi Palace.
After eating lunch with our guide, we headed to the office of the Cumhuriyet Daily, an independent newspaper in Turkey. During our with Hakan Kara, news editor, and graciously translated by Burcu Akkaya, Cumhuriyet travel writer, we learned about the different newspaper publications in Turkey and the history of Cumhuriyet Daily and its progression throughout the years. In addition, we discussed how new technology has played a vital role in the newspaper’s development. One of the most interesting aspects of the discussion was about the issue with freedom of ideas in Turkey. Journalists are directly affected by this issue and many of them have spent time in jail because of this problem. After an informative discussion, we were given a tour around the office. After the visit, we enjoyed the next few hours in Istanbul by taking one last walk down Istiklal Street.
Monday, May 21
The visit to Mumbai began by being treated to a lavish dinner at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai by Sukanti Ghosh. Not only did we eat great food, but we also learned a great deal about India’s history, political and economic climate. The managing director of APCO India, he was extremely knowledgeable and accommodating.
Tuesday, May 22nd
After our late arrival and dinner the night before, our day in Mumbai was warmly welcomed. Half of the day was spent on a tour while we had the rest of it to ourselves. Mumbai is a hustling and bustling city. While New Delhi is India’s political center, Mumbai is the economic and cultural capital. Home to the world famous Bollywood, it was energetic and non-stop.
Our first stop on the tour was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Known as the Prince of Wales Museum, it houses many of India’s national treasures and historical artifacts. These ranged from modern art to rare pieces such as Emperor Akbar’s personal armor. We also saw the Gateway of India, Victoria Terminus, walked in the Mumbai Gardens and visited where Ghandi stayed during his time in the city.
In the evening we all went our separate ways. The the girls had an exciting night on the town as well. After first shopping for scarves and other accessories, someone bought a drum, later traded it for other merchandise and finally concluded the night by learning on the "elephant god," Ganesha.
We left Fariyas Hotel at 2 a.m. for our 6 a.m. flight to Istanbul sleepy but excited about the next part of our journey.
Sunday, May 20
Today we were off to the Taj Mahal. After an early wakeup call, we boarded the bus and made our way to the train station. For such early hours, the station was extremely busy as everyone was either coming into or out of the city. After a comfortable two-hour ride to Agra, we met our contact for a bus ride to the Taj Mahal. Our tour guide immediately began a history lesson of India’s earliest days, culminating with India’s colonization by Britain and recent independence.
On the way to the Taj Mahal, we learned that the Indian government was proactive in limiting pollution around the monument. All factories were removed from the area and vehicles in the immediate proximity are required to be electric powered. In fact, once we stopped at the entry point, we took an electric van to the entrance.
The Taj was magnificent. To learn about an ancient marvel is one thing, but to actually see it is quite another. Our first impulse was to take as many pictures as possible. Much like “supporting” the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a popular photo trick was to “hold” the Taj Mahal from above.
We made our way to the entrance and took off our shoes to enter the marble dome. Walking inside was an unbelievable experience. There laid the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s wife who had died during the birth of their 14th child.
As we exited Indian family after family asked to have their photos taken with the girls.
After the Taj Mahal, we visited the Red Fort. Built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century, it served to serve as the seat of power of Mughal Emperors. A formidable fortress, it was only ever captured with the help of internal turncoats. Famously, it was also where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son due to the elaborate spending on the Taj Mahal.
For lunch and we had our next round of classic Indian food. After some debate over what we should order, we settled on the Chicken Tikka, a choice we returned later in the trip.
The train trip back to New Delhi was turned out to be the biggest culturel shock of the tour. Fully expecting seats like we had earlier in the day, we were extremely surprised when our tickets were for a sleeper train. Three hours later, we all agreed that we had just been subject to experiential learning.
By this time, it was already evening and we traveled back to the hotel. After a long day, we all enjoyed a relaxing evening to ready us for the next day.
Saturday, May 19
Our journey to India started with a 4:30 am flight from Dubai to New Delhi. The Dubai airport’s extravagance contrasted greatly with the small and highly guarded Delhi airport. As we walked to our bus we encountered many stray dogs and unfamiliar smells, just two of the many differences we would notice in India. Our guides gave us lays as we boarded the bus, which was taking us to the Hans Hotel in New Delhi. At the hotel we were given mango juice while we waited to be checked in. Exhausted from our 2 a.m. wake up we rested for a few hours in preparation for our guided tour in the afternoon.
The guide, Jvsir, picked us up from the hotel for the bus/walking tour. First, he took us to the old part of Delhi which was extremely chaotic and full of poverty. Cars, buses, taxis, and bikes didn’t take notice of the lanes whatsoever, and drove on both sides of the road coming from both directions. As a result, there is the constant sound of beeping, used more as a way to tell people you are there as opposed to expressing that someone did something wrong. It was interesting to see how many people were just hanging out on the side of the road. Many looked like they were homeless, but only a handful were begging for money. We were sad to hear that 25 percent of the people in Delhi are living below the poverty line. The biggest surprise by far was the fact that many Indian people are fascinated with white skinned foreigners. Everywhere we went we were a spectacle. Everyone we passed would stop what they were doing, stare and often times take a picture. The more bold would come up to us and ask if they could take a picture with us.
Our first stop on the tour was at the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid. Upon entering the women of the group were asked to put on make-shift saris, similar to the traditional clothing that Indian women would wear. The guide explained that about 15-18 percent of the India is Muslim, while about 65 percent is Hindu. Next, we passed the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated, a gated park known by the Indian people as Rajghat. Unfortunately the gates were locked, so the guide took a few minutes to explain how Gandhi was integral in the democratic transition for India. Gandhi was assassinated at the age of 79, however he was alive to see India gain their freedom. We then passed the home of the President, Vice-President, and Parliament. We were interested to hear that following the September 11th attacks no planes were allowed to fly over this area for fear of Pakistani action. To experience some of the local food we stopped at a restaurant named Suribachi. The favorite meal of the group was the Chicken Tikka Masala, a traditional Indian dish consisting of chicken in a tomato and yogurt based sauce with a variety of spices mixed in. After lunch we went to see the tallest minaret in India called the Qutub Minar, which was made of sandstone and marble at about 73 meters high. To conclude our tour we ended at a government subsidized shop that sells rugs, scarves, saris, and jewelry of top quality. Our guide then escorted us back to the hotel, where we wrapped up the day with dinner at the in-house restaurant.
Monday, May 21
We made our last day count in New Delhi by visiting two different agencies, Genesis Burson-Marsteller and Penn Shoen Berland.
At Genesis Burson-Marsteller we listened to a presentation by the President Nikhel