All posts by Elliot Slenk

Final Thoughts of Europe 2015

Now that I’ve been home for three days and the events over the past three weeks are still fresh in my mind, it’s interesting going over all the differences between the United States and Europe. Many people on this blog have already elaborated on these differences, but I thought I would give my own insight on them as well.

The first difference between life here in the United States and Europe is the amount of walking that is done. Many people in Europe are found in major cities, where walking can be done to take care of most everyday things. For example, in order to find food, you would not have to hop in your car and drive five miles to a grocery store. Chances are in Europe, you can walk ten to fifteen minutes to find most groceries. Here in America, I need to drive about five miles to buy basic groceries.

A second difference between Europe and the United States is that the amount of biking done in Europe is far greater than the amount done in the United States. The one city in Europe where this can be clearly seen is Amsterdam. Here, the bikers contribute to the traffic of the city more than cars or buses. There are bike lanes separate from the actual road to ensure the safety of the bikers. However, when it comes to right of way, bikers usually are in control of the flow traffic. Personally, I thought that the bikers were making the flow of traffic much more chaotic and that it could be simplified using just public transportation. However, that’s simply because I’m not used to the way people move about the city in Europe.

A final difference between Europe and the United States is the use of public transportation. When greater distances need to be travelled and riding a bike is not an option, the use of street rail cars, busses, or subways is an effective and relatively cheap way to travel. During our time in Europe, we often took advantage of the public transportation systems as it was the only way to view multiple parts of a particular city within a given day. If I where to live in a city the size of Amsterdam, Paris, or Berlin, I could see myself using bike and subways to move around the city. It seems that the use of a car solely within the city does not make any sense from an economic standpoint or environmental standpoint.

This trip to Europe was fantastic, and I probably will never again go on a trip with this much adventure and exploration. Professor Brouwer and Professor Plaisier certainly put together a trip of a lifetime. I am very grateful for this opportunity and will never forget this trip.

WWII and the Holocaust

Prior to this trip, I thought that my favorite excursion would be the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Mercedes-Benz tour. Even though both turned out to be fantastic, our learning of World War II through visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp and the Holocaust Museum quickly became my favorite item of this trip. When I arrived at the Dachau Concentration Camp and saw places such as the gas chambers and barracks where the prisoners slept, I gained a better understanding of the pain and suffering that millions endured not very long ago. Reading in a textbook about the torturous work that these prisoners did does not do justice to what really happened. This understanding can only be attained by walking where they walked and seeing what they saw.
In addition, our group also had the chance to visit the Holocaust Museum in Berlin, Germany. Here, we learned about the Holocaust from a very personal perspective. The museum has collected several letters where parents are writing to their children, husbands are writing to their wives, and so on. I noticed in a majority of these letters, a common phrase or statement was made by the writers: “I am going to die”. The work that the victims were forced to do and the torture that they had to endure was enough to convince them that they were not going to escape this unimaginable event. I can’t imagine having to go through anything where I would know my fate and there’s no way of changing it.
Thanks to the Holocaust Museum and the Dachau Concentration Camp, I now have a fresh perspective of one of the world’s worst events. It’s a perspective and experience that will never be forgotten.


Gentex Corporation – Erlenbach, Germany

As enjoyable as it is to visit historical sites and to learn about their significance, it is also rewarding to learn how engineering and business is done outside of the United States. Today, our group had the opportunity to tour Gentex Corporation and learn how their products make an impact everywhere in the world. Their primary products are auto dimming side and rear view mirrors for vehicles. Prior to their production of mirrors, Gentex produced smoke detectors. The sensors found in these smoke detectors were used and developed to detect light, which results in the mirrors dimming for the driver’s comfort. Gentex has also developed Smartbeam technology, which is the automatic switching between low-beam and high-beam lights, based on the detection of light in front of the car. Finally, Gentex has also expanded its business to air transportation and supplies the Boeing Dreamliner jets with automatic dimming windows.

Gentex has several branches located throughout Europe and Asia, along with its headquarters being located in Zeeland, MI. All of Gentex’s production is done at its headquarters in Zeeland, and then the parts are shipped to a region’s branch before being installed in the appropriate vehicle.

Gentex provided our group with a fantastic presentation and tour of their company, and their hospitality was greatly appreciated.