Photos by Michelle Graessle


Downtown Munich offers a variety of things to do and see for each and everyone of its visitors and residents.

The Reichstag serves as an icon of rebirth to the people of Germany.

The Reichstag serves as an icon of rebirth to the people of Germany.

The East Side Gallery features street art on the former location of the Berlin Wall.

The East Side Gallery features street art on the former location of the Berlin Wall.

A grave marker pays tribute to the unknown victims.

A grave marker pays tribute to the unknown victims.

The Checkpoint Charlie museum is a tribute to crossing checkpoint between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.

The American Sector in Berlin features shops, restaurants, and architecture that are not unlike our own cities.

The Glockenspiel in Munich sits in the center of Marienplatz and rings every day at 5 p.m.

The Glockenspiel in Munich sits in the center of Marienplatz and rings every day at 5 p.m.

BMW and the power of innovation

A series in the BMW museum.

BMW features a museum full of history and beautiful luxury vehicles.
(photo by Katie Pflug)

by Michelle Graessle

Black leather seats. The cool smoothness of a steering wheel in eager hands. The tenacious purr of a hand crafted engine. Jaw-dropping design that would leave Leonardo Da Vinci in awe. This machine belongs in one place: on the road.

The classic image of a sleek BMW is only slightly altered for the company’s newest concept, BMW i. That difference is not actually even visible, only audible because the BMW i series of vehicles is completely electric. Although its purr may be somewhat muted, its innovation, power and design are unaltered if not improved.

Manuel Sattig, communication manager for BMW project I, is adamant that although combustion engines are becoming more efficient, they will eventually be phased out and electro-mobility will be at the forefront of automotive innovation. He said that people are becoming more and more interested in the environmental and ecological responsibility of the products they buy. With that in mind, and BMW being a customer-driven company, it has to keep up with its customers’ wants and needs and prepare for the future while maintaining brand identity.

“In this time period we are in the middle of an iconic change. Right now, this is not a technology that is the most suitable necessarily for today and tomorrow, but it will definitely be one of the major technologies of the future. That’s why you have to take care of it now, to make your company fit for the future,” Sattig said.

An American BWM tour guide showcases one of BMW's tiniest models.

An American BWM tour guide showcases one of BMW’s tiniest models.
(photo by Marina Weis)

BMW did extensive research before moving forward with the cars. The BMW i3 will be released this fall and the BMW i8 next year.  The price for the i3 will be under 40,000 euros  in Euope; BMW hasn’t finalize the price yet.

The BMW i was formerly known as the “Megacity Vehicle” and is best suited for urban markets. The car must be charged like any other battery-powered device but is also complemented with a small combustion engine. This combination makes for an extraordinary driving experience while also maintaining exceptionally low fuel consumption and emission levels, Sattig said.

Sattig said that the two most important benefits of driving a BMW i are its focuses on environmental and economic efficiency.

“The environment is important because we have to reduce resources and emissions of vehicles. Also, you can actually say right now that driving an electric vehicle is about half the price, just for energy costs, of driving a very efficient combustion engine. Those are the two major factors people think about when considering electro-mobility,” Sattig said.

New innovations aside, BMW will always be a company devoted to driver experience and the tradition of the brand as Stefan Mueller, a staff member of the International Corporate Communications department, can attest to.  For example, it is important to BMW that its cars can go from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds.

“BMW is a brand driven by emotion. Our cars are sold on the notion that driving is for sport and it’s fun,” Mueller said.

The appropriately shaped BMW building.

The appropriately shaped BMW building.
(photo by Carson Allwes)

BMW can trace its roots back to Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto, according to the company’s website. In 1916, the Flugmaschinenfabrik Gustav Otto company had merged into Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke AG (BFW) at government behest. Elsewhere, in 1917, the Rapp Motorenwerke company morphed into Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, which was duly converted into an AG (public limited company) in 1918. BMW became an automobile manufacturer in 1928; the first motorcycle was produced in 1945. It bought the Rover Group in the United Kingdom to expand its range of models, including the Land Rover, Rover, MG, Triumph and Mini. It acquired Rolls Royce in 1998

This idea holds true as visitors cross the street into the BMW Welt and Museum, where the tradition and history of this iconic brand is encapsulated in some exquisite architecture. Classic cars and new concepts are on display for visitors to ogle, including the Rolls Royce and Mini vehicles it produces. Shiny and pristine, the museum holds original airplane engines and motorcycles of the inception of the company as well as showcases the development of BMW through the years.

As the Point Park visitors made their way through the many displays, Mueller’s idea of “driving for sport” is grossly apparent. Each specimen of automotive prowess displayed at the BMW Welt and Museum clearly wants to be used for more than just driving to work. Emotionally invested employees clearly designed and created these cars with some grand scheme of experience in mind; not just for transportation but for the love of driving.

Touring Berlin


A view of the Reichstag
(photo by Michelle Graessle)

by Michelle Graessle

The barely full tour bus hit every bump in the unfamiliar road with little regard to its travel-worn passengers as it made its way toward the city. This particular bus was not immune to typical characteristics of other buses. The smell was stale and the air slightly stagnant. Seemingly unsuspectingly, this bus rolled along the highway in typical fashion; however, it was only a matter of time before this bus and its cargo would be enveloped by a foreign culture steeped in such a colorful history and taken completely by surprise.

The best way to describe a driving tour of Germany’s capital city Berlin is as a virtual reality history book. Instead of reading from a text, Liane Schulz, our tour guide is talking about what happened over a worn-out PA system. Instead of looking at pictures, the Point Park passengers are seeing it with their own eyes.

“And if you’ll look to your left, you’ll see the Brandenburg Gate,” she nonchalantly mentions.

The Brandenburg Gate is a cultural and historical icon.  (photo by Alexa Blanchard)

The Brandenburg Gate is a cultural and historical icon.
(photo by Alexa Blanchard)

The Brandenburg Gate has had an interesting view on so many decades of history, its symbolism changing with the times. Originally upon its inception, it was a symbol of peace. Then in Nazi times, it was a symbol of the party. It had a front row seat to that long, terrible reign and then later the end of the Berlin Wall.

As the bus rolled on, the tour guide mentioned another interesting tidbit about Berlin. “We have 170 museums in Berlin. That’s more museums than days it’s raining here,” Schulz  said.

And how couldn’t there be? With so much history to explore, it comes as no surprise that Berlin is home to a multitude of museums. The tour guide pointed out a museum at Checkpoint Charlie, one of the former connecting points between East and West Berlin. There is the Topography of Terrors that chronicles many aspects of Germany under Nazi rule, which was very close to the group’s hotel in Berlin, and there are also many diverse art museums to visit, many on Museum.

Just as diverse, Schulz explains, are the types of people living in Berlin. Of the 3.5 million citizens, the top three groups of immigrants come from Turkey, Croatia and other parts of Eastern Europe. One hundred and eighty countries are represented in this 775-year-old melting pot of a city. Also included in the population of Berlin are students. Berlin is the setting for to four universities and around 260,000 students. Because of this, nightlife is a large part of Berlin’s culture, giving it a unique reputation to the rest of Germany.

Students explore the Holocaust Memorial. (photo by Connor Mulvaney)

Students explore the Holocaust Memorial.
(photo by Connor Mulvaney)

Berlin attracts 1.2 million visitors per year, the guide said. Also not a surprise as on a driving tour alone the students saw the Reichstag building, Potsdamer Platz and the Sony Center, the Victory column, also known by American soldiers in World War II as the “Chick on a Stick,” and so many other iconic tourist destinations and historically relevant locations. The Point Park students and faculty stretched their legs at the Holocaust Memorial, a striking outdoor sculpture and commemorative museum in the midst of their initial tour.

This dynamic and diverse city also offers other unique experiences to travelers in its distinctive gastronomy and cultural nuances. If a tour bus could talk, it would tell visitors that Berlin is a must see for anyone interested in Germany as a travel destination.

That’s a wrap.

For our final media visits, we had the pleasure of leaning a little bit about the PR firm Ketchum Pleon and the national newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. At Ketchum, we learned that today was the 90th anniversary of the company. We were given a presentation about the company itself and then a little a few tips about how to create a successful PR campaign with regard to the German media. Although they specified that these were tips form German media, I found them to be universally useful. My favorite tip was to localize the story every time. PR is a business of trust and relationships. They mentioned that Germans are not quick to trust and I believe Americans are similar. If they are recommended to try or believe something on a smaller scale, more close to home as it were, they will be more likely to trust. Relating stories to that warm emotion of home and familiarity is a good segue into the trust necessary for PR to be effective.

After that presentation, we were able to talk to a social media expert at the company who was a master of the trade. I am taking on a social media internship this summer for a magazine back home so I will be able to put his insights to practical use in the future. The most pertinent piece of information I took from his presentation is that for a social media campaign to be successful, you must develop a separate strategy for each channel you are utilizing.

We then had the opportunity of going to Suddeutsche Zeitung, a prominent German newspaper to hear from a couple of people about what they do as well as watch the presses run. The people at Suddeutsche Zeitung were amazing and had very interesting insights and perspecives on the newspaper business and media in general. We got to hear from the editor of the online arm of the paper who showed us a cool analytics program for how they monitor users and engagement with the paper. We also heard from the advertising manager for the paper who showed us some extremely innovative ads he helped to develop and produce. He even let me keep one as a souvenir.

Today was a good last day. I’m sad to be saying goodbye to Germany but all that I’ve learned will be with me forever. It was an amazing experience that I truly enjoyed being a part of.



Vroom, vroom.

We were back to the media visit grind to day. BMW welcomed us to their offices to give us a short presentation about their new, purely electric cars. The project i series brand manager, Manuel Sattig, was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about BMW and this new electric car concept. The advertising and PR majors definitely benefited from this visit as it was mostly marketing related and of interest to all of us.

After learning about this very innovative and environmentally friendly car, we were treated to a delicious lunch where we were able to talk to two of the representatives one-on-one. Martin and Stefan were their names and they were both quite impressive people. Martin was a mere 23 years old and just graduated from University. It was very cool to see someone so young interning at such a well-established and serious company. Stefan was slightly older and worked his way up through BMW starting as a driver and ending up where he is now as a communications person for Asia and the South Pacific. In college, he started with  Mandarin studies, which helps him daily in his career.

Along with being quite successful, we found out in a humorous turn of events that Stefan was also a little bit arachnophobia. He found a little spider crawling on him and freaked out. I’m talking freaked out the way I freak out when I see a spider, screams and all. It was hilarious and endlessly endearing coming from such a pulled together businessman.

After lunch we toured the BMW Welt and Museum and were given little model i8s as souvenirs to remember our trip by. The museum was full of old classic cars and motorcycles as well as new concepts. Being that I am not very interested in cars, I had very little knowledge of the history of BMW so that was cool to see.

The main takeaway I got from BMW was definitely inspiration for my future line of work. We asked Stefan at lunch why it was necessary for a car to be able to go from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds and he had the most eloquent and passionate explanation. He explained that BMW is an emotion and is driven by the allure of the sport of driving. He said cars don’t need to be able to accelerate that fast, but BMWs are marketed that way because they are made to be driven for sport, not necessarily practicality per se. His quick response and knowledge of the brand identity of his company is something I hope I can emulate in my future career. BMW seemed very genuine, which surprised me a lot. Every employee seemed to back the brand and the company fully and honestly, which I found to be quite striking.

Feeling inspired,


Hard to pronounce, easy on the eyes

Another interesting aspect of German history compared to the United States is that with our country being formed in rebellion from monarchies, we don’t have any royal history. Today we explored a little bit of Germany’s royal history when we visited Neuschwanstein castle a couple of hours outside of Munich.

We travelled by train again to the small mountain village that the castle is located in. At this point, the castle is so much of a tourist attraction that the village sort of lost some of its charm for me, but it really is beautiful scenery. Mountains and sprawling farmland speckled with trees, cows and the occasional lake are the most distinguishing factors. The sharp mountain peaks frame the ornate castle as it presides over the lush green valleys below. It is most assuredly something to behold. From below, the view just takes your breath away. It can only be matched by the view of the landscape from the windows of the castle. King Ludwug definitely chose his land for its location, location, location paying extreme attention to curb appeal. It is stunning.

It was quite a hike through a somewhat wooded area to get up to the plateau that the castle sits on, which was right up my alley. The inside of the castle to me wasn’t as interesting, possibly because the whole time we were taking the tour all I wanted to do was go be outside in the mountains. As a kid growing up in Kansas, my parents and I were always doing things outside and at least once a year we took a trip to Colorado to ski or camp or both. The Alps are kind of like the Rocky Mountains on steroids so I was just eating it up, and as a result, not particularly interested in the interior design of this castle built in the 19th century. After the tour a few of us walked over to a bridge that overlooks the castle and valley below, which was simply breathtaking.

After all of that incline hiking, a long train ride was a welcome respite for my fatigued body. Definitely helped me to recharge.


More to come,


The hills were most certainly alive today.


The hills were alive today in Salzburg. I honestly think that my dad was more excited about this excursion than I was considering how much he loves the Sound of Music. Before this trip I never really had much desire to go to Salzburg. As Austria goes I’ve always been more interested in Vienna as a travel destination. This little side trip definitely sparked my interest in the city, as it was phenomenally gorgeous and full of history.

What I was excited about before leaving was that we would be in the Alps. I am a self-admitted mountain girl, outdoorsy as they come. The Alps have been on my bucket list for quite some time. Even though I didn’t get to do all that I would have liked to in them like hiking and skiing and such, it was nice just to be in the fresh mountain air for a while and surrounded by their beauty.

First, we were led on a walking tour through the city. We visited the garden are where one of the scenes of the Sound of Music was filmed. It was neat to see in person because I grew up watching that movie frequently. It was also absolutely beautiful, lush and intricately designed. In an interesting turn of events, horrible for the photographers in the group, there was a man fishing around in one of the fountains for coins people had thrown in. That is something I always find noteworthy to remember when traveling. We tend to always think the grass is greener on the other side but even in these idealized tourist destinations there is poverty and hunger. To me, that is always sobering and eye opening.

We then continued our tour through the old section of the city. Although it was rainy and cold outside, it was still pretty cool to walk through such an old and historic city with such an interesting perspective on events like World War I and II. It was very similar to Germany in some aspects, the language obviously and some of the food. The one thing I noticed to be the most different was that the people have more of a laid-back mountain attitude than Germans do in Berlin and Munich. They seem to be much more go-with-the-flow and easy going, which was somewhat of a relief from the more hard-nosed, serious Germans.

We finished our trip to Austria off with a meal that was equally relieving: chicken. I haven’t seen chicken for as long as we have been in Europe and I have never been more excited to have a piece of poultry set on my plate before. I don’t eat a lot of meat typically so Germany has been a shock to my system. Even when I do eat meat it is only ever fish and poultry, never red meat, which the Germans are very fond of. This meal was a welcome change to my hearty diet as of the last few weeks.

Austria was good to us and I can definitely see the draw to this beautiful mountainous country. It certainly has a lot to offer to any traveller.

Freight Train

Today was a day I have been looking forward to and dreading for a long time. We had the chance to visit Dachau this morning, a concentration camp used by the Nazis to separate, and eventually exterminate, undesirables from the rest of the German population. To say it was surreal to be there would probably be the understatement of the century. Growing up, I went to the Jewish Community Center for preschool and daycare until about 4th or 5th grade. Not only then do I have many Jewish friends, but I was also taught about the Holocaust at a very young age. It has been something I have cared deeply about and had a strong connection with all of my life even though I’m not Jewish or necessarily related to anyone who was imprisoned in a camp. I have however met many Holocaust survivors as a result of going to the Jewish community center and know countless people who had family persecuted and killed in Nazi concentration camps. This aspect of my life has always made me feel it necessary to visit a camp, which this trip allowed me to do.

Honestly, ever since we arrived in Munich, thoughts of this day have been lingering in my head. I felt slightly uneasy and a little nervous because I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to seeing this. In any case, the train and bus rides to Dachau were tense for me. Being on a train on the way there was interesting because, although I was not packed into a dark, damp cattle car like prisoners of Dachau would have been, that’s how the prisoners arrived at camp. All I could think about the entire ride was all the reading I had done about this topic, all the stories of evil I have heard first hand and second hand, all the pangs of sadness that this topic bring me. It’s not something I was prepared for and I was very much wishing I had someone close to me there to help me through it.

When we got to the camp, my discomfort level skyrocketed. Our guide led us to the front of the gate that so relentlessly locked these innocent victims in their hell. The gate, as with all concentration camp gates, was labeled “Arbeit Macht Frei” or, in English, work makes you free. After standing outside for a while, avoiding the daunting idea that I needed to go in, I finally walked through the gate and into the main yard.

Freight Train. A freight train of emotion slammed right into me. It was suddenly real, suddenly not just a story in a book. It was right before my eyes and in my face and clawing at my heartstrings and memories. The funny thing is, it doesn’t look like the deranged torture complex that it once was. The day was beautiful; sun, sky, breeze and all. That may have been what made it even more moving and troubling to me; the sick juxtaposition of this day and this location, and of the past and present.

In that juxtaposition however, comes something beautiful and inspiring. After reading all the books I’ve read and talking to all the people I’ve talked to, I’ve come to stand in awe of hope. Hope. Just a simple emotion with the power to go against all odds no matter how troubling. In a place as evil and hate-filled as Dachau or any other concentration camp, hope can be hard to find. To think that gorgeous days like today with these same chirping birds definitely happened when this camp was filled with innocent prisoners is a conflicting thought. Days like today could have given some of these victims the hope and strength to carry on even after physically they should not be alive. That, to me was a beautiful and profound realization.

What makes me absolutely sick to think about is the idea that the stories and memories of the victims of the Holocaust be forgotten. There were other aspects that I encountered walking around the camp that were horrendous and sickening that I don’t need to get into. History tells that story for me in great detail.  What I will say, is that visiting Dachau gave me a sense of peace and understanding that I will never, ever forget or fail to appreciate the intensity of their struggle. Their deaths although tragic, are not in vain and it is vitally important that as the last of the survivors pass on, future generations continue to tell this story and educate others so we can work towards making genocides and Holocausts merely things of history.


Today brought with it the full spectrum of emotion and it was exhausting. The freight train left me reeling and raw but also with a better understanding and acceptance of this tragedy and myself. Eye opening and moving, Dachau is an absolutely necessary experience for people traveling in this area.


May the lost souls of the millions known and unknown rest in peace with the knowledge that I will never forget their struggle.




Hello, Munich.

Today, we hopped on a plane and jetted off to our final destination in Munich. When we arrived we took a bus into the city and checked in to our hotel. After that we had a walking tour of the city center and ate lunch before heading to our media visit at the Munich Tourism Office. When we arrived, we were greeted by Isabella Schopp who works in the PR department of the office. I was very interested in this presentation because it was the first one that actually dealt with my major.

Isabella is involved with communicating with journalists and media outlets interested in writing stories about Munich as a tourist destination. The office offers many resources and amenities to journalists to facilitate the spread of information about and interest in Munich to increase the number of tourists each year. She mentioned that events like Oktoberfest and The Christmas Market are popular events they spark interest in journalists and even showed us some of the articles that she and her team helped to get created.

Although I am more interested in promotions and advertising, it was interesting to note that there are more outlets for PR than I had originally thought of. This trip has opened my eyes to the idea that this field has so much to offer and I am excited to be a part of it. Her job was very behind- the-scenes, similar to Deutsche Presse. That is very appealing to me.

After our visit, it was off to a VERY traditional dinner of multiple types of meat and potatoes. It was a little adventurous for me but I tried it, although didn’t really enjoy it to be honest. German food is heavy and my body is just itching for a green salad. After dinner I came back and relaxed a little before getting a much needed, good night’s sleep to prepare for our first off day!

More tomorrow,


Berlin, you’ve been good to me.

Well, today was our last day in Berlin. Our media visit today was jam packed with interesting and stimulating material. We visited Axel Springer, a large publishing company based in Berlin with a very rich history. We had the chance to visit the journalism academy, the video department and also got to hear from the assistant editor-in-chief of a major brand of the company Die Welt, a well-known German newspaper  with an unbelievably genius marketing strategy.

The way that people become journalists in this country, I learned, is a much different process than in the states. Here, it isn’t technically necessary that you have a college education to get into journalism school, although most do. Typically, aspiring journalists complete their undergrad, work for a few years and then apply to journalism programs. Axel Springer has one of the best and most competitive programs in the country and is partnered with Columbia University in New York. We had the opportunity to meet a few of the students currently studying at the academy, which was inspirational to say the least. These people are extremely bright and I hope I can have the same effect they had on me on another up and coming professional in the future.

The most memorable part of the day for me was hearing from Leeor Englander, assistant to the editor-in-chief of Die Welt. He is a bright young businessman who is visibly passionate about what he does and who he works for. From the marketing standpoint that I generally try to look at things from, Die Welt was somewhat of a powerhouse in my eyes. First of all, the content is created for the Internet/ digital and then adapted and put into a physical paper, somewhat opposite from most other newspapers. There is the regular, classical version of the newspaper as well as a condensed version targeted at a younger audience. Along with those, there is a Sunday paper with the same condensed counterpart and two regional newspapers as well (one for Berlin and one for Hamburg). What was amazing to me was how well this business model was thought out. Leeor was adamant about adapting to the most current media landscape and, more importantly, what people will buy and how to most effectively and efficiently market to those people.

Most of the visits so far have been more journalism focused, being that I am interested in marketing and PR this was a breath of fresh air to me. Leeor had many insights as to the future of newspapers and mentioned that one day print will be obsolete, however, that day is not today. Ever the opportunist, he mentioned that timing is essential and giving up on print too soon and scrapping that part of the operation would be a tremendous failing in terms of business because there is still enough interest in it to make it profitable. It was great to hear about such a well thought out marketing model and I was impressed with his knowledge of the company and business in general.

It’s time to say goodbye to Berlin now. I have learned so much from this city about media, history and even a little about myself. Now it’s off to Munich for some more and I can’t wait to keep exploring.


Until next time,