With the coronavirus pandemic changing how people work and interact the world over, international exchange programmes weren’t far behind, adapting by going virtual.
This change enabled two of our MBA students, Mariana Alencar de Oliveira and Michelle Goodsir, to undertake their planned international exchange with WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany.
“This is a first for AUT”, said Jacklyn Lim, Learning Abroad Manager, “and we hope to offer the opportunity to more students going forward. We already have two more MBA students currently doing their exchange with Aalto University, Finland.”
Focused on ‘The Changing Environment for International Business in Europe’, the WHU program took place over two weeks, with students participating from across the globe.
Both Michelle and Mariana found that the quality of the learning and the course content delivered online was excellent.
Said Michelle, “The learning in itself exceeded my expectations, with the lecturers teaching from midnight through to 5am Germany time, covering topics not part of our curriculum in NZ.”
Mariana agreed, adding, “Some of the professors were really engaging, working with different tools such as polls and interactive approaches that helped the classes be more dynamic. Some topics spurred discussions that were broader than just Europe, comparing family businesses, taxation and financial systems in different parts of the world.”
While unable to be there in person, analysing case studies in breakout rooms gave Michelle and Mariana the opportunity to engage in smaller groups and get to know their classmates from around the world.
For Michelle, a highlight was the class’ reaction to New Zealand and our response to the pandemic.
“On our first day, a person from each country was asked to address the other 85 participants about the impacts of Covid-19. What I found lovely was all the comments received in the chat whilst I spoke - comments of admiration for NZ as a country and our Prime Minister. It made me proud to be a Kiwi.”
They also shared a few words of wisdom for students looking to do virtual exchanges.
Mariana advocated for getting to know the people in the course and especially in your group. “You might have connections in common or your new expanded network could make the difference if you move to another country or company.”
Both Michelle and Mariana also recommend reduced working hours to make the best of the time spent on exchange.
“The five hours per day of virtual class were full on, with readings, case studies, and a final exam. You need to try your best to be mentally present and actively participate in the discussions. This would be difficult with a full-time job alongside the exchange,” said Mariana.
Overall, both Michelle and Mariana enjoyed the opportunity to study for two weeks with such a well-recognised institution.
“Learning virtually, for such a short but intense period was certainly a new experience, and one that ran smoothly. It shows that perhaps more of these opportunities should be provided in the future.” said Michelle.