Experience Study Abroad: Virtual International Business

Even though international travel has been unfeasible, there are still wonderful opportunities for students to have international encounters! Through seminars, cultural “excursions”, and project-based learning, Colin Behr’s virtual study abroad experience taught him how to effectively conduct business and communicate with different cultures.

When many write final narratives on their study abroad experience, they usually involve listings of their plentiful in-person adventures. While I do wish I was able to do that for this experience, the COVID-19 pandemic made many ways of international travel close to impossible, but you will be surprised how full of beneficial experiences this virtual study abroad through the ASEAN/Asia Pacific region I participated in from June 13th to July 2nd brought me.

To commence, this virtual trip started out in Singapore. Throughout our week-long zoom venture here our group had the privilege of listening to numerous business leaders stationed in the area. Some of these leaders were active in many US stationed companies, like ORACLE, and provided valuable information on how foreign affairs are to be conducted. Throughout our week in Singapore, we were given lectures from a Singapore native who taught us the importance of international business and methods so that it could be conducted with the most effective and efficient means possible. While we were given lectures and took many notes on international business dealings, we still did get the opportunity for cultural experiences. In Singapore specifically, we got a personalized, virtual, tour of Garden by the Bay which is home to millions of flowers and plants and even broke a Guinness World Record for being the World’s Largest Greenhouse.

This is our class photo for our virtual study abroad experience. Pictured you can see our professor, Dr. Low, who taught us while stationed in Singapore!

Other cultural activities we participated included study throughout Australia and New Zealand where we were given a personalized Australian cooking class! We were taught how to make a couple of Australian custom cuisine items: Lamingtons (pictured below) and Meat Pies! As we continued our studies of the Asian Pacific region, we landed in Hong Kong where we then got a personalized Tai Qi lesson where we learned about its numerous health, meditation, and self-defense benefits.

Having the privilege of obtaining a deep dive into these foreign cultures during these COVID times was truly an honor to have as I have always dreamed of being able to study the way customs work around the world. While this was a major benefit of this virtual study broad experience, it was not the only one. On top of our cultural activities and business briefings with foreign companies, we did learn how to effectively partake in international business affairs as well!

Throughout our studies we learned numerous rules and regulations when dealing with international business, but what allowed me to grasp it best was when we were tasked to create a report on opening a representative office for a domestic (homeland) business in a foreign country. Throughout this report we were tasked with tasks such as to go through the process of a SWOT analysis, where we analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that could impact the business’ competition or overall planning in the country; or similarly with a PESTLE analysis, where we denoted the various political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental impacts which allows for the business to get a full “birds eye” view of the entire environment that they are entering prior to actually opening up business there. Skills such as these will undoubtedly assist me in my further studies as I continue my journey into understanding foreign cultures and how to effectively communicate and deal business with them effectively!

These were the dessert item for our Australian cooking class! They are Lamingtons and are a delicious cuisine custom in Australia!

The most valuable ideal I learned over the course of this three-week trip was not the efficient methods of international business, but the importance of loving what you do! As I listened to our lecturer and several business briefings, I truly came to understand how much these people loved their work! It showed not only in their tone of voice, but their overall effort into their job and work as a whole. While I did not expect to gain this realization from this trip, I am more than happy it came about. I was able to understand that no matter how much work and effort one puts into something, if they do not love the work that they are doing, it will never be as good as it could be; simply because if you do not love something, you cannot give your whole heart to it.

While I would have undoubtedly loved to have the opportunity for an in-person study abroad and hope I do get the privilege of it one day soon, this experience provided me with valuable learning material for my further international business studies and with a better mindset on foreign customs and cultures. While I entered this experience with high amounts of skepticism, I leave it with knowledge that I hope to expand upon as I further my studies and once I hopefully get the ability to travel internationally for a study abroad!

Author Bio:

Colin Behr is an upcoming sophomore at the University of Iowa who plans to double major in Business Analytics (Information Systems) and Marketing with a minor in French. Colin comes from Gilberts, IL, a small Chicago suburb, and enjoys coming back home to play with his dog, Hershey. Colin dreams of getting to travel the world and hopes to start that experience as soon as pandemic worries comes to a close! Outside of his studies, he often spends his time at the gym or hanging out with friends as much as possible.

Edited by: Abbey Jordahl, Honors Administrative Assistant

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