How International Residencies can work even in times of Corona
The international residencies of the MBA at the WU Executive Academy without a doubt count among the programs’ highlights. Due to the pandemic, however, things are still different right now, also with regard to international study trips. To make sure that students get to experience their Global Executive MBA international residencies at least in part, the WU Executive Academy staff came up with a plan: in the course of a Virtual Global Week, they sent participants on a virtual journey and had them make online visits to companies and universities across China, India, Brazil, and Argentina.
This year, Global Executive MBA students at the WU Executive Academy were supposed to go on not one but several international study trips taking them to India and China in January, to the US in May, and to Argentina and Brazil in July. That the coronavirus pandemic thwarted these plans was a great disappointment to the business school and particularly the participants.
“It was still important to us to let our students breathe international air and gain know-how from other countries and universities,” Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, recounts. “When it became clear that study trips to Asia, the US, and South America were definitely out of the picture, we pulled out all the stops to organize a varied alternative program for our students. We know that, of course, such a program is not the same as the real international residencies, but it can still give students stimulating insights into the economic, political, and social particularities of the respective country and enable valuable contacts with local and international companies on site.” This is how the WU Executive Academy came up with a four-day Virtual Global Week packed with company and university visits via MS Teams, presentations, lectures, and interactive sessions and workshops.
In the morning, students traveled to China and India, paying a visit to an India-based subsidiary of the pharmaceutical company Novartis and going on to listen to Professor James Wang of the City University talk about Hong Kong as a regional hub for international logistics. In the afternoon, the virtual trip took students to Latin America, where Jerry O’Callaghan, CEO of JBS, the global market leader in meat processing based in São Paulo and Dallas, talked about the company’s strategy and challenges. Daniel Kohntopp, founder of the Brazilian bike start-up Bike & Park, subsequently debated growth strategies and the entrepreneurial challenges posed by the South-American start-up ecosystem with the students. The virtual tour was concluded in the late afternoon with a social event that, courtesy of the Rio Grande Samba School, brought the Brazilian carnival to the students’ living rooms and home-office spaces, culminating in a jam session featuring pots and pans.
Next on the Global-Week itinerary was Argentina, where Juan Cruz Díaz, Managing Director of the international consulting firm Cefeidas Group, let students in on the specificities of the Argentinian society and culture. He was followed by Sebastian Palatnik, who presented his e-commerce agency Glamit!. The trip to Argentina was crowned by a culinary highlight: participants received professional instructions to cook empanadas together, the traditional filled turnovers that are especially popular across Latin America.
During the Virtual Global Week, students also participated in innovation workshops and worked together to find solutions to the business challenges of the companies they visited, which they then presented to the managers in live meetings. The lively discussions with the professors and top-tier managers of the local and international companies made it clear that students can expand their horizons also virtually: “The Virtual Global Week brought us many new insights. It was especially interesting for me to see how companies drive digital transformation and act strategically under varying circumstances in other countries,” Arthur Michael Fritz, GEMBA student and current class president, reports. “Professor James Wang from Hong Kong told us about the difficult housing situation in the region. We also had a very lively exchange about the economic development in China and an extremely controversial debate about the expansion of nuclear plants in South America,” Fritz remembers.
The aim of the week was not to replace the real residencies on site but to prepare students for them in a targeted manner. It gave students the opportunity to talk to international lecturers and experts from the field about regional, global, and industry-specific topics despite the ongoing pandemic.
As soon as the situation allows for it, we are going to continue our physical residencies as planned and offer students to participate also after they have graduated. In this respect, the Virtual Global Week has helped pave the ground for the real residencies in the respective countries – a beautiful example of how the virtual world can add to the real world.
For more information about the Global Executive MBA and the international residencies, please click here.