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EMIB’s Innovative Online Study Abroad Program a Success

The COVID-19 pandemic may have shut down any chance of safe international travel this summer, but faculty and staff in the Chaifetz School’s Executive Master of International Business program got creative to ensure students could complete degree requirements and graduate on time. The Boeing Institute of International Business’ first ever virtual study abroad experience connected master’s students with business leaders abroad and gave students insight into international markets, all from the safety of their own homes.

Outside the Chaifetz School of Business

The Executive Master of International Business offers busy professionals the opportunity to earn an executive degree on a flexible schedule.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut campuses down in March, it took universities everywhere by surprise. Faculty, most of whom were inexperienced in teaching virtually, were faced with the arduous task of moving their courses to an entirely online format with very little notice. Students confronted problems of their own: some had unreliable internet access or needed to share a computer, and many struggled to transition from busy, social lives on campus to the isolation of lockdown.

With the pandemic ongoing and a vaccine still months away, campuses across the country are preparing for another semester of unknowns. While SLU will hold classes on campus this fall, faculty and students who are uncomfortable with in-person learning will be online once again. 

This time, however, professors have had adequate time to prepare a virtual learning format, and many have grown more comfortable with teaching online over the summer, picking up new ways to make virtual learning engaging for students. The Chaifetz School’s EMIB’s “study abroad” experience did exactly that. 

EMIB partnered with the Austral Group, an organization that provides experiential and virtual learning programs for universities. Austral Group, which has worked with some of the country’s top business schools to offer engaging international learning experiences, provided itineraries to two virtual “destinations,” Chile and Argentina. 

The schedules included presentations from a diverse array of business leaders, with representatives from VReady Now, BerrySur, InvestChile and Emerson. 

EMIB students were also invited to participate in business challenges as part of their virtual experiences. BerrySur provided three distinct challenges based on the students’ interests and areas of expertise: brand management strategy; relationship building with distributors in the wholesale market; and internationalization strategy for new markets.

The program was a success. The virtual experience allowed EMIB students to fulfill their graduation requirements on time without the need for international travel and provided an international networking experience for both the students and organizations involved. 

Because EMIB students pursue careers in international business, this virtual study abroad experience was a critical aspect of their degree. While a traditional international immersion experience would certainly be preferable, EMIB faculty have proven that a virtual substitute can provide a meaningful learning experience for students.