My Toulouse Business School virtual semester abroad was a great experience which helped grow skills that have been developing in my years of study, alongside having the chance to expand my knowledge. Being in my penultimate year of study, the one thing missing from my university experience was studying out of the country. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, the chance to study abroad in person is out of the question; as such, having the chance to participate in studying at a foreign university through a virtual semester abroad was the next best thing.
The structure of the virtual programme focused on three key sessions: lecture time, groupwork time and coaching lessons. One skill that developed during the programme was teamwork. With a sizeable chunk of the course revolving around separating from the class as a whole, and working on multiple projects with my small team, my cooperative skills improved. Alongside this, another skill that developed was time management. Since the classes were based in Toulouse, France, the 1pm lecture time meant that they began at 11pm in New Zealand. Ensuring that I would be able to balance my work and social life alongside the late lecture sessions, planning my schedule ahead of time was highly important. Combining these two improved upon skills was necessary during my time with the virtual semester abroad. Managing the time zone differences to bring together my team for our presentations helped this, with planning scheduled meetings and coaching sessions, to presenting to the class, lecturer and a selected panel of guests. I’m thankful for the course for giving me the chance to develop these skills, as they will definitely come to be a help in my future career.
With more and more facets of business becoming virtual, the integration of these skills with a technological niche will undoubtably come in handy. The main challenge to keep in mind with virtual programmes abroad are time zone differences. Since lectures were based in France, with students studying abroad virtually from many nations, coordinating meeting times with teammates was sometimes a struggle. However, most students seemed to understand that, and planning times to meet and work on our assessments came easily enough. Any advice I would give to students thinking about taking part in virtual programmes is to be flexible; ensuring that you give enough time to the course is important, but balancing your life outside of study is too. Since many of the programmes are in completely different time zones across the world, it’s key to plan ahead. Not only this, but it is important to manage expectations with the coursework. A large portion of my assessments focused on virtual presentations, which led to most teams experiencing technical difficulties. While it might seem like the end of the world at the time, it’s just another learning experience.