Thomas: Toulouse Business School (July 2021)

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.

Toulouse Business School - Wikipedia

Karamvir: Toulouse Business School (January 2021)

My virtual programme experience at Toulouse Business School was engaging, surprising and excellent. It was not all about the academic courses, the non-academic ones kept you engaged and entertained throughout the programme. The courses I took were taught in a more practical manner than a theoretical, the lecturers would do a zoom meeting with around 10-25 students from all over the world. This allowed closer discussions and access to the lecturer was a lot easier.

For presentation and projects, all the students were assigned in groups which allowed friendships to be made and valuable skills to be attained. One of these skills was the ability to organise and work with those who you do not know. This happens much in the workplace, where you will not always be grouped by friends and you need to organize yourself according to your skillset in the team. At the end, groups had to showcase what they learnt by presenting their project in the class. Presenting in front of complete strangers from the other side of the world really enhanced your confidence and speaking skills.

The lecturer also provided group coaching sessions, where your group could clear up any misunderstandings and ask questions to the lecturer. These were really useful especially when it came to our projects. There were many challenges, the main being the time zone and most of my lectures were after midnight NZST. The lectures were recorded, which was helpful, but the ability to ask questions and really engage with the material is vital to learning. The same applied to the groups I was in, and in order to rehearse or discuss whilst the whole group being present was not easy. So, we had to find a convenient time where we could call meetings and all work effectively.

Outside of the courses there were many non-academic activities we could attend, from learning about French gastronomy to playing ice-breaking games. My favourite was the photo challenge, where you had to take a photo for example of what is outside your window. You could see all the amazing places people lived in – whether that be next to the ocean or on snowy mountains.

The Toulouse Business School team were really helpful when problems arose, would ask how you are going and be there when you need them. Overall, though it was virtual, my experience at Toulouse Business School was memorable and definitely unforgettable.

Toulouse Business School - Wikipedia

Yu Ding: National Taiwan University AI Programme (April 2021)

I am honoured to have participated in the National Taiwan University Virtual Program on Artificial Intelligence Development and Application, funded by the University of Auckland. This program consists of 10 recorded sessions and a one-hour meeting. To complete this program, we needed to watch 10 recordings of the complete department, attend the one-hour meeting, finish the final quiz and write an essay about AI and what you learned throughout this program.

I met the famous professor Hongyi Li and had an indepth discussion with him. I met with my classmates from all over the world, such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States, and I had a good time talking about artificial intelligence development and application.

The biggest challenge in this program was that there are many concepts of artificial intelligence, and each concept is quite complex. To fully understand these concepts, you still need to put in more effort after class, and to communicate with professors at National Taiwan University. In addition, each recording is much longer than that of University of Auckland. It often takes 2 hours or even 3 hours more to watch the entire recording. It’s a great challenge for our attention and endurance.

On the other hand, there were no compulsory exercises and after school assignments for this program, so we needed to check and fill in the gaps ourselves. Through this program, I have mastered the related concepts and applications of artificial intelligence, neural network, machine learning and so on. At the same time, I also learned about the various uses of artificial intelligence in life and production. For example, the application of artificial intelligence in engineering, agriculture, natural language processing and medicine. In the final essay, I wrote about the application of artificial intelligence in the field of medicine. I introduced the advantages and disadvantages of Da Vinci robot and robotic surgery, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of artificial intelligence in medical imaging diagnosis.

Generally speaking, this program is very worthwhile. Through participating in this program, we can not only learn the concepts related to artificial intelligence, but also have face-to-face communication with famous professors of National Taiwan University. At the same time, we can also discuss with students from all over the world to enrich our views.

National Taiwan University - Wikipedia

Hongkai: Soochow Short Term Programme (December 2020)

I have learnt many things during this summer program, including social skills, Chinese and Japanese culture and business skills, English skills, etc. I learnt how to do business in China and the importance of it after I graduate from UoA. Also, I got to meet with many students from all over the world which is very beneficial for networking. I also improved my English skills during this virtual summer program.

The program was purely online, but we had many different online activities including Japanese culture workshop, online CFA workshops, I got to learn a lot of stuff that I did not know previously. In the class I took, I got to participate in different projects and essays, which allowed me to enhance my writing and presentation skills. I believe that the biggest takeaway from this program is that I thoroughly expanded my network in this program. I added over 50 students from different universities in Australia and I will be meeting them in person after the program ends. I am really excited about this.

The challenge I faced in this program is that sometimes the project and essays are a little bit challenging, but it really did help me enhance my skills comprehensively. I really appreciate the 360 team for offering such an opportunity, it has been really valuable to me, if I have a chance, I would certainly like to participate in it again. I would also recommend it to my friends at UoA. In spite of the fact that we are in a tough time of Covid-19, I still really enjoyed the experience.

The virtual program offers a great new way of learning, while sometimes there might be some lag in the class, but I get to participate in the live class, and if I had any questions, I got to go back to the recording again. One advice that I would give to other students is that don’t worry about the difficulties in online learning, Soochow has done a great job with this and also you will get to meet other students.

Soochow University (Suzhou) - Wikipedia

Joyce: Korea University Winter School (December 2020)

The 2020 Korea University Virtual Winter programme was a very valuable experience for me. I enrolled myself into 1 course: Social Psychology, which was not only relevant to my major and transferable but was life-changing in terms of the theories and concepts taught. The course was conducted online for the whole 3-week programme via zoom, where I had to attend live lectures from 1-4 pm daily with more than 30 students. During the live zoom session, we were given opportunities to discuss and share viewpoints and ideas regarding the course material for the day. The course itself was assessed on Lecture participation, two examinations (Mid-term and Final Exam) and daily chapter reading reflections.

Personally, the daily chapter reading reflections were of the greatest value to me throughout this programme. Not only did it nurture me, but it has challenged me to think beyond my perception. The most memorable concept was about Casual attribution. This being the construal process people use to explain both their own and others’ behaviour, I was able to understand the people around me and myself whilst reading about it, which resulted in direct influence to my own life. Although we could not physically learn together, every student had a positive and initiative attitude which allowed us to still connect despite the distance between us. With daily group activities and the guidance of an interactive professor, I could connect with other global citizens around the world; the theories and concepts covered during the course Social Psychology created a special experience for us to be engaged in a deeper level by sharing our encounters and experiences growing up.

Each student was able to share their unique opinions and perspectives which helped me to practice and learn cultural intelligence. At the end of the programme, I was confident that I gained strong cultural intelligence skills that I can use in my daily life, and future social settings. My time with Korea University and the fellow students around the world indeed gifted me with life-changing insights that I still reflect on to this day. I sincerely hope that we will be able to visit South Korea, and Korea University once every country overcomes these uncertain and unprecedented time of the pandemic. Amidst the tough situation with COVID-19, being able to interact with people from different ethnic, education and cultural background through this programme truly was a breather for me.

Shirin: Korea University Winter School (December 2020)

Most students look forward to the end of the academic year to visit their families and friends and spend another adventurous and fun summer vacation. But of course, for the summer of 2021, everything was different, and the question of what you can do during your break was more relevant. For those who like to benefit and learn something new, virtual courses are a great solution. I didn’t want to spend my holidays in front of the TV, watching movies and TV shows, so I applied for funding to participate in a virtual program. I am studying environmental science, and I am interested in learning sustainability, so I chose to enroll in Sustainability Strategies course by Korea University International Winter Campus.

The great thing about most of the courses is that you can participate in them regardless of your current degree. For example, we had students from different backgrounds, including business, creative arts and law. Having representatives of various faculties is helpful, especially for a group project as you have more perspectives and points to consider and learn. A group project was the primary assignment that we had to present during the final week. The final grade included group project, exam and attendance and participation. The zoom classes were held Monday to Friday from 1 pm to 4 pm New Zealand time, and there were all recorded. All of the sessions were interesting and engaging as most of them were accompanied by incredible Sir David Attenborough movies. Besides, the professor shared lots of exciting stories from his experience of sustainability in different contexts. I believe that virtual program was beneficial to develop teamwork and time management skills.

As we didn’t have much time to prepare for the presentation, we had to spend extra time out of class. It was not easy to select a convenient time due to the different time zones. Sometimes our meeting would continue until 2 am, so I had to learn how to manage everything and be always prepared. Besides, a virtual meeting is more challenging than in person because I feel more comfortable discussing with a real person, particularly when we can’t agree about something. And with people refusing to turn on their cameras, it was even more challenging. In terms of a program itself, I think that it helped me to develop critical thinking skills. I learned that one must be careful when making conclusions about sustainability because there are no globally accepted norms of how it should be assessed. This skill is valuable, especially in my program of study. Overall, I enjoyed the program as I expanded my knowledge about sustainability and learned a bit about Korean culture. I believe virtual programs are a great addition that can contribute to studies and help develop or improve various skills.