Toulouse Business School Online Winter programme was an incredible opportunity to expand my international business knowledge and experience. I participated in the International Human Resource Management course to diversify my postgraduate business management study with a global component. An excellent online experience learning from experts and professional consultants based in France!
I enjoyed the interactive online lessons and practical content with students from multiple countries – Australia, Chile, Morocco, Indonesia and New Zealand! This mix of students and lecturers made the discussions and learning experience culturally rich. I loved learning about how each country’s natural culture influences business practices and how this must be a key consideration when exploring new international business opportunities. It was a two-week intensive course in Central European Time (CET) which consisted of interactive, live Zoom classes (Mon – Fri CET but Tues – Sat NZT) and four cultural / industry webinars with experts in the aviation & Occitane wine industry, work in France/ Europe and a virtual tour of Toulouse. This virtual tour was a creative way which felt like you were really immersed in the history, culture and environment of Toulouse (as close as it can be virtually).
The programme started with a virtual, informative and fun orientation via Zoom. The course staff were super helpful and responsive with easy to follow enrollment steps and learning management systems. The group project was one of my favourite aspects as I collaborated with students from Chile! It was an enriching experience as we shared about each other’s country, cultures, business practices, languages, education system, history and societal challenges. I even learnt some Spanish which was enlivening as a multilinguist. This demonstrates the amazing cross-cultural connections you can make. We also had a personal coaching session to consult about our presentation and report. The topics highlighted the significance of cross-cultural management, the importance of a global mindset and international socio-cultural awareness to be better positioned to comprehend and enact international business practices. A key learning was around HR Management practices in various nations, my group project was a great way to apply this in a practical way. The project focused on Italy, COVID-19, challenges with international business considerations and International HR recommendations for the scenario of an American aerospace company moving into the Italian business market. International collaboration, online presentation and case analysis skills relate to my current area of work and future goals of working in consulting or government.
One of the key challenges was around the timing. Classes were from 1-3AM NZT, expert webinars 11PM – 12AM NZT and group work sessions location dependant. Time zone differences with my team were tricky to navigate at first but once established worked well. It was difficult at times to stay awake/ wake up but the enthusiasm and genuine comradery with my lectures and classmates made it an enjoyable experience. It was worth the sacrifice of time and sleep for me as it was a fun challenge, exciting to be part of something new and was inspired to learn at a tertiary institute in France (albeit virtually) – a dream come true as a previous French major! This course is all taught in English so even if you haven’t learnt French before this will work well for you. I’d recommend having a reliable support system and plan in place for these two weeks to ensure you focus on your wellbeing while enjoying this virtual experience. Overall it was invigorating, fulfilling and intellectually stimulating course which I would highly recommend, not only to business students, as you can bring your own areas of expertise and see the connections international business has to almost any industry.
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.
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.