An Immersive International Experience from Home August 20, 2020

By (Thunderbird School of Global Management) - abroad from 06/15/2020 to 07/02/2020 with

International Business Seminars: Virtual Japan

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I came out of this seminar filled with ideas for making business operate smoothly during the worst of economic times. The insights shared with us about Japanese business responses to the global pandemic were incredible. I learned some Japanese and a lot about our virtual tour destinations, Himeji Castle and Kiyomizu-dera.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Readings and resources were provided in advance of the program, including a detailed agenda, to help orient everyone. We studied about Japanese business and language prior to attending virtual meetings with business executives. I was impressed with the credentials of the executives we met with. Some were in high level director roles with decades of experience and could answer students' questions with incredible depth and detail. We met with a mix of expatriates and native Japanese business people, which gave multiple perspectives on cultural facets of doing business in Japan. Students researched, created, and shared presentations about the companies we would be speaking to, and the company executives attended these presentations, providing personal feedback afterward. I learned far more about conducting business and the inner workings of very successful Japanese businesses than I had initially thought possible prior to the program.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Faculty and program administrators were readily accessible by phone, email, and text for questions, concerns, or just follow up on anything brought up during the seminar. Despite attendees being located all across the US (and some in Japan), communication channels were open and responses near instantaneous.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

As it's a virtual seminar, I enjoyed all the comforts of my own home, just as all the other attendees could enjoy the comforts of theirs. The Zoom meetings didn't feel intrusive either, because we were encouraged to keep the digital atmosphere to a relaxed, business casual.

* Food:

Although we couldn't go to Japan physically, we were shipped food items from the country and got to participate in a virtual Japanese cooking lesson with recipes provided for us to reference in the future. I was amazed at how much the group could bond over talking and cooking from home over Zoom.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I was surprised at how close the group of students, faculty, and leaders grew during a virtual seminar. Within the first few days friendships were forming and everyone had gotten comfortable speaking with one another and to the group. The business executives we met with were eager to answer questions and clearly enthusiastic to spend time with us even virtually. Interactions were professional but very comfortable. The executives were more than happy to share contact information to follow up on anything we wanted to know about Japan and their businesses. It was an extremely trusting environment. We got to meet with Japanese university students from Hiroshima, during which we practiced some of the Japanese we had learned and discussed different perspectives on business and culture. A highlight of the seminar was meeting with a Legacy Successor from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. As a group and along with the Japanese students, we had a deep, difficult, but amazingly respectful discussion about different viewpoints on the atomic bombing. Even if I had traveled in-person to Japan, I am not sure I would have had such a rewarding and varied experience in one trip.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The virtual program was clearly developed with students' health at the forefront. Most of us were under quarantine, so this was a great opportunity to preserve mental health by having a rich social and educational experience virtually. The leaders made it clear that if any of us had any problems to reach out for support. The leaders, students, and even the executives we met were extremely understanding of home circumstances, such as family needs, that might pull a participant away from the Zoom meeting for a few moments. Since this program is attended from home, the healthcare system is familiar, so if something really serious did come up, you're in the best place already for care.

* Safety:

On a virtual trip, physical harm is extremely unlikely. Still, the possibility for emotional and mental harm is present, and IBS did a wonderful job from the outset acquainting students with one another to build a strong social network, and making very clear the expectations for respect and tolerance that all attendees were to show one another. We had a diverse and open group, but we all knew that if someone were to have gotten out of line, we had channels to directly report any behaviors that might be emotionally or mentally harmful to faculty or leaders.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Despite a pandemic and quarantine orders, I got to experience another country from afar and enjoyed immersion in its language, culture, and business. The executives we met with were extremely knowledgeable, and I felt privileged to receive in depth information about their companies' operations from them.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

There are no additional expenses beyond the flat price of the program. Since everyone is at home, you live on the same budget as usual. No surprise fees or expenses, no need for insurance, no currency exchange fees, no wondering about meal prices.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you really want to study abroad but only have the savings to make one trip and want to make it count, take advantage of the low cost of virtual options like this to get an idea about whether you would want to go in person to a certain country. You will be immersed in the business and culture practices without taking any significant financial risks yourself.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

An entire session was dedicated to learning the language from a native Japanese speaker who in fact teaches incoming expatriates the Japanese language. We learned basic introductions and some useful phrases to get started, and immediately practiced with each other and with Japanese students who had joined the session with us. Each day we were encouraged to add a few more words related to Japanese business or culture to our vocabulary.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Virtual
  • Low-risk
  • Interactive
* What could be improved?
  • More student participants
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had studied a bit more about Japanese companies and their competitors. I was surprised during some meetings with executives to discover a certain company was in fact a Japanese company, or that a certain Japanese company was the primary competitor to a certain other company that I knew of. I think such knowledge would have let me draw more connections between different company operations and the interactions in the global economy.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!