Nearly two dozen University of Iowa students had the opportunity to travel virtually to Italy over the winter term, thanks to the Virtual International Business in Italy course offering through the Tippie College of Business.
The course, titled International Business in a Time of Disruption: Protectionism, Pandemics, and Political Fragmentation, ran from December 28, 2020, through January 15, 2021, and aimed to use Italy as the lens from which to understand political, economic, business, and financial conditions facing the European continent. Course topics included fiscal, monetary, and political responses to COVID; economic and financial challenges faced by the European Union; labor movement and political migration and their health and political implications; among others.
Students were also able to experience some of the history, culture, and cuisine of Italy through a variety of hands-on activities such as a cooking class (click here for the risotto recipe!), conversations with Italian students, a painting experience, and a movie night.
Instructor Bruce Kline, a former finance executive at Hewlett-Packard who has taught international courses around the world and currently resides in Italy, said, “I believe the structure of the course gave students an opportunity to live beyond themselves; to appreciate the experiences and diversities that are possible. I hope the economic topics helped open their eyes to see the Big Picture and the economic logic helped open their minds to think about the Big Questions. Everyone, including my favorite Rick Steves, is certainly now echoing Proust’s famous line, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’”
Stephanie Fountain, assistant director of international internships and education in the Tippie College of Business, and Stephanie Schnicker, director of CIMBA Italy and Hong Kong MBA programs, coordinated the course with the goal of maximizing what students could accomplish and experience without setting foot in the country of Italy. “Global education is about trying new things, stretching your perspective, and getting outside of your comfort zone. In a virtual environment, we knew it had to be hands-on to achieve that kind of learning. We wanted to spark curiosity. By providing cultural boxes with supplies directly from Italy, the students could ‘travel’ from home. They could experience painting the canals of Venice, appreciate a film in Italian, learn to speak a bit of Italian themselves, and taste some of the iconic flavors of Italy. While the focus of the academic content was finance and economics, it transformed into a study abroad when we introduced those rich cultural experiences,” said Fountain.
“The online nature created several benefits. We were able to get several guest speakers—who might have normally been traveling or too busy in the office—to speak with the students during evening, Italy-time. Many of the cultural events were also enhanced. The cooking class allowed everyone to be in their own kitchen, the ‘evening’ with the Italian students involved twelve Italians, and the tour of Venice took place in an unbelievably COVID-lockdown-deserted St. Mark’s Square,” reflected Kline.
Student reactions to the course were also positive. Erin Jaros, marketing management student, reflected, “Even though we were not able to travel to Italy in person, this virtual experience was the next best thing during this crazy time. This two-week course was packed with academic information, while still having elements of enjoyment and culture of Italy. My favorite parts were more on the cultural side such as movie night, art night, cooking class, and speaking to Italian students. I was challenged throughout the course to dive deeper into the world of global trade and international finance. Overall, I am so happy to have had this experience and would recommend it to anyone wanting a virtual study abroad experience!”
This article was originally posted by UI International Programs. Find the original article here.