As many students and faculty know, study abroad programs for fall and J-Term were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the decision for spring semester remains to be made, the Office of Study Abroad (OSA) is working to ensure that international opportunities remain available to students and faculty with online program options. The first of these programs, launched this fall, is an online international Business 200 (BUSN 200) program for students enrolled in the Opus College of Business.

While BUSN 200 is only for business students, the OSA is exploring opportunities with campus partners for online international service and internships that would be open to all majors. The OSA is also looking at course-based international partnerships that would connect classrooms at St. Thomas with classrooms at partner institutions around the world.

“We’re hopeful that these options will exist long after travel becomes viable again, because we know that for one reason or another, not all students can study abroad,” said Sarah Huesing, associate director of study abroad. “Global online programs would create a more accessible way for students to have those international and intercultural experiences. As heartbreaking as it was for fall and J-Term study abroad to be canceled, it has created room to develop some new programs that we may not have been able to otherwise.”

About Business 200

Business 200 is the service learning program required for all business students, in which one must volunteer 40 hours at a nonprofit organization. The standard BUSN 200 program gives students real-world experience, helps them create a professional network, and also allows them to gain a better understanding of community needs. Due to the pandemic driving the business world to digital interfacing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, the program would already be shifting to a virtual format; the new international option creates an opportunity to add a global component that will enhance the critical experience the students receive. In addition, host businesses elsewhere are creating online internships in order to replace their former in-person needs.

The program connects students with London-based nonprofits to complete their volunteer hours, and came to fruition through a partnership with AIFS, the same organization that supports the London Business Semester. Students who are completing their community service requirement with a London-based organization still are enrolled in a St. Paul-based section of the course and complete all the same assignments as students working with a local organization. Students also will complete a series of lectures and have a live discussion with a faculty member in London about the British workplace and culture. The OSA also created a Canvas community specifically for the London program with resources on British culture and intercultural learning, and best practices for international remote work.

As the volunteer work is split between working on their own schedule, and scheduled online meetings, the students will have to adjust to the six-hour time difference between St. Paul and London. Adapting to time zone differences is an important skill that students can gain from having a remote experience like this one. In an increasingly online work environment, many people are working across time zones, both internationally and within the United States.

Students who have questions about the BUSN 200 program, or other study abroad programs, are encouraged to reach out to the OSA via email. The advisers meet with every student who decides to study abroad through any of St. Thomas’ programs. The OSA also has a OneStThomas site which is updated on a regular basis, providing important information regarding international programs, and allowing students to get to know the staff behind the scenes.

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