The 2019/20 academic year was an unusual one. While academic operations were held as usual during the winter semester, the summer semester was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions. For many young people, spending an exchange semester abroad is their first opportunity to experience life in another country and in another language. For this reason, we tried to offer as many of our students as possible rewarding opportunities to gain some form of international experience, either on location in Vienna or online from their home countries.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp drop in international student mobility rates, we were pleased to still be able to welcome around 200 students from nearly 40 different countries to WU in the 2010/21 winter semester. 75% of these students were actually on location on Campus WU. For the students who were not able to come to Vienna due to travel restrictions, all relevant courses were provided online. Around 140 WU students were enrolled at international partner schools in this semester.
An International Campus Online
For many years now, International Summer University (ISU) programs have given students the opportunity to broaden their horizons with international experience in just three weeks. Travel restrictions made this impossible in the summer of 2020. For this reason, we invited not just international students but also WU students to participate in WU’s two ISU programs for the first time.
As WU’s two ISU programs in July and August had to be held online, we redesigned the entire program to suit the digital format. The interactive program with courses on topics such as “International Business Strategy,” “Entrepreneurship,” and “Strategic Brand Management” was based on various elements, including theoretical and practical input sessions, creative networking activities, group projects, and online expert talks on social entrepreneurship and sustainability. This format allowed us to provide an intensive and mutual exchange experience even from a distance.
Short program with the University of Georgia
WU has a long-standing and intensive cooperation with the University of Georgia. Every year in early summer, faculty and students from the US university come to WU for a special program. WU bachelor’s students can also participate in the courses, giving them the opportunity to experience what it’s like to study at a US university.
In 2020, this event also had to be moved online. Daniel Rettl, assistant professor at the Department of Finance of the Terry College of Business (University of Georgia), held an online course on “Special Topics in Finance” and gave the students an insight into the financial decision-making processes used by multinational companies. 20 students from Georgia, 10 WU bachelor’s students, and four of WU’s incoming exchange students took this course.
Experience CEE Online
The Central Europe Connect program is a cooperation between WU, the University of Economics in Bratislava, and the Warsaw School of Economics. The goal is to give students an understanding of the CEE region from both cultural and economic perspectives. Students from the three universities spend one week together at one of the three universities and complete a block seminar. Company visits, guest lectures, and networking events complete the local course program.
This event, including the city tour and company visits, also had to be held online. The participants, who had naturally been looking forward to spending time abroad, were initially disappointed. However, after the first week online, they were already enthusiastic about the varied program.
Insider Tips on Going Abroad
WU students are invited to the Go Global exchange fair to find out about exchange programs and partner universities. At booths in the Forum of the LC building, they can chat with WU students who have already been abroad or with incoming exchange students, to give them an idea of what it is like to study abroad.
Like with so many other events, 2020 changed everything. We designed the 2020 Go Global as a series of information sessions, held on MS Teams. This format gave us the opportunity to engage intensively with students’ concerns and give their questions the time and attention they deserved.
We introduced the programs available at the International Office in detail, including some that are not so well known among the students, such as the Prof. Ewald Nowotny Mobility Grants or Erasmus+ internship grants.
Prof. Ewald Nowotny Mobility Grants
The Prof. Ewald Nowotny Mobility Grant was established in 2019 to fund the attendance of international research events. Students can use the grant to present their research work or academic theses at international conferences or to participate in moot courts and case competitions.
One of the first grant recipients, for example, visited the UNO headquarters in New York in February 2020 as an ELSA International (European Law Students’ Association) delegate at the 71st meeting of the UNCITRAL Working Group II (Arbitration and Conciliation/Dispute Settlement).
New and Innovative
In 2020, we not only adapted our familiar exchange programs to new digital formats but also developed additional collaborations with our partner universities under the initiative “Internationalization at Home.” The “Internationalization at Home” initiative gave WU students the opportunity to attend classes at our partner universities from home.
As part of the CBS-HSG-WU Online Course Initiative and the ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange, students were able to attend courses at participating universities online, giving them the chance to meet and network with fellow students from different countries in an international learning environment. They gained insights into the teaching methods of other universities and experienced new perspectives.
In the 2020/2021 winter semester, over 60 WU students took advantage of this offer and attended courses at partner schools. 20 students from the other universities took courses at WU.
Although the pandemic was the initial catalyst for the collaborations, “Internationalization at Home” is intended to endure even beyond these times. Building on the experiences we have gained so far, we will continue to develop the program and make it available after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, so students will still have the opportunity to internationalize their studies from home in the future.
CBS-HSG-WU Online Course Initiative
- Copenhagen Business School
- University of St. Gallen
ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange
- Luiss – Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli
- NHH Norwegian School of Economics
- Tilburg University
- University of Mannheim
- Toulouse 1 Capitole University
- University of National and World Economy
Global Seminar Series
The lecture series “Global Seminar Series” was developed by five international universities. Under the title “Back to the Future – The Innovation of Business in a Post Pandemic World,” renowned experts from WU, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Leeds, the Universidad de San Andrés, and North Carolina State University spoke about the business opportunities opened up by the pandemic and the efforts needed to overcome it. 20 WU students followed the presentations via livestream. In his talk, Christopher Lettl (WU Institute for Strategy, Technology and Organization) focused on the topic “Tackling Crisis by Democratizing Innovation.”
The Global Business School Network (GBSN) and the Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute (HUMLOG Institute) of Finland’s Hanken School of Economics hosted the virtual HUMLOG Challenge. 121 teams from international universities participated in the Challenge, including a team from WU’s Master’s Program in Supply Chain Management. The teams were tasked with finding innovative solutions to the current logistical challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. WU’s team came in at second place with their idea, an improved mobile testing procedure.