SFU Beedie welcomes virtual international exchange students

Nov 26, 2020

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Students and staff involved in the the virtual international student exchange celebrating Halloween

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, international travel was one of the first activities to be halted. That created a challenge for the Office of International Programs (OIP) at SFU’s Beedie School of Business, which oversees international student exchange—but also an opportunity to try something new.

Helping students to develop a global perspective is a core pillar of SFU Beedie’s mission, and the team wasn’t willing to give up on offering international students the experience of studying at the school. So, they created the school’s first  virtual exchange program.

“We are very proud to be the first SFU faculty to develop and offer virtual mobility for inbound exchange students,” says Carolyn Egri, associate dean, research and international.

“The OIP team has proactively worked to offer virtual international experiences for SFU Beedie partner business schools. Our international exchange students gain important access to business courses and curriculum, academic mentorship, intercultural learning, and unique insights into Canadian culture and society.”

Lois Ball, a final-year business student at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, had been planning to complete an exchange to SFU Beedie in fall 2020. She made the decision to go ahead with the exchange in the new virtual format.

“Bath University was also unable to offer me in-person teaching for this semester, which is why I felt that virtual exchange would be a great opportunity,” she says. “I thought I may as well try a different university, where there’s a new style of teaching, and it is nice to try different courses that I would not have the option to choose in Bath. I have loved all of my modules so far.”

In addition to the course content, Ball was immediately struck by differences in the teaching and learning style at SFU Beedie compared to her studies in the UK.

“It’s completely different in the sense that participation counts in lectures,” she says. “You could get through the entirety of your UK degree and not participate once in lectures, whereas at SFU it contributes largely to your grade.”

She also received feedback from a professor that instead of the academic written style she had been taught at Bath, her work should be more business-focused.

“He said the content was great, everything was there, but it needed to be more concise and easier to read. He said, ‘You’re not an academic, you’re a businesswoman’, and I said, ‘Oh, this is not what I’ve been taught.’” says Ball. “It’s very business-focused, and I think that’s probably a better way to do it and better equips you for the workplace.”

Outside of the academic work, Ball and other exchange students have enjoyed the social opportunities arranged by the OIP, including “speed friending”—like speed dating, but as a way of meeting classmates through video calls—as well as workshops to learn about Indigenous and Canadian culture.

All incoming students are also matched with senior SFU Beedie student mentors, based on areas of study, where they have studied, and personal interests, to help ease their transition into the new learning environment. Ball was paired with SFU Beedie student Jacob Matkovic. He completed an exchange term at the University of Bath in 2019, and was grateful for the advice he received from a mentor at the time.

“I wanted to help people who are wanting to get a similar experience to what I had,” he says. “Because it was something that I will remember for a lifetime.”