MBA Study Abroad offers students a journey of discovery
Virginia Tech MBA Study Abroad has been providing working professionals with opportunities to explore global markets and learn about supply chains since 2003.
The program, which spans from 10 days to two weeks, has taken 11 groups to Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. The latest group of students visited the Scandinavian countries in 2023. Despite a brief pause during the pandemic, the program has continued in full throttle with guidance from Dana Hansson, program director, and Barbara Hoopes, who is the lead faculty on the program.
“As amazing as the trip was, I am confident that it wouldn’t have been the same without Dr. Barbara Hoopes, who carefully curated the itinerary and company relationships,” student Natalie Whise said.
The study abroad experience begins well before departure with briefings and conversations with business and economic counselors from the participating embassies in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. These pre-departure interactions set the stage for business visits while abroad, during which students engage with host groups of business professionals, receive presentations on various aspects of international trade and logistics, tour high-tech manufacturing facilities, and interact with expats who share their experiences of working for international organizations.
The list of businesses visited during the program's 2023 iteration includes some of the world's most reputed companies, such as Maersk, UNICEF Supply Division, IKEA, Volvo Trucks and Volvo Cars, the Port of Gothenburg, Lindholmen Science Park, AstraZeneca, Stora Enso, and Kone.
From learning about the past, present, and future state of worldwide trade and logistics at Maersk to touring a modern and busy UNICEF Supply Division warehouse in Copenhagen and getting a private tour of the IKEA Museum in Älmhult, Sweden, students can discover the history, manufacturing processes, and overall vision of each company.
“We had the greatest opportunity to see a diverse set of companies and operations across three countries,” Whise said. “It’s difficult to choose a favorite company or day because each had something different to offer that expanded my knowledge of products, processes, and Scandinavia.”
The tours of Volvo Trucks and Volvo Cars demonstrated some of the most fascinating state-of-the-art, high-tech, and high-touch customized manufacturing facilities. Meanwhile, the Port of Gothenburg executives engaged students in conversations and shared insights, and the Lindholmen Science Park provided students with a view of its innovation and integrated science initiatives, addressing prevalent societal problems.
The AstraZeneca and Stora Enso visit offered students insights into their high-tech pharmaceutical manufacturing and innovative wood-based building materials, respectively. Kone, a global leader in the concept of urban flow, provided students with a tour of its local customized manufacturing facilities, followed by an extended conversation about the new technologies incorporated into its products.
Apart from these business visits, the students were able to connect with Virginia Tech alumni in various locations. For the Copenhagen welcome dinner in 2023, the group was joined by a recent MBA alumnus who now lives and works in Denmark with family, as well as another graduate of Virginia Tech who works for Novo Nordisk.
The program also includes personalized, guided city walking tours – Copenhagen and Stockholm in 2023 – group cultural activities, as well as some Scandinavian cultural traditions. This year, students participated in a midsummer celebration at a local castle in the Swedish countryside. The program also provides hotels and transportation for all events, and students are enrolled in the travel insurance plan developed for Virginia Tech study abroad, covering medical situations, evacuation, and more.
The trip that almost wasn’t
By Stephanie Cifuentes
My experience with the Scandinavian Study Abroad program almost didn’t happen.
As a full-time working mom, there didn’t seem to be a way to make the trip happen. But one fortuitous conversation with my husband changed my literal trajectory this summer. After several special approvals, I bought my plane ticket and packed my bags.
As silly as it sounds, my favorite part of the trip was the preparation. The information sessions really set the stage for me about what to expect. I read every letter from the previous travelers to prepare my own packing list. I was ready for any situation that may present itself. Hiking? Check. Kayaking? Check. Ten business casual outfits? Check.
Arriving with a small group encouraged me to feel safe in my new surroundings and that was because I leveraged the travel agency that Dr. [Barbara] Hoopes has worked with for years. Both on arrival and departure I had a group of at least four to five other students with me. It gave me the confidence I needed to kick off the trip and security I craved at the end.
The company visits helped me bring the concepts I learned in class to life! Seeing a kanban on a factory floor is much different than reading about it or picturing it. I also loved hearing how each company/country described diversity.
As cliché as it sounds, the experience was above all, once in a lifetime. I was privileged and honored to be allowed to experience it.
The program's success stems from the rigorous planning and organization of the Virginia Tech MBA Study Abroad team. The program's curriculum is designed to offer students an immersive and comprehensive study abroad experience while being safe and secure.
Written by Rashawn Franklin