WSU Online MBA Study Abroad Experience Exposes Students to Multinational Tech Companies
By Mia Gleason
A trip to Helsinki, Finland, last summer gave MBA student Whitney Starks a chance to learn about the international tech industry.
Starks spent four days in the Finnish capital as part of a faculty-led study abroad for the Carson College of Business online MBA program. During the trip, Starks and 20 of her fellow students were able to meet with officials from Rovio, the creators of the widely popular mobile game, Angry Birds. They also toured the Nokia, the multinational telecom and consumer electronics company, the software company Duuers, and Wolt, a Finnish version of Uber Eats.
After an optional spa experience at Allas Sea Pools, the students boarded a ferry for Tallin, Estonia. In the historic city on the Baltic Sea, the students visited the headquarters of Lingvist, a language instruction app, and the crowdlending site Bondora.
“It was an incredible experience to see how business is conducted in another part of the world,” says Starks (’20), who works for RBI Benefits, a health insurance agency in Bountiful, Utah.
The benefits of an international business experience
Starks is the director of finance and the benefit strategy advisor at RBI Benefits. With plans to continue advancing in her career, she decided to pursue an MBA.
She chose the WSU online MBA because it offered her the flexibility to study while continuing to excel at her job. After earning an accounting degree in 2018, Starks took on a heavier workload, and she knew it would be difficult to earn a graduate degree in an on-campus program.
“It has been my career goal to achieve the title of chief financial officer at a small-to-medium size organization, and this job is giving me the opportunity to grow into that position within the next few years,” Starks says.
As part of the WSU online MBA curriculum, students can participate in international study abroad trips with fellow students and faculty. While the study abroad trip is not a requirement of the program, students find the trips to be both educational and influential in how they view international business.
“It is important to us to provide students the opportunity to understand international business practices and to recognize the similarities and differences of managing successful businesses around the world. This broadening of their understanding can benefit them in the workplace regardless of the size and scope of their organization,” says Cheryl Oliver, associate dean for graduate and online programs. “Our faculty-led trips provide industry and cultural immersion during an experience designed to fit into the busy schedules of working professionals.”
The value of a degree and the power of friendships
By completing an MBA, Starks says she’ll be well-rounded and capable of taking on a variety of roles within a corporation. Her study abroad trip to Finland and Estonia gives her insights for working with a diverse client base, she says.
“It’s important for people in business to understand and respect other cultures,” Starks says. “If you want to grow a business, knowing what others value is crucial to developing a product and a successful marketing strategy.”
Besides the learning opportunities, Starks says one of the greatest benefits from her Helsinki trip was building friendships and networking with fellow students.
“My favorite memory of the trip was when several of us had the opportunity to take a boat ride around the islands near Helsinki,” Starks says. “It was a time for us to just have fun between company visits and enjoy each other’s company. I tell everyone I know how much I loved going to Finland with WSU, and I absolutely recommend that all students go on the international trip if they have the opportunity.”