Overcoming the Challenges of Zoom University

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Less than two weeks left until the final presentation! This was by far one of the longest projects that I have worked on and to some degree, I have developed some sort of attachment to it. 

The effects of COVID-19 reach far beyond individual exposure and health, the world was put to a halt. On a personal level, I was forced to make arrangements last summer. I was originally accepted into GBI: Shanghai for the summer of 2020. It was a chance for me to explore a country very different from the United States, test my language skills, and gain international work experience. However, I was able to find other ways to work around the challenges that the pandemic has brought. The transition from going to class in-person to going to class virtually was a bit chaotic and confusing. There was a lot of adjusting being done to make sure things ran smoothly. 

Similar to how COVID-19 has affected us in the United States, the pandemic has also affected our client, Possehl Online Solutions, in Germany. One major impact of the pandemic was the transition from working in an in-person environment to working in a virtual environment. Although this transition for everyone started out a bit rough, large strides in technological development have made working virtually more convenient. Because of the circumstances brought upon us, there has been a global shift towards working online. It seems that now working virtually has become a new normal. Business being conducted internationally use to require people to travel but now it can be conveniently conducted virtually. In some way, COVID-19 expedited the transition of many businesses becoming digital. Ironically speaking, helping B2B business in digitization is Possehl’s business model.

With the innovation of virtual international programs, schools have discovered a way to connect students to other parts of the world under the current circumstances. However, these programs have taken away many aspects of the study abroad experiences that are very valuable. For example, experiencing the cultural shifts in environments and having the chance to immerse oneself in a foreign culture are all taken away in a virtual environment. Furthermore, it has created new challenges. These new challenges include clear and efficient communication over email and virtual meetings, understanding cultural differences through a computer screen, and regular life struggles of separating work and rest. 

With this project being in a virtual setting, we have come head to head with many of the challenges mentioned above. Specifically, clear and efficient communication was an aspect that our team has struggled with when it came to understanding the business model of Possehl Online Solutions and understanding our deliverables. In this virtual setting, we are unable to ask our client questions right when they appear while we are working, leaving us a little confused and lost at times. From a cultural aspect, I feel that I have not had the chance to fully immerse myself in German culture and see prominent cultural differences in this virtual setting. With all of school being virtual, staring at a computer screen in an unchanged environment for long periods of time has built up over the past two semesters into Zoom fatigue. It has been increasingly more difficult to go to back-to-back meetings on Zoom and do assignment after assignment on the computer. In addition to the Zoom fatigue, the virtual setting inhibits us from bouncing our ideas off of each other to make large strides in progress, thus decreasing our efficiency greatly. As a group, we struggled with conveying ideas to each other. 

Despite all the challenges of working in a virtual cross-cultural setting, there are also some positives. For example, not having to adapt as much to a foreign culture, but rather just keeping virtual business etiquette in mind. A positive for me personally is that working in a virtual setting takes away a lot of my nerves and worries, especially during client meetings. 

Overall, I am proud of our team for overcoming many of these challenges and cannot wait for our final presentation!