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Six CLA Students Are Participating in Munich University of Applied Sciences Virtual Abroad Program

By Sophia Lincoln

Munich University of Applied Sciences

This fall, six of twelve Cal Poly students selected to the Munich University of Applied Sciences’ (MUAS) International Virtual Innovation Challenge are from the College of Liberal Arts.

Communication studies student Amanda Smith is participating alongside anthropology and geography students Camryn Haubner, Mehr Loomba, Sean Reigelman, graphic communication student Justin Pioletti and communication studies student Kailey Wachhorst.

Smith first came across the program while scrolling through Cal Poly’s Study Abroad site and was drawn to it because of how the challenge aligned with her academic and career interests.

“I decided on a whim that I didn’t have anything to lose so why not just apply,” Smith said.

Smith is currently working with other students in the program to address how municipalities can motivate companies to act on climate protection even in times of crisis.

According to Cal Poly Study Abroad Coordinator Leanna Jenkins, Munich University of Applied Sciences is an established exchange partner with Cal Poly and has launched this exclusive program for students at four strategic partner universities including Cal Poly.

The program is part of the MUAS GlobalXChallenges project, which aims to internationalize academia and share knowledge between different universities internationally, according to GlobalXChallenges Project Coordinator Andrea Schramm.

“The initial idea [of this project] was actually to have joint student innovation projects and student work placements in both directions with Munich students and our strategic partners, Cal Poly students being one of them,” Schramm said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic limited travel, Schramm's team had to pivot to provide virtual opportunities for the students “and that’s how the whole idea of this international virtual innovation challenge evolved,” Schramm said.

The International Virtual Innovation Challenge teams up students from Austria, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the United States to solve real-life problems proposed by German organizations, according to Schramm.

The best teams compete for a €300 prize on the student idea competition MachWeiter! and the best performing student of each strategic partner university will be awarded a travel stipend to Munich in 2021.

“It’s a really unique opportunity for our students to still gain some really valuable skills here at Cal Poly,” said Jenkins. “I think this has been a really amazing slam-dunk opportunity for our students to still have a great intercultural experience in the virtual format.”

“The main thing that this program focuses on and tries to teach us is first of all, working in an international team and developing those intercultural team skills, which is really valuable especially now since everything is getting globalized,” Smith said. “The program covers a wide range of things, but all of it is really valuable knowledge to carry on as you graduate.”

Smith hopes that this opportunity will allow her to build connections in Munich that she can carry with her if she ever returns to Germany in person and to continue to build on the German language skills that she has.

“Also, the challenge aligns with my interests in communication, sustainability and communicating risk, which are all parts of my academic curriculum,” Smith said. “I found that it was a really good way for me to apply those skills and demonstrate my capability with it.”

This year’s program started on October 13, 2020 and includes weekly live sessions online.

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