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Over Spring Break, five RIC students mixed business with pleasure when they enrolled in the first Business-IT Field Study in Portugal course, led by Kyungsub Choi, associate professor of computer information systems (CIS).

By day, they suited up to tour international IT companies, and by night, they took in the sights and sounds of Lisbon. Ben Demers, Justin Fontaine, Joshua Lima, Shashi Mishra and Alexander Picard, all junior or senior CIS majors, said they were awed by the experience.

“Portugal was breathtaking,” said Fontaine. “The hospitality is fantastic, the food is delicious, the sights, the sounds . . .”

“And there are beautiful coastal areas,” said Mishra. “The old part of the city is particularly beautiful.”

From left, Ben Demers, Joshua Lima, Justin Fontaine, Alexander Picard and Associate Professor Kyungsub Choi.

In touring international IT companies, the objective was to explore how Portuguese culture, values, customs and social norms impact business operations and customer support.

The group received guided tours of IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Cisco and Aptoide, where they were introduced to new technologies and the ways in which these companies implement IT products and services.

“What's more, every IT company we visited offered summer internships to our students,” Choi said. “How many students get the chance to work for a megacorporation? Our students were offered that opportunity.”

Choi noted how innovation is encouraged by the Portuguese government. “Aptoide, for example, is a startup founded in Portugal and created by two grad students – Android hobbyists,” Choi said. “They developed a platform that allows anyone to upload or download Android-based Apps.”

With funding from the Portuguese government and investments from private capitalists, Aptoide is now one of the largest leading players in the App world and is preparing to branch out internationally.

To help further IT innovation, the Portuguese government rents office space at a reduced rental rate to startups. Labs Lisboa is a community of startups that work in incubation labs in a government-owned complex. 

From left, Shashi Mishra, Ben Demers, Alexander Picard, Joshua Lima, Associate Professor Kyungsub Choi and Justin Fontaine.

Portuguese universities also nurture innovation. The group visited one of the top business schools in Portugal – the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa – to tour the virtual reality labs.

“This was an invaluable international opportunity for job-seeking upperclassmen, as global market understanding is becoming a necessity in the business-IT job market,” said Choi.

“Seeing these companies benefitted all of us,” Lima concluded. “It was a trip I will never forget, both from a cultural standpoint and an educational standpoint.”

Choi credited RIC Associate Professor of Portuguese Silvia Oliveira for inspiring him to create the course. The cost for the students was airfare and a $1,100 fee. But through generous scholarships by the Institute for Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies at RIC, the fee was covered for all five students.

Choi hopes to offer the course next year as a free elective to all RIC students.

See more photos from Portugal