SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER – Lauren Giovannetti didn’t intend on attending her LSU Shreveport graduation.

The Memphis, Tenn., mother of three works in the FedEx corporate structure and owns multiple side businesses, so there’s not much time to travel to northwest Louisiana and receive her Master in Business Administration degree in person.

But Giovannetti formed a lasting bond with her International Experience class – a group of 13 students that spent 12 days in Costa Rica this past December learning about the business and culture of that country.

Giovannetti loaded up her family as nine of those 13 students met up in Shreveport this weekend to celebrate graduation. Eight of the nine students walked across the Brookshire Grocery Arena stage to receive their diploma as nearly 600 of the 1,345 graduates attended Friday’s ceremony in person.

“As an adult, you don’t think you’re going to study abroad,” said Giovannetti, who is 41. “But the chance to study with like-minded people was really attractive, and I love travel and education and broadening my horizon.

“The program and the people were great … and when we realized the majority of us were graduating this spring, we wanted to get together again. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come, but one by one people said they’d be here, and I didn’t want to miss out.”

The group spans from places like Georgia and Texas to Washington D.C., Minnesota and Wyoming.

They stay connected through GroupMe and WhatsApp, and the idea sprouted to gather again in Shreveport.

Nicholas Sergon is headed in from D.C. – and he’s not even graduating. He’s on pace to graduate this December.

“We all got along so well, and you form bonds and intimately get to know these people – I wanted to come and support,” Sergon said. “You’re in an online program with students from all over the U.S. and the world, and you don’t get to meet people, so the fact that this class (MBA 760 International Experience) gives you the opportunity to meet in person and travel outside the country – it’s unique in itself.

“You have some nerves and trepidation in the beginning, but we hit the ground running, and it was a life-changing experience.”

The Shreveport meetup was quick – Friday’s graduation ceremony with a dinner at Superior Steakhouse before heading back to their points of origin on Saturday.

But the Costa Rica itinerary was much more robust, including a trip to the rainforest canopy and meetings with Costa Rican business leaders in the private and nonprofit sectors.

The group met daily for lectures about life and business in the Central American country before being allowed to explore in the evenings and on weekends.

“I had no idea that study abroad opportunities would be a part of an online masters program,” said Nicole Ancel from Eden Prairie, Minn. “I talked myself out of studying abroad in undergrad, so to have this opportunity to take this trip with mature people that you have a lot in common with, it was easy to form that bond.”

Other members of the group in attendance included Jerrica Meriweather (Duluth, Ga.), Saul Landeros (Dallas), Stacey Zeilder (Casper, Wyo.), Kim Milligan (Prosper, Texas), Briona Patterson (Irving, Texas) and Octavius Murphy (Annapolis, Md.).

The next MBA 760 International Experience cohort is taking place now in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

For more information about the International Experience, LSUS MBA students can email