virtual study abroad
Virtual study abroad programmes are still beneficial for students. Source: Shutterstock

Virtual study abroad may not be the same as the real deal, but don’t write it off yet.

With travel restrictions and lockdowns in 2020, virtual study abroad programmes is how we can still experience what other countries and cultures have to offer.

Get halfway across the world with just the click of a mouse and without leaving your house. Plus, virtual study abroad programmes are cheaper as you don’t need to pay for flights, accommodation and other travel expenses.

Here’s why you should look into virtual study abroad in 2020 and possibly beyond:

Learning new languages and cultures

virtual study abroad

Immerse in Spanish culture through virtual study abroad programmes. Source: Shutterstock

The main draw for many students when studying abroad is learning the local language and discovering new cultures. You can still do so with virtual study abroad programmes like the ones at the University of Massachusettes Lowell.

The programme includes immersion experiences such as virtual cooking classes and online discussions, lectures, and activities, so that you can still interact with others and gain a global perspective.

Washington State University’s intensive two-week or month-long virtual sessions with the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain lets students earn academic credit by completing Spanish language and culture coursework taught in Spanish from international instructors.

There are community-building activities, cultural resources, career support and live events featuring native Spanish speakers too.

Exploring virtual tours

You may not be able to physically walk down historic streets or dine at famous restaurants, but you can still check out virtual tours online.

For example, upon cancellation of study abroad programmes at Washington State University, students in the School of Design and Construction were invited to take a three-session, free virtual tour of Kyoto, Japan, New York City, Paris, and Columbus, Indiana this past summer. Through the virtual tours, they visited sites such as the Katsura Imperial Villa in Japan, Chateau Vaux le Vicomte in France, Miller House and Garden in Indiana, and New York’s Central Park.

And students get to do all of the above while being kind to the planet.

Steve Austin, clinical assistant professor in the School of Design and Construction said, “My goal for the students at the end is to have them feel like they really went, and that the trips will influence their approaches to their professions.

“As much as we don’t want to face it, we have to stop jetting off to Europe every summer for study abroad if we are serious about climate mitigation. We are extremely fortunate to have such great virtual alternatives. It’s not the same, but it’s not nothing either.”

For this virtual study abroad programme, students have to read about the sites before taking the tours, watch an introductory video about the country or region, look at design aspects of architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and construction, as well as perform analytical sketching exercises.

Global work experience


Students are seen on a screen during an online class taken by Professor Gao Yuning (top C) at the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University during a government-organised tour in Beijing on February 28, 2020. Source: Greg Baker/AFP

Thanks to technology making remote work more possible than ever before, you can gain valuable work experience in other countries through global internships.

Some virtual study abroad programmes include partnerships with local companies, while others are solely based on internships.

CRCC Asia connects with over 950 host companies to supervise and mentor interns from around the world. Students can choose from 10 to 35 hours a week for an internship for one to six months.

According to the website, they enlist dynamic companies, predominantly SMEs that challenge students while providing full support, supervision, and regular feedback.

Students receive credit based on the successful completion of CRCC Asia’s Global Internship Curriculum, CareerBridge, proof of hours worked, reflective essay, and an evaluation from their host company supervisor.

James Madison University has also partnered with Euroace in Spain to offer a virtual internship experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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