Is A Virtual Study Abroad Experience Worth It?

Published on: September 06, 2022

In the past, it wasn't uncommon for students to take a year off and travel abroad before continuing their studies, but this has changed in recent years. Although the world is open up again and travel is becoming less of a hassle as restrictions get lifted, it is still something that is not available to everyone. Whether it is due to financial, health, or other reasons, many students are unable to experience what it would be like to travel or study abroad. However, many students are turning to a virtual study abroad experience to fill this gap. While it may not be able to simulate the real thing completely, many benefits still exist.

What Is A Virtual Study Abroad Experience?

By participating in a virtual study abroad program, students simulate the experience of interacting with instructors and peers from different countries. These interactions take place online in a virtual setting that can have both synchronous and asynchronous components. To simulate the experience of being abroad, students might also be able to attend interactive workshops, communicate with international experts, participate in virtual tours of cultural sites and engage in live foreign language practice. Some institutions that offer virtual study abroad programs might also be able to assist students with virtual internships at international companies or organizations. Some programs even provide a "virtual host family" experience for students.

What Is The Duration of Virtual Study Abroad Experiences?

Virtual Study Abroad experiences are designed to supplement your traditional online degree programs instead of replacing them. However, just as with in-person study abroad programs, the virtual variety are just as diverse in terms of time and content. Some programs could be completed in as little as two weeks, while others may take six weeks. A few are even long enough to span an entire quarter or semester.

What Are The Benefits Of A Virtual Study Abroad Experience?

Create A Network Of International Contacts

The world is becoming increasingly global and taking part in a virtual study abroad experience, especially if it has remote international internships, is a great way to create new contacts.

Plenty of Variety

More and more virtual study abroad programs are becoming available, giving students plenty of options. Some programs even allow students to combine courses from different countries, giving students even more choices.

More Affordable

A virtual study abroad experience is a lot more affordable as it eliminates all of the living and traveling expenses that would have been needed for an in-person experience. Typically, all students need to take part is a computer or laptop with an internet connection.

Safety

A virtual study abroad experience is a great way to test the waters in a safe way without having to commit to an actual study abroad experience. Overall, it can be a great confidence booster for anyone working up the courage to travel overseas in the future.

More Flexible

As with most online programs, a virtual study abroad experience is much more flexible than traditional methods. This makes it a great option for people who would like to study overseas but don't have time in their busy schedules to do so in person. A virtual study abroad experience makes it easy to gain a global perspective without having to disrupt your regular routine too much.

More Accessible

For people with disabilities, it is not always easy to travel, but virtual study abroad programs mean not having to worry about accessibility and mobility concerns. Since students can participate from anywhere, it also allows them to choose the type of learning environment that works best for their needs.

Fulfill Degree Requirements

Although it might require additional planning and research, taking part in a virtual study abroad experience can also help students fulfill their degree requirements. This means they don't have to postpone their graduation date while exploring different cultures. Instead, students can take part in courses that are related to their major or that adhere to their general education prerequisites.

More Than Learning

A virtual study abroad experience is great for learning, but there is also more to it than that. Interacting with people from different countries and backgrounds allows students to grow their cultural awareness and offers an opportunity for self-reflection. This, in turn, will also help students to build their empathy and form better connections with others. Knowing how to communicate and work with people from different backgrounds is also an invaluable skill in the workplace. Finally, from a personal development standpoint, it can help with your independence and adaptability.

Enhanced Language Skills

Interacting and conversing with people from other countries is a great way for students to enhance their language skills in a more natural manner.

The Best of Both Worlds

Some virtual study abroad experiences offer the best of both worlds by enabling students to travel on-site to their chosen destination after completing the online portion. Doing so allows them to further their studies and international experience after familiarizing themselves with the process online.

Conclusion

As the quality of online education has continued to improve, so have the quality and availability of virtual study abroad experiences. These days completing an online course can be every bit as enriching as doing one in person. There is obviously no comparison to the excitement and adventure of an on-site study abroad experience. Still, all the benefits of a virtual study abroad experience definitely make it worth checking out. As technology continues to improve and virtual reality receives broader adoption rates, the experience could become even closer to in-person than ever before.

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