As Covid-19 vaccination programs roll out across the globe, the prospect of studying abroad is something many students will be thinking about for the coming semesters. Studying overseas allows students to see the world, graduate with global experience in their field and connect with peers from a diverse range of backgrounds.
However, Australian students hoping to study abroad in 2021 (or even 2022) are facing uncertainty as Finance Minister Simon Birmingham recently said Australians will not be able to travel abroad until late in 2022.
Speaking to The Australian, the minister said borders won't be "flung open at the start of next year"amid "uncertainties"over the effectiveness of the global vaccine roll-out, highlighting the rise in Covid-19 cases in India and variant outbreaks in other parts of the world.
One alternative being offered by many study abroad providers is a virtual study abroad experience. While international travel may be on hold right now, virtual study abroad experiences can be a great way to broaden a student's worldview, learn as part of a global classroom about international issues and connect with students from around the world. We'll cover what a virtual study abroad experience usually entails, and what kind of benefits you can hope you gain from one.
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What's covered in an online study abroad program?
The offerings available in online study abroad programs are as varied as the courses they reflect. In a traditional study abroad program students take classes from experts in their fields and get the opportunity to gain real-world, local experience relevant to their studies.
Whether that's experience in international business practices, local history and culture, or hackathons with students from around the world, these have all been translated to a virtual environment. Language students might spend their virtual study time attending online classes, and working on their conversational language skills paired up with a local "host"family.
International business students can gain an understanding of how global businesses are impacted by real-world developments in economics, politics and finance, and critically examine the global economic landscape through discussions and projects.
With online study abroad courses offered in a wide range of fields, such as marketing, human rights, psychology, economics, politics, languages and more, there are limitless opportunities for Australian students. Plus, in many programs, there's the opportunity to further enhance your education with a remote virtual internship.
What virtual study abroad programs are available in Australia?
Currently, as a result of the travel ban active in Australia all outbound mobility programs up to and including semester 2, 2021 have been cancelled. Because of this, many Australian universities and study abroad providers have extended their virtual learning options.
The University of Sydney: virtual study abroad programs
The School of Languages and Cultures (SLC) at The University of Sydney is aiming to offer participation in virtual programs for Intensive July 2021, Intensive December 2021 and Intensive January 2022. SLC usually offers "In-Country Experience"units within the Open Learning Environment (OLE) to enable students to experience language and cultural immersion. Its virtual version includes formal online language classes at a host university and cultural experiences such as virtual visits to museums, theatres and memorial sites.
University of Wollongong Australia: virtual study abroad programs
UOW's Global Learning Online Programs have been designed to break down barriers and make global learning experiences accessible to everyone.
Providing opportunities to learn, connect or intern with universities and organisations globally, the programs offer a variety of options across a range of discipline areas. Short-term opportunities include a hacker exchange with early-stage startup founders to learn from world-class innovators across the Asia-Pacific region, and "Project Everestâ€, a virtual impact program, that gives students practical skills in social enterprise via a real-life consulting project alongside a global social enterprise. Semester opportunities include a 12-week virtual internship at an international company in Asia.
Tufts University: virtual study abroad programs
Tufts has formed global partnerships through GILD: Global Integrated Learning & Design, to create virtual learning opportunities that are cross-cultural and interdisciplinary. From collaborating on sustainable agriculture with students in Latin America to examining US-Russia relations with students in Moscow, a range of courses are enhancing students' capacities to engage in complex problems with their peers around the world.
Deakin University: virtual study abroad programs
Deakin University is offering students short-term intensive learning programs through "Deakin Abroadâ€, with partner institutions such as Sophia University in Japan, Hanyang University in South Korea, Audencia Business School in France, Universidad Cattolica in Italy and many more.
GoAbroad.Com: virtual study abroad programs
GoAbroad.Com is a search engine for international travel programs, with a wealth of online study abroad programs available for Australian students. If you're just starting your research into the type of course you'd like to do, their recommended programs with hundreds of positive student reviews can point you in the right direction.
Why study abroad online?
While the appeal of studying abroad for students is generally to travel and see more of the world, it offers the opportunity to build soft skills that can certainly be replicated with online experiences. Covid-19 continues to limit our travel opportunities, but it doesn't mean that life should be put on hold. Take advantage of the opportunities available now to make the most of your study time. Virtual study abroad programs still allow students to:
- Gain credit points with your home college towards your degree.
- Add studies from an international program or college to your resume.
- Collaborate with students from different backgrounds and countries, expanding your horizons and communication skills.
- Experience virtual versions of your host countries cultural experiences, such as virtual museum visits and online cooking classes.
- Gain international experience, without the costly expense of a traditional study-abroad program.
- Get an introduction to studying abroad, a gateway to the world of international travel while we wait for in-person adventures to be possible again.
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