Student Reflections

6 Reasons You Should Consider Virtual Study Abroad

Emerson Johnston
August 10, 2021

A lot of students feel “studying abroad online” defeats the very purpose of studying abroad (which is, of course, visiting and enjoying a new country) but in response to the online education models universities around the world have adopted in light of the COVID19 pandemic, virtual study abroad opportunities have become one of the best and most accessible ways students can learn about other cultures. Here are six reasons why you should consider virtual study abroad this upcoming semester:

1. Online programs are just as high quality as on-site (especially here at Northeastern).

If the quality of your program is of concern, do not fret— online study abroad programs offer a wide variety of fully immersive programs. It’s understandable if your experience with online classes is the tumultuous time between the start of the pandemic and the immediate switch to online courses but universities have had a lot more time to plan their virtual abroad experiences. 

Online programs are just as enriching as in-person and even offer benefits you wouldn’t otherwise have. In my program, for example, I’m able to, from the comfort of my dorm room, tour the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, walk around the city center of Munich, Germany, and see inside some of Europe’s oldest museums and tourist destinations (bonus points for not having to change out of my pajamas and being able to order McDonald’s egg mc-muffins whenever I want).

Additionally, these programs are designed with the understanding that you aren’t in the city and are often more immersive because of that. My professors make a point to ensure we feel as included and immersed in German and French culture to make up for the fact that we’re not there, and by emphasizing the benefits of not having to get up from my beanbag and getting to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, we most certainly do not miss out.

2. Virtual programs are great for students who have trouble deciding on just one place to go.

If you’re anything like me, the thought of being stuck in a 10-mile radius of one city in Germany when you’re literally just a car ride away from some of the most beautiful sites in Europe is torture. I want to be able to visit everywhere and luckily, with my online program, I can!

My program specifically has taken me to Vienna, Austria, Munich and Nuremberg, Germany, Geneva, Switzerland, and Strasbourg, France, and in our last two weeks, we’ll be visiting Brussels, Belgium, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Name a single in-person program that can do that, I dare you! 

Virtual programs are an amazing opportunity to unlimit your travel and exposure opportunities; why settle on just one part of the world when you can quite literally visit them all?

3. Virtual programs are more accessible.

For the lower-income student, virtual programs are very attractive. I myself work full-time while participating in my Dialogue and for the most part, it’s completely manageable; something I wouldn’t have been able to say had I taken it in person. Additionally, when you study abroad online, you can put mobility and accessibility concerns aside because of how easy it is for students with disabilities and medical concerns to participate as well.

4. You can choose your learning environment.

When you study online, you can study anywhere— and I mean anywhere. Feel like taking class on the beach? Do it. Want to go to that cute cafe you saw on tik tok? Go for it! The world is your oyster when your classes are on your laptop and why not seize it.

For my program specifically, my professors have made it a sort of game to see what’s the craziest place for any one of us to take class. Thus far, I’ve participated from a WeWork downtown, from a hotel in NYC, from my hometown Los Angeles and in Malibu, and from Boston Common but I think my classmate who took a class on top of a skyscraper takes the crown.

5. It’s affordable!

At least at Northeastern, virtual study abroad programs cost no more than a traditional semester (or half-semester) of studying and you don’t have to worry about exchange rates, higher prices, or not being able to work!

Additionally, colleges and universities are often far cheaper abroad, and taking courses from them virtually may allow you some breathing room from the somewhat pricey U.S. tuition prices for a summer or two.

6. You’re able to truly connect with your professors and peers.

Virtual abroad programs are notoriously smaller than their in-person counterparts (for obvious reasons) but what they lack in cultural immersion they make up for in personal connection with your classmates.

My program, in particular, has just six students, and not only have we gotten to know one another really well but because we have a 1:2 teacher to student ratio, we’ve gotten an unparalleled amount of face time with our professors. I have never been this close to or comfortable with a set of professors and it truly makes the experience all the more impactful.

And there you have it! Six reasons why you should consider studying abroad virtually sometime in the future. Who knows? It might just be the perfect fit to your degree!