Antonia was initially hesitant about trying a remote study abroad and internship program because she wanted to experience a new culture firsthand. What changed her mind about this unique virtual experience? She credits these 3 important reasons for influencing her final decision.
What would you say if someone offered you a REMOTE study abroad experience? I can tell you what I said - “not for me”. When I imagined study abroad I dreamed of getting lost in a new city, trying to speak a new language and trying different types of food. At first glance, virtual programs sound pretty ridiculous. I didn’t see how I could experience anything new from home. My biggest concern was how an international remote internship/class is any different from a domestic online internship/class? Don’t they both consist of Zoom meetings all day?
Fast forward three months and I am now interning for Invincible Me, a nonprofit organization, and taking a comparative health systems course based in London. Yes, there is a large part of my day spent on Zoom meetings, but there are aspects that are different from my online classes and jobs in the US. Though I would rather be in London interacting face-to-face with my internship site, this experience has turned out to be something I never expected. What changed my mind from “no way” to “this sounds cool”? In the following post I would like to point out some of the unique parts of my virtual study abroad program, and how I was convinced that this was an experience I wanted to be a part of.
A selfie at my desk.
1. Culture Can Travel Online
I am not trying to convince you that the cultural experience of traditional study abroad is the same as a remote study abroad, because it is not. There are still ways to experience a different culture from your own home. One of the aspects I did not expect was that CAPA also offers virtual cultural experiences. On the My Global City events calendar (image below) there are activities like cooking classes, virtual museum visits, and coffee hours. The best part is you can check out events at all of their base cities which include London, Dublin, Florence, Sydney, and Barcelona.
I’ll be dedicating a future blog post to specific ways you can experience different cultures from your own home, so stay tuned for more!
CAPA My Global City Events Calendar.
2. Improve Your Skills
You could argue that any online work experience can improve your professional virtual skills, but only international experiences will help improve your intercultural skills. While you are physically in the US, mentally you need to be at your internship site. Your schedule needs to be based on theirs (even in different time zones), and you need to keep up with their local news and learn their cultural context. This will improve your intercultural communication and intelligence. These skills may not sound very important, but if you look them up you will realize that these skills are crucial as the world becomes more globalized.
Check out Julia Middleton’s TED talk on why cultural intelligence is important for future leaders.
Let’s be practical — traditional study abroad is not cheap. Personally, I had to decline study abroad programs because I was not able to earn enough financial aid. The remote versions of normal study abroad are a great deal cheaper. This makes an international experience more affordable and accessible to more students. If you are worried about the financial part of study abroad, I highly recommend looking into CAPA’s remote programs (which they plan to continue after the pandemic) and scholarships/grants through your university’s study abroad office and CAPA scholarships.
A global pandemic was not included in my summer plans, but nevertheless here we are. While I could be sad about all the lost opportunities of a summer at home, I decided to make the best of what I had. I am still completing an enriching international experience, networking, and improving my work skills, with the slight modification of staying at home.
I hope that after reading this post you feel more inclined to do more research on remote study abroad programs. It is not the same experience as travel-based study abroad, but it still provides a great international experience that you won’t regret.
Antonia Bignotti is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Human Biology major from the University of Kansas, she is remotely studying abroad in London this semester.
Antonia's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.