The Education Abroad Office at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has had to reimagine study abroad programs during COVID-19.
International travel has stopped and will remain halted for the foreseeable academic year, however, many UNL students still desire an international experience. In response, the EAO has created the Virtual International Programs.
“The virtual study programs are not meant for students to take a full course load elsewhere but rather to supplement their current UNL course load with an international experience,” said Katelyn Kunzman, UNL Education Abroad coordinator.
Kunzman said that virtual international internships are a good way for students to develop connections with international employers, learn to work remotely in different time zones and build skills in cross-cultural communications.
Studies show students who participate in a study abroad experience often have an easier time finding employment after graduation, and employers recognize the value of international experiences when hiring.
Universities continue to look for ways to supplement the absence of the in-person study abroad experience with things like virtual art walks and communicating in the native language with locals using livestream applications like Zoom.
These virtual study abroad programs are not a replacement for traditional study abroad experiences, the social and cultural experiences of physically being in another country cannot be duplicated virtually. However, there are benefits to the virtual format. VIP has opened the door to more students who may not have been able to have an international experience due to financial constraints, personal commitments or disability and mobility issues.
The program is still in its infancy, but Kunzman said interest from international businesses and employers means it is likely virtual internships may stick around even after the pandemic.
Students interested in exploring their options this academic year should visit the Education Abroad website and schedule a virtual meeting with an advisor to learn more.