The Covid-19 pandemic changed a lot. For me, it completely ruined my plans to study abroad in college. As someone who was looking forward to traveling the world, it was devastating. However, I was introduced to studying abroad virtually because of the pandemic.
I studied abroad virtually during the Summers of 2021 and 2022. In 2021, I did a program through Spelman’s Foreign Language Department where I “traveled” to Oaxaca, Mexico, learned the Spanish Language, and had daily conversations with students living and studying in Oaxaca. In 2022, I (of course) interned in Barcelona, Spain with the help of our Study Abroad Office on campus. In Barcelona, I interned with Vall d’Hebron, a major hospital in Spain.
I would rate my study abroad experience in Summer 2021 as a 9! I absolutely loved the program and all that it offered. Every day of the week (Mon. through Fri.), we heard from a speaker (sometimes living in the states and sometimes living abroad), attended a Spanish class (through a Oaxacan University), and spoke with a group of Oaxacan students. The speakers that we heard ranged from people with a travel-based profession to people who made a split decision to move abroad. In fact, after the program, I was able to get an internship with En Root Travel, LLC, which was one of our speakers for the summer. Our Spanish class was very fun. The professor I had was engaging and taught us using things like music, games, and books. During that summer, I learned that Oaxaca's grading system is completely different—a BIG adjustment for me and my classmates. Finally, our ally, our intercambios, or exchanges. I would speak with the same group of students living in Oaxaca each evening. We would talk about our lives, how they differ, and how they are the same. Since we met five days a week, we usually had alternate Spanish/English days. One day we’d speak Spanish for the night, and the next, English. I absolutely loved the experience, and I’m excited to visit Oaxaca this Fall to put everything I learned into practice. However, the experience, as immersive as it was, was through my laptop screen. Our nights would usually be from about 6 PM to 10 PM, which is four straight hours of my staring at the screen. Often, I’d have to take about five minutes in between sessions to rest my eyes. Generally, this program is available for Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Howard University students. Before the pandemic, it was a fully in-person trip, and I believe it will return to that soon. 10/10 would recommend it to any interested students.
My Summer 2022 experience was about a 9 out of 10. IES Abroad has a wonderful program, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I attended a Seminar Course through IES Abroad Milan. The course was very engaging and taught me to look at things, especially professionalism, on a more global scale. In class, we discussed every topic in relation to how it’s expressed in different cultures. For example, expressing disagreement looks completely different in Japan than it does here in the United States, principally in a public work setting. During my internship with Vall d’Hebron, I learned a lot! Not only about psychology and our primary work, but also about myself. The internship pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to try (and fail at) new things safely. My supervisor created a space where I could collaborate with my teammates effectively and work efficiently while still creating my own schedule. I originally planned to visit Spain at the end of my internship period to see where I’ve been working, but unfortunately, that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. I am excited, though, to continue working with Vall d’Hebron to complete (and explore) work that I wasn’t able to during our short summer program. This program was a 9 for two reasons: 1) I would have LOVED to go in person, but my institution wouldn't let me, and 2) I could never have anticipated the amount of personal growth that occurred over ten short weeks. I learned a lot about myself that I look forward to taking with me in life and my career.
I never got the chance to study abroad during my time as an undergraduate. Though with the virtual study abroad experiences that I’ve had, I would 100% recommend virtual study abroad to anyone who doesn’t have the option of in-person travel. Whether your reasoning is institutional or personal, it’s possible to gain a lot from a virtual study abroad program. In this case, what you put in is what you get out, and though I would have rather gone abroad, I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow from the comfort of my own home.
More Blogs From This Author
Aliana Stanley is a Senior at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She is a Psychology and Political Science who plans to attend law school after graduation. In her free time, Aliana likes to spend time with friends and catch up on the latest trending Netflix show. She has a passion for helping others and learning new things. As she goes through life, she hopes to visit at least 6 of the 7 continents and be fluent in 4 languages other than English!