Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Ryan Hansen, Daily Iowan

One University of Iowa student has found interest in traveling and studying abroad because of a virtual course she took over the summer, as the study abroad options slowly return in person.

Shelby Enger, a sophomore studying marketing at the UI, participated in a virtual study abroad program through the Tippie College of Business this past summer. 

The program took her to Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. She cited cost as a main reason to try out this program.

“I didn’t actually have any interest in studying abroad before this program,” Enger said. “It sounded like a good way to see if I maybe wanted to do it in-person someday.”

Enger said her experiences in the virtual study abroad program were a mix of educational and cultural activities as well as business briefings. 

She said representatives from different companies around Asia would come and talk about their company and international business in the briefings. For the remainder of the time, students were able to ask questions. 

“For the cultural activities, we had a cooking class taught by a chef from Australia,” Enger said. “We had a tai-chi lesson from Hong Kong.”

For Enger, the ability to explore the world’s culture and practices from her own home was very important.

“What made it different for me was the fact that we could look at multiple different countries from the comfort of home,” Enger said. “A lot of students, they have to pick just one place to go to and we were able to tour four of them in just three short weeks of doing this.”

Despite being uninterested in studying abroad in-person prior to her virtual experience this summer, Enger said she would be interested in going to Australia now. This sentiment was echoed by many in her study abroad group as well, Enger said.

Associate Director of Study Abroad at the UI Liz Wildenberg de Hernandez said the study abroad program is excited to work with people like Enger, who found interest in study abroad because of the affordability and flexibility provided by virtual study abroad programs.

Wildenberg de Hernandez added that she thinks the program will be popular with students who want to study abroad once the world’s COVID-19 situation improves.

“There are other countries in the world who are maybe at a better place than the US is right now with the pandemic,” Wildenberg de Hernandez said. “However, that doesn’t mean that things won’t change. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot of ups-and-downs throughout this last year and a half.”

UI Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs, Russ Ganim said the international-themed, virtual study abroad courses and internships are the product of university faculty. He said he thinks they will stick around even after the pandemic is over.

The program uses aspects of multimedia to give students the best possible experience, Ganim said. There are presentations for students, he said, that allow them to recreate the experience of downtown Barcelona and other cities across the globe.