Remaining Globally Connected: 360 International virtual learning experiences
For several years, the 360 International team has been working through an ambitious agenda for providing students with an international learning experience during their time at the University of Auckland. When international borders began to close in early 2020, planning for the next round of overseas programmes came to a sudden halt. But the team was quick to pivot so that the opportunity for international learning experiences would not be lost during the pandemic. Since July 2020, more than 45 virtual programmes have been available through 360 International, and over 465 students have participated!
These programmes, delivered by trusted partners, offer students an opportunity to engage and collaborate with their peers from around the world. It’s a great opportunity for participants to gain new perspectives and skills to enhance their CV – not to mention the ability to engage with the world as a global citizen. And as we have all learned in the last year, the ability to work in a virtual environment with diverse colleagues, is ever more important for the next generation of graduates.
Initiatives such as the Indigenous Rights & History in Brazil programme had been offered in person prior to the pandemic, and the providers were able to transition to an online platform. Other, new programmes have included an immersive and interactive virtual experience: Behind, Beneath, and Beyond Social Media, with renowned international academics, facilitated by CISaustralia; Service Learning in Barcelona, with the ISEP Network; and skills and leadership development opportunities, with Diversity Abroad, the Hacker Exchange, AFS NZ, and the Universitas21 and Asia Pacific Rim Universities networks.
We can’t exactly replicate the overseas study experiences that will open up again in due course – but we’ve received glowing reports. Participants in these programmes speak volumes about the international dimension that virtual opportunities have added to their educational experience.
Azizahtun Sabani, who participated in the AFS NZ Global Competence Certificate programme writes: “To students considering participating in virtual programmes, I strongly recommend you do so. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people from a totally different culture and upbringing, share life experiences and make new friends! You’ll also learn to see, understand, and respect other people’s perspectives. All in all, I believe this programme has helped me be a global citizen who is aware of the wider world.”
We’ve also seen virtual opportunities open new doors for students who were hesitant to consider an overseas study programme before. Virtual programmes allow students to engage in international learning without leaving home – and perhaps enhance their confidence to seek an in-person international study experience in the future.
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