Study Abroad

What to Look for in a Virtual Study Abroad Program

Jacqueline Peveto
Topic Expert

Jacqueline is a writer, artist, and enthusiast for anything else involving imagination and paper. She both studied abroad and volunteered abroad in Japan.

The journey back to school is changing, and though worldwide challenges have made it more difficult to take your education to the streets of Costa Rica or the museums of Milan, technology has stepped up to help students continue to make meaningful connections with our global community. Through experiential learning platforms and innovative tools, virtual study abroad programs are bringing the world to you.

More students than ever before have access to easy and cost-effective avenues to the life-changing experience of learning from international experts and gaining international awareness through cultural immersion. While exploring foreign countries from your couch may not seem the same as being there, virtual study abroad programs provide unique opportunities for refining your passion, exploring different interests, and making lasting relationships. This reimagined definition of study abroad lets you be in more than one country at once—all without leaving your house.

Read more: What is Virtual Study Abroad and Why You Should Consider It

What to Look For In Virtual Study Abroad Programs

It can be daunting to have the world at your keyboard, but read on to learn more about how to choose a digital destination and make the most of your virtual experience.

Courses That Fit Your Interests

When it comes to studying abroad, it’s important to start by honing in on your interests. What would you like to study? What countries are you interested in learning more about? Where are the experts in your field at work?

Real-world application should always be the goal of your study abroad education, and a good virtual study abroad program will take you far beyond a textbook.

You’ll have the opportunity to engage with professors and professionals, cultivate your options for study, and learn practical skills that you might even get to put into practice in-country.

From programs that let you select a variety of subjects, to intensive language courses with native speakers, virtual study abroad makes it easy to find coursework tailored to help you reach the next step in your education. If you already know what you want to study, gain an international perspective on the field by taking classes from professors in countries all over the world to compare and contrast their approaches—geography is no limit! If language studies are your focus, go for full immersion as you cook with a host family through a virtual homestay and share hobbies with native language partners.

Connection and Immersion

One of the most valuable and transformative aspects of studying abroad is building relationships. Though you won’t be climbing mountains with your classmates, a good virtual study abroad program will connect you to a community of prospective change-makers and develop you as a future professional. By actively engaging in networking on platforms and forums, you’ll have the chance to meet people who share your passions. Together, you’ll work through real-world challenges and engage in discussions in a creative and collaborative environment.

In addition to relationships with classmates, a good virtual study abroad program should bring you as close as possible to the country and its people.

When choosing a program, look for reviews from other students and find ones that specifically mention the engagement of professors and tutors. Despite the distance of a screen, many students have found deep connection with encouraging and involved instructors in countries all across the world.

But don’t think your study abroad experience will be all work and no play! Many programs even offer fun social and cultural activities, providing virtual walking tours and museum visits with local experts. Hands-on workshops, from cooking authentic cuisine to dance classes, will allow you to step into a culture and experience it for yourself.

Flexibility and Accessibility

Virtual study abroad makes it simple to take charge of your education. Combinations of synchronous and asynchronous learning allow you take advantage of the best features of virtually studying abroad while balancing your busy schedule. Though most lectures are given live to allow students to participate, recordings allow you the convenience of learning on your own time—especially when time changes are involved.

For students who are able to travel, some programs offer in-person trips and hybrid options with in-person and online classes. However, most programs go one step further to offer complete flexibility by allowing you to change your mind about how you want to take classes even after the program has started.

Virtual study abroad offers a diverse learning experience that can’t be found anywhere else. Through interactive online education, you will gain valuable remote working and communication skills that are becoming more and more sought after. Through your coursework, you can learn time management and other soft skills that will not only benefit your studies at home but will also be attractive on a resume.

Price and Value

Virtual study abroad breaks down financial barriers that often prevent students from participating in traditional study abroad programs.

With no need for visas, plane tickets, or foreign accommodation, this experience comes with a much more affordable price tag.

A lower price also makes it a good option for students who are interested in studying abroad but are hesitant to commit to a bigger trip. By exploring your options virtually, you can experience the field early on in your student career and refine your path.

Most programs include access to advisors and program administrators to assist you in making the best choices for your virtual study abroad experience. You’ll have support for completing and turning in assignments. As previously mentioned, some programs provide fun and informative classes as well as career development workshops so you can keep learning and preparing yourself for the next step. The cost should include everything you need to be successful—as long as you bring the wi-fi!

So...Which Virtual Study Abroad Program Should I Choose?

There are many great choices for virtual study abroad programs, and we’ve compiled a few recommendations for programs you can explore here on Go Overseas. Though these programs are relatively new, they are all backed by established organizations dedicated to excellence in innovative virtual education.

AIFS Study Abroad + Global Experiences: Virtuoso Institute

Global Experiences has partnered with AIFS Study Abroad to give virtual study abroad students access to a dynamic, global network of universities and internship placement options. With an emphasis on professional development and international education, this program allows career-minded students to continue striving toward their goals by tailoring offerings to their needs and interests. If you want to study business in Ireland while taking language courses in Madrid, this is the program for you!

USAC Global Perspectives

The Global Perspectives Program through USAC provides ultimate flexibility when it comes to crafting a virtual study abroad program. With the option to take one course or six, students can learn from professors all over the world, choosing from a variety of languages and electives or focusing in on a single discipline. Interested students can add an internship if desired, and cultural and career workshops throughout the term provide even more ways for students to engage in fun and meaningful ways. If creating your own program sounds overwhelming, Global Perspectives has compiled a number of recommended “pathways” to help you get started.

GVI: Online Study Abroad Courses

Since 1998, GVI has been committed to high-quality sustainable development and experiential education. Whether you’re interested in short-term or long-term programs, GVI offers a wide range of virtual study abroad programs that allow students to learn about and engage in wildlife conservation and community development. You will gain up-to-date knowledge of the field and have the chance to put what you learn into practice as you analyze photos of baby turtles and scan drone footage of coral reefs. Reviews from recent GVI students highlight the user-friendly features of the learning platform as well as the vast amount of relevant and inspiring content from knowledgeable instructors.

9.4 Rating
based on 10 reviews
  • Academics 8.5
  • Support 10
  • Fun 7.5
  • Housing 7.5
  • Safety 7.5

No Passport Required!

Let this be the year you take global steps with your education—no passports or suitcases required. With enthusiasm and a willingness to take advantage of all the resources a virtual study abroad program can provide, you will gain valuable skills that will prepare you for your next steps in education.