Virtual exchange programs are typically joint learning experiences between students in two different countries that have some element of cross-cultural exchange in addition to any content that is being studied. They are conducted completely virtually with no in-person meetings. Although they existed pre-COVID, the sudden forced cancellation of many programs during the pandemic has caused an increase in completely virtual exchanges. Although virtual exchange does not include the in-country travel that is commonly associated with exchange programs, case studies show that students feel participation increased their communication skills, intercultural competence, and other skills. Virtual exchanges are also a way for students who otherwise would not be able to afford a program, do not have the time in their academic schedule to accommodate one, have children etc., to still participate in a cross-cultural experience and gain intercultural competence.
One virtual exchange option is taking a for-credit course alongside students from universities around the world. These classes typically include cultural components and many opportunities to get to know your classmates.
"I hope that every student can share in an opportunity like this" –Zahra, participant in a classroom based virtual exchange between UM and Egyptian Students
Examples at UM this year:
UM student John and Egyptian student Basant share about their cultures through music on a zoom call
"The world is a much richer and vibrant place when you know more people" –John, participated in a classroom based virtual exchange between UM and Egyptian students
If you’d rather participate in a virtual exchange with less structure than a class, you might consider a conversation partners group or other volunteer opportunity. In these opportunities, you’ll typically be matched with a partner and then plan times to meet virtually and share about your daily life and cultures. This is also a great chance to improve language skills.
"My virtual exchange was just as valuable as my physical exchange. I learned a lot of the same things." –Briana, participatant in Global PALS program
UM students and young leaders from Southeast Asian countries share their favorite books with each other as part of the Global Pals program
"I didnt realized how easy it is to meet other cultures that way (virtually)"–Briana, participant in Global PALS program
If you would like to build your resume and work skills while also getting an intercultural experience, a virtual internship with a company in another country might be for you. Regardless of your major and interests, it’s likely you could find a great fit!
Take our quiz to find out which alternative exchange program is right for you! Quiz
Resources and Contacts
Make an appointment with an advisor at the Global Engagement office to discuss virtual exchange opportunities.
Reach out to the International Internship advisor to discuss virtual international internship opportunities.