Theresa Wood from the Foreign Languages Team explains how virtual exchanges are a great way to develop valuable skills and connect with students overseas.
Have your placement or year abroad plans been cancelled due to Covid? Does the thought of spending as long as six months in another country seem way too daunting or long? But would you still like to experience another culture and make new friends in another country?
Well, Virtual Exchange might be perfect for you!
The Skills Centre already organises virtual exchanges for students on our foreign languages courses, and we’re now running a pilot to trial virtual exchange for other disciplines across the University. We’d love you to get involved!
And don’t worry, you don’t need to be fluent in a foreign language to take part – the exchange will run mainly in English.
What is Virtual Exchange?
Virtual Exchange is a practice which brings together students who are geographically separated and/or from different cultural backgrounds. Students collaborate on a discipline-specific project set by their teachers.
By taking part, the students increase their confidence and ability to communicate across cultures (called ‘intercultural communication’), develop their language capabilities and a whole range of other key employability skills, like interpersonal, digital, team-building and organisational skills – giving you valuable evidence to make your CV stand out from the crowd.
Virtual exchange also allows students to develop a Global Citizenship mindset which is vital in today’s globalised world.
5 great reasons to get involved
1. It’s cheap! You don’t have to worry about the cost of moving to another country and how you’ll survive financially while you’re abroad. Anyone can join a virtual exchange and the only cost will be wifi, if you’re not in a free wifi zone.
2. You’ll make new friends! We’re lucky to be part of an international community at Bath, but a virtual exchange will connect you with others in places you might never visit. You’ll be able to learn about different cultures from the comfort of your own home.
3. It’s short and sweet! A virtual exchange is, on average, only 6 weeks long, and you might spend a maximum of 2 hours a week with your overseas exchange partner. With so much else going on in your life, this is a manageable commitment which you can fit in around your other activities.
4. You’ll improve your digital skills! Having strong digital skills is very high up on employers’ wish lists nowadays. Through virtual exchange, you’ll use a range of technologies to connect with your partner, enabling you to enhance those all-important digital communication, collaboration and participation skills.
5. It’ll help with your studies! Imagine studying marketing and being able to ask someone in another country how they’d advertise a product in their local market. Or studying psychology and finding out how a particular treatment would work in their culture. Experiencing different perspectives and sharing ideas will open your mind and give you a broader understanding of your subject area.
"Through the Virtual Exchange Programme, you become a better listener and develop a greater appreciation for another culture. This increased cultural awareness is very important in broadening the mind and working in harmony with people, especially nowadays in our very (and wonderfully) diverse globalised workforce." - Elliott Garraway, MA in Translation and Professional Language Skills, who took part in a Virtual Exchange with Unicamp in Brazil.
So how does it work?
- Teachers from each university collaborate and set up a virtual exchange programme.
- You’ll then be paired with a partner or placed in a small group and will agree a suitable time to meet online.
- You’ll collaborate on a project set by your teachers and present on it at the end of the exchange.
- The exchange is structured, so you’ll know what to do with your partner and what to discuss.
- You'll receive a certificate confirming that you took part in the programme.
How do I get involved?
If you’re interested in finding out more and want to join a virtual exchange, please contact the Foreign Languages Team and let us know which department you’re in.
We’re currently in touch with various departments about how to set up virtual exchanges and are providing support to help get them started. Following our pilot virtual exchanges in Academic Year 2021/22 we hope more departments will get involved in the future.
You can also read about the Skills Centre’s Virtual Exchange project with Xi’an International University (XAIU) in China and watch a video made by two students who took part.