#HoyasAbroad Snapshots – Virtual Abroad

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The term “virtual study abroad” may sound like an oxymoron. But, according to Harper Thomas (SFS ‘22), who this summer participated in Georgetown’s virtual summer program in Amman, Jordan (new window), it was still one of the most rewarding educational experiences he’s ever done. 

As difficult as it is to replicate and represent culture in a virtual world, Harper says the professors did an amazing job with such a hard task. The program held virtual cultural activities such as regular discussions of current affairs, Jordanian cuisine, and Arab music and culture. The program organizers also encouraged students to have biweekly conversations with their professors about anything at all – family, friends, or even current movies. Professors invited students to come to Jordan in the future so they could meet up and try the food, explore the markets, and visit the most beautiful cities and cultural historical sites, such as Petra. They went out of their way to forge connections with their students, and did an exceptional job.

To Harper, the most striking part about the whole experience was the degree to which all of his professors were engaged with their classes – a tough thing to do over Zoom, as we all know. It was impressive how they were able to orchestrate virtual classroom activities and promote student participation. According to Harper, it was all the small things that made this virtual experience the best it could possibly be.

Harper was staying in San Diego during this time, so he would have to get up at 5:30 some mornings for his 6:00 class. Because everyone was in different time zones, from the East Coast to Jordan, they had to be patient with various scheduling mishaps. After Jordan’s daylight savings time, both professors and students were confused and ended up late to classes that first day.

Overall, Harper is glad he stuck with virtual abroad. Of course, he would love to visit Jordan someday and experience the culture in person, but having the opportunity to interact with professors and classmates over the summer, even if it was virtual, was far better than sitting at home alone during quarantine. Even today, he still keeps in touch with his professors and classmates over Whatsapp. Virtual abroad may be self-contradictory, but it can still be done successfully and provide a meaningful experience for those who participate.