Study Abroad Office offers virtual abroad experiences


Northern Star file photo

The Study Abroad Office, Williston Hall Room 417, will answer questions and cover general information about studying abroad.

By Mikah Walker, Reporter

The Study Abroad Office has placed a hold on traveling due to COVID-19 for the remainder of the summer and the fall. For the summer and fall, the Study Abroad Office will offer students a virtual abroad experience. 

NIU canceled all international study abroad programs for the rest of the spring semester through August, President Lisa Freeman said in a March 12 COVID-19 update

Seven students were abroad during the spring semester and were brought back to the U.S. Those students completed courses online with virtual experiences, according to Anne Seitzinger, director of the Study Abroad Office. 

The Study Abroad Office had to work in reverse to bring the students back home in the spring according to Lauren Mock, associate director of the Study Abroad Office.

The students were overseas through a study abroad provider who helped coordinate their return to the U.S. For instance, the provider assisted students in packing their belongings. Students either stayed in dorms or with a host family, according to Seitzinger. 

“Having virtual classes can’t replace traveling to a whole country,” Seitzinger said.“It can only be a proactive way to remain engaged in international education.”

Many of these experiences are internships and students will work with an international organization from home, according to the study abroad office website. Some of the virtual locations available for summer and fall are Japan, Argentina and Thailand. 

 “The virtual experience is highly interactive, and students will earn NIU credit,” Seitzinger said. “Students will be able to network in the U.S. and around the world online.”

The Study Abroad Office staff are involved with advising, registration and orientation for students interested in studying abroad.  

“About a dozen students have already applied for the virtual experience,” Mock said. “The students who even signed up made enrollment a success so far.” 

CISabroad, a study abroad program provider, offers virtual internships in places such as Spain and South Africa. Students can learn to work across cultures and time zones. Virtual internships can serve as an important stepping stone to build up students’ skills, resumes and cultural understanding, according to CISabroad website.

Another provider is International Business Seminars. International Business Seminars offers a virtual seminar in Japan. Students, who are interested can learn about the Japanese economy and business etiquette, according to IBS

CISabroad and IBS programs are also available for the summer and fall.

Mock sympathized with students whose abroad programs were cut short during the spring semester.

The Study Abroad Office hosted a virtual Study Abroad 101 May 13 through Microsoft Teams. Through this presentation, the office gave students information about the study abroad application process, cost and course details. Another virtual Study Abroad 101 has not been confirmed yet. 

“Our staff has been working really hard,” Seitzinger said. “I encourage students to reach out with any question through email or teams.”

For information about virtual study abroad opportunities, visit the virtual abroad experiences website. Contact the office at [email protected] or by calling 815-753-0700 for any questions.