Student studying online

Intensive international opportunities via virtual OLEs

6 September 2021
Students lockdown language learning from the comfort of their own home
Did you know virtual programs, like virtual in-country experiences, can enable you to gain the valuable skills that you usually develop through in-person international experiences?

Well, that is what 115 students discovered as they experienced the Arab world, China, Germany (Berlin), Italy (Padua), Korea, and the Spanish-speaking world remotely during Intensive July. 

Want an insiders’ guide on why you should be next to apply? Just ask Evangelia, Hezerui, Jessica and Lydia who studied with our international partners in Jordan, Korea, Padua, and Valladolid respectively over a period of two to three weeks.

It is an eye-opening experience that brings you closer to other people and their cultures…You can connect with others in a unique way and gain life-long experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise. Taking part in an in-country experience is relevant to any discipline and it provides you with essential global skills.
Evangelia Sakarellou on the OLE in-country unit, Experience the Arab World (July 2021)

Why study an Open Learning Environment: In-Country Experience unit?

Lydia: They are a great way to immerse yourself in a language and culture you are interested in. The time length provides a great way to engage in a language you could be potentially interested in with no prior experience.

Tell us about your experience studying virtually at your host institution

Jessica: I had a really good experience studying virtually. I felt the program really tried its best to replicate similar activities if we had gone to Padua, for example a walking tour around the city square and a cooking class.

What did remote lessons look like?

Evangelia: We started with a language class followed by a lecture. Each day the lecture topics were different, starting from the history of the Middle East to architecture, cooking classes, current issues and much more.

Jessica: Classes were split up into language and culture classes. We were able to interact with real students studying at the University of Padua. There were also lectures that we watched prior to lessons that provided great insight into the historical importance of Padua.

Egyptian dessert Üm Ali (the mother of Ali)

Evangelia’s homemade Egyptian dessert Üm Ali (the mother of Ali) from an Arab World cooking class

An incredible benefit of an in-country experience unit online is that it saves you a lot of money and time. You get a very similar experience without the struggle of booking flights and accommodation, instead, you enjoy everything from the comfort of your bedroom.

Why should students apply for a virtual In-Country Experience unit – what are the benefits etc?

Hezerui: First, it allows you to get relatively more credits in a shorter period, but only if you pass. Secondly, it is very useful for understanding the language and culture of a country.

Jessica: Students will be able to learn a new language and culture within a supportive environment. Everyone from the host uni were very understanding and excited to interact with us students, and that made it very encouraging. 

Lydia: It is a great way to connect with others who are interested in the language and to also learn a language intensely over a fortnight than over a semester. It is also a good way to spend the first part of your holidays whilst attaining some form of productivity. A virtual OLE provides the same experience but just the inability to travel to the country and immerse yourself but that can always be done when you’re more experienced when borders open again.

How will this experience prepare you for future international opportunities?

Hezerui: If I can travel or study in South Korea in the future, this will lay a certain foundation for me. Even when we return to the University of Sydney in the future, I can greet my Korean classmates in Korean.

Jessica: Studying this unit has reminded me that within a culture and language, exists a completely different world. By taking this mindset with me I am able to be more culturally aware as I venture into a workplace that is continuously globalising.

Lydia: Language learning provides a way to connect with one another in this globalised world and to understand humans on a deeper level.

Will you be the 1000th enrolment?

Since their first iteration in Intensive July 2018, 920 students (699 in-country and 221 virtually) have enrolled in an OLE: In-Country Experience unit.

Along with 6 credit points toward your degree, you will gain unique, first-hand experiences through a combination of formal language classes and cultural activities – including online visits to museums, theatres, memorial sites – and enhance your cross-cultural skills.

Student postcard, “Thank you, we love you, teacher!”

Hezerui Liu’s postcard from a Korean culture class, “Thank you, we love you, teacher!”

I now have an idea of what it would look like to study in another country. When I come across another international opportunity, I have the benefit of already having a global experience and feeling more confident.

The School of Languages and Cultures’ intensive in-country experience units are just one of the international opportunities supported by Strategic Partnerships and Engagement within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and by Sydney Abroad. Please refer to the OLE In-Country Experiences page for important information on relevant disclaimers, application process and deadlines, departmental permission and associated fees.

Banner image: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash