Virtual events have been becoming more popular with the increase of COVID-19 distancing protocols and restricted travel. Although these events are not the same as actually being abroad, this round-up of virtual tours and videos of international sites will give students as close a feeling as is possible during the pandemic.
University of Richmond students who had been planning on studying abroad this fall were notified on May 15 that their programs were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether these students decided to take their fall semester classes from their homes, off-campus apartments or on-campus residence halls, they all had to accept they would not be traveling or taking classes internationally as they had originally planned.
This Newy with Kids article links to several virtual tours of locations throughout Australia, including museums, art galleries, the Great Barrier Reef and more. Additionally, the official YouTube channel of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a koala sanctuary in Queensland, Australia, has videos and live feeds of several animal habitats around the sanctuary. Catlin Seaview Survey offers a quick 360-degree view of a spot in the Great Barrier Reef. Finally, this Google page you on a 360-degree tour of several of the rooms in the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia.
Circle One Studios offers 360-degree views at multiple locations along the Great Wall of China, in addition to providing historical facts and descriptions of the Great Wall.
Sagar Sood, a travel videographer, has a YouTube video that offers a bird’s-eye view of Copenhagen, Denmark, via drone footage, so viewers can see aerial shots of the whole city. The travel search engine Kayak has morning, afternoon and evening virtual activities, from virtual cooking lessons to tours of Copenhagen to Danish language lessons. Finally, this short YouTube video brings viewers on a tour of Copenhagen, with a voiceover that talks about the history of the city and day-to-day Copenhagen activities.
Junior Claire McLam was scheduled to study abroad in Copenhagen but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is taking UR classes on-campus instead.
McLam thinks that virtual tours are nice in theory but do not compare to an in-person experience, she said.
“[Videos] are no substitute for engaging with the culture, meeting the people and exploring the city’s history firsthand,” she said. “It makes me sad that the degree of immersion in studying abroad can never truly be captured with video, even one as beautiful as this.”
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The Louvre website offers virtual tours in which people can go through the museum's exhibits and learn about some of the paintings. Also, the Complete France website directs viewers to Google Arts & Culture views all around France. It provides links to nine different virtual tours of France where people can tour around Versailles, Mont Blanc, Montmartre and even the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The YouGoCulture website has virtual tours and 360-degree views of the Acropolis of Athens.
This YouTube video takes viewers on a bus tour around the Cliffs of Moher, Wild Atlantic Way and through Galway City.
Senior Claire Conslato studied abroad at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Ireland, during the fall semester of her junior year. Watching the virtual tour of Galway made her nostalgic, she said.
“Compared to my own personal experience, [the] video was definitely a bit more touristy than my time there, but I still recognized all of the locations mentioned,” she said.
Conslato would usually drive to the areas in the video with friends, but when they did take the bus, the experience was identical to what is shown in the video, she said.
Studying abroad gave Conslato new perspectives on life and taught her the importance of seizing opportunities, she said.
“These are lessons that I appreciate more than ever now that COVID[-19] has altered my senior year so much,” she said.
The official website of the Uffizi Gallery, home to works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo, offers 3D online exhibits of the museum's collections with captions and HD pictures. The Vatican Museum website has 360-degree tours of select exhibits online, in which viewers can virtually walk themselves around. Finally, Prowalk Tours' YouTube channel has videos of walking tours all over Italy, from the Amalfi Coast to Capri to Sicily.
The BucketListy blog has a compilation of 70 photos taken by travel blogger Pete Rojwongsuriya that shows New Zealand all the way from the north to south coasts.
This National Trust virtual tour of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland gives viewers multiple views of the basalt columns and other beautiful views all around the cliffs.
Alumna Paige Levine, ’20, studied at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the fall of her junior year. She found a lot of differences between the VisitScotland virtual tour of the castle and her in-person experience, she said.
“Seeing the city from that high [up in the city] was one of the reasons I think a bunch of people visit the castle," she said, "and I think any virtual experience of the castle focuses on the castle itself and misses out on those."
Levine also noted that the video did not give Edinburgh Castle the same sense of grandeur that it had in person.
“There is something special that comes from actually walking up the massive hill that the castle sits on, only to then walk under the castle’s massive gatehouse and portcullis,” she said.
As for Levine’s abroad experience itself, it was potentially one of her favorite semesters of college, she said.
“I think that the biggest difference that separates an in-person semester abroad and a virtual experience would definitely be at the personal relationship level,” she said. “I made so many friends and met so many different people during my semester that I would have never met otherwise.”
But even with all of these differences, exploring a city or site virtually can be good, Levine said.
“Virtual tours still give loads of information, but maybe more importantly right now, they can also provide a momentary escape from this feeling of being stuck and isolated that I think a lot of people have been feeling,” she said.
The AirPano website has 360-degree views and tours of the Keukenhof Park tulip fields from both helicopter and ground-level perspectives.
Although there is no real way to replace fall 2020 study abroad, these virtual events and tours can hopefully help until international travel and study abroad can happen again. Whether it is watching a drone tour of a city, going through travel photos on Instagram or cooking food from the country you were supposed to study in, there are plenty of ways to explore and learn about other countries rather than physically being there.
Contact international writer Kaitlin Edwardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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