As I reflect upon my time as a virtual exchange student at Markham College, my experience seems defined by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Peru has been on strict lockdown beginning March 16th and many students have not been able to leave their houses in months. Because of this, the pandemic was on everybody’s mind. It was not only central to conversations with students, but present in course materials as well. This made for interesting differences from a more traditional in-person exchange.
Foremost, nobody socializes as they would normally. There were many Zoom meetings, but the medium is a far cry from the constant in-person interaction that defines a traditional exchange. This made the exchange feel more distanced, but feeling distant is inherent to virtual learning.
On the other hand, there was a sense of unity as the pandemic and surrounding measures built common ground as we all were experiencing similar things. While we currently have more freedom than the Peruvian students, the isolation that we are experiencing is much the same.
These aspects are just a snapshot of the unique experience that is virtual exchange. While it certainly isn’t a full substitute for an in-person exchange, I would highly encourage going on virtual exchange as you will make global connections and learn about yourself, nonetheless.