Ah corona, how you’ve ruined my university life… Ay caramba. Not only have you savagely cut my second year short, but now you have the audacity to impact my year abroad, which to be frank, was the only reason why I took this degree in the first place. So now, instead of sipping a corona on a beach in Spain, I’ll be watching about it on Spanish news in boring old England. I was coping in isolation you know, doing pretty fine, entertaining myself with the odd quarantine activity, until a few days ago I heard of this… A ‘virtual year abroad’.
Quite honestly, this is the worst thing I’ve heard of since online exams, which is also pretty recent (peak times am I right). So now, yeah, I’m pretty annoyed. Apparently, it’s supposed to be a ‘reflection’ of being abroad. So, do you reckon if I watch Midnight in Paris and eat a pain au chocolat I can pretend to be on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées? Or perhaps, if I sit on the sofa wearing a Real Madrid t-shirt, drink several pints of beer and shout GOOOOOL I can pretend to be at an El Clásico match in El Santiago Bernabéu? Yeah, I don’t think so.
Nothing can mirror actually living in a foreign country and being surrounded constantly by its culture, which I’m sure my fellow language students will agree on. No matter how much we try to replicate the language learning at home with what we can find online in terms of Netflix, podcasts, or other foreign material, I don’t believe that we will be able to a) have the same cultural immersion as being abroad, such as our native friends introducing us to the things they love about their country, which we then get to experience too, and b) the ability to reach fluency as we would abroad, given that we won’t have the same constant exposure to the language by talking to our native friends or to the random strangers that we meet on our adventure. Also just in general, a virtual year abroad would be a million times less fun, and also, funnily enough, it just isn’t ABROAD. I want to see new places, make new friends, smell new scents, taste new cuisines, try new things… not sit in my bed re-watching ‘La Casa de Papel’ (as amazing as it is). For me personally, I was hoping that this year abroad would be a unique experience in terms of my personal development – becoming more independent, facing new challenges, being able to adapt to adverse situations, and also an amazing opportunity to travel overall. It would be a tragedy for this to be taken away.
Overall, the option of a virtual year abroad sounds pretty pointless, which is why the idea of switching 3rd and 4th year is a lot more appealing, although perhaps not feasible. But hey, there’s still hope right? Currently everything is uncertain, so who knows what the future will hold. There is still a possibility of going abroad in January, and then we’ll still be able to get some of the year abroad that we deserve. So, I say let us hope – hope that we can look forward to the memories, the food, the tequila shots, and most importantly, the cute French boys! Gracias y au revoir.