As study abroad opportunities remain limited because of COVID-19 protocols, hundreds of Grand Valley students are learning about global cultures and speaking another language by connecting virtually with peers around the world.
The Padnos International Center has facilitated exchanges for about 100 students this semester. That builds on last year's total of 217 students in French, Chinese, Japanese, German and Spanish classes who communicated with 253 peers from Grand Valley partner institutions.
Anne Caillaud, associate professor of French, assigns her third-year French students to conduct 10, 30-minute conversations with students at L'Université Catholique de L'Ouest in Angers. Caillaud incorporated the virtual study abroad assignment into her syllabus last year and said the process of matching students with French peers worked well, adding some pairs have continued their friendship past the assignment.
"The students begin meeting their peers formally in class, then choose times and apps, like FaceTime or WhatsApp, that work for them; it's really been a smooth process," Caillaud said. She laughed and said one student communicated with their French peer for about a 90-minute session, as the student was driving from Angers to Paris.