Student experience: Gaining international experience online during the global pandemic

'…the module specifically taught me not to take any issues or topics presented at face value but to analyse, research critically, and, if necessary, bring public awareness to it.'

Law student Brittany Cousins seized an opportunity to gain international experience by studying online with a university in Hong Kong after her year abroad plans were scuppered by the global pandemic. And, to her surprise, she ended up being the co-author of a letter about the Mars missions published by the South China Morning Post!

Brittany took up a Virtual Exchange Programme with Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) instead of a previously planned year abroad at Charles University in Prague. She selected a virtual module on ‘Taking a stand: Engaging in public discourse through advanced research and writing’ and was delighted to find herself studying online with students from the United States, Canada, and from across Asia.

Brittany said: ‘The module focused on different social issues facing Hong Kong, the global society at large and was carried out in an experiential way; the flipped classroom approach was adopted as well as seminar discussions with some influential figures within the Hong Kong society. Some of the social issues looked at were public health and environment, housing and transportation, and Police Technology.

‘This module enabled us to undertake extensive research, such as contacting government bodies and private institutions. This was mainly done through the small collaborative groups that we were placed in depending on our chosen topic of interest; compelling and insightful arguments were made around these topics. We also had the opportunity to submit letters to newspapers.

‘My chosen topic was the Mars missions launched last year (I always find astronomy and space travel to be fascinating). I was placed in a group with two members who were from Gengenbach (Germany). In researching our topic, we delved into everything from reasons for the respective mars missions, the success rate of past missions, to the budget range for these types of missions.

‘In formulating our arguments, we sent questions to organisations like NASA, the ESA (European Space Agency), and the China National Space Administration. We also worked on our letters to the editor to be submitted to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). With the critical approach taken in our letter, the SCMP were delighted to publish it in their paper.

‘Having a letter that I contributed to, invested in, and am passionate about being published in the SCMP with such a large readership is one of my most notable achievements to date.

‘In retrospect, the only slight challenge I found in participating in the virtual exchange programme was the time difference; my seminars began at 05:00! However, this was worth it. This experience allowed me to learn from many international students, from their perspectives on different issues presented to their varied writing and research techniques. Most importantly, however, this experience further developed my ability to work with a team and be the type of team player required in almost any field. Furthermore, the module specifically taught me not to take any issues or topics presented at face value but to analyse, research critically, and, if necessary, bring public awareness to it.’

Laura Charleton, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Internationalisaton at Kent Law School said: ‘The opportunity to study internationally is no longer constrained by the need to physically travel across the globe. Whilst studying abroad remains one exciting and enriching route for students to pursue, the experiences gained through technology-enabled virtual opportunities can be just as rewarding. This academic year Kent Law School students secured places on a Global Community Challenge arranged by the University of Calgary, Canada whilst others have enhanced their co-curricular studies by undertaking modules delivered by universities in Japan and Hong Kong.’

Learn more about law student Bea Manlapaz’s experience of studying online with a Japanese university on our news blog.

More virtual, international summer school opportunities – available to all Kent students – are detailed on the University’s website: International opportunities and support for students

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