Publication date: Oct 01, 2023
Internationalisation enhances students’ understanding of social, cultural, and ethical differences, preparing them to be global-minded, socially accountable healthcare practitioners. Traditionally, internationalisation of education involves international student travel. Online tools provide opportunities for international, peer-driven learning and collaboration without costly travel. This research described the experiences of pharmacy students from South Africa (SA) and the United States (US) that participated in a virtual peer exchange project during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual peer exchange project allowed students in SA and the US to establish connections within the global pharmacy community and compare healthcare, pharmacy education, and pharmacy practice between the countries. Students engaged in facilitated dialogue through video recordings, video conferencing, and a group discussion board. Student introduction video comments and discussion board posts were thematically analysed. Twenty-one students participated in the pilot project that met some of the intentions and goals of internationalisation via a virtual platform. Two over-arching themes of Practice of Pharmacy and Pharmacy Education emerged from both the introduction video and discussion board comments. Students described lessons learned about similarities and differences in socioeconomic determinants of health as well as structure, functioning, and financing of the different healthcare systems. This project was a unique way to conduct exchange programmes via a virtual platform, and bypassed challenges of traditional exchange programmes. Through technology, more students in diverse geographic locations can be exposed to various perspectives and healthcare experiences with international students.