Online and Abroad: Getting the Most Out of Your Online Educational Experience

As youngster high school students, we create all kinds of images and expectations for our college experience. Whether it’s influenced by lofty books we’ve read, silly comedic movies we’ve see, or stories we’ve heard from friends and siblings, there are certain anticipations we have for our colligate experience. We envision late night study sessions, copious amounts of coffee, dorm rooms filled with Christmas lights and band posters, semesters abroad in Greece or Rome, inspiring professors, and early morning classes. These images aren’t necessarily wrong—but they are seemingly limited to the more “traditional” college experience. However, as online education gains in popularity among students, universities, and employers, the “traditional” student is no longer necessarily the only college student to consider.

While some staples of college learning are somewhat limited to “traditional” brick and mortar schools—dorm rooms, cold college classrooms, and campus dining halls—, online learning is becoming more and more mainstream in today’s society. Online students have all the same social and academic possibilities and opportunities that traditional students have. For the online students who has dreamt of taking a semester abroad during their collegiate years to explore new cultures and create new experiences, don’t count it out of the plan. Semesters abroad are also available for students who are completing degree programs online.

Just as online students take a new route for their educational experiences, studying abroad as an online student can look different as well. The whole point of “online learning” is that students can complete degree requirements and classes from a flexible location. Education is accessible from any location with reliable internet access. In this way, online learning abroad can be just that. If you are an online student and wish to take a “semester abroad”, you have the freedom to do so without conflicting with your educational pursuits. Of course, this is not what most students mean or envision when they think about studying abroad in college, but it is one option.

In a more traditional way, online students are also able to join official study abroad programs. Because online learning is relatively new, researching study abroad programs that are supported by your online institution may take slightly more research than a traditional student might encounter. Many online students choose the online route because they are not necessarily enticed by some of the frills and features of campus-based learning. However, this is not to say that some of the “frills” that college offers, such as study abroad opportunities, are not available to the online learner. Online students have access to the exact same study abroad opportunities that other students are allotted. Speak with your online institution’s admissions or student relations representative about the idea.

If you are an online student at an institution that has a physical location (as many online schools today do), finding study abroad opportunities should be fairly simple. Of course, it all depends on the school, but studying abroad has become such a commonplace among college students that most schools have study abroad coordinators to assist interested students. In this case, you can earn credits toward your degree while you study abroad through either online classes, traditional classes, or a mixture of the two. On the other hand, if the college you attend does not offer study abroad programs to their students, you can likely work out some alternative options. Many schools will allow students to participate in another college’s study abroad opportunity and then transfer those credits when the semester is complete. Situations like this will take some discussions with school representatives, but should not be ruled out.

Studying abroad can be an extremely rewarding and worthwhile experience for any student. Travel and new life experiences are important steps to take for any individual, but especially young adults struggling to find their purpose. Online students can particularly benefit from a study abroad experience both personally and from a professional standpoint. While online degrees have gained widespread acceptance among employers at an academic level, they can be looked down upon as an indication that the holder has minimal “real life” experience. This experience can show employers that you have hands-on experience in new and different situations and circumstances. Hands-on cultural experience alongside your online studies can make for a better rounded resume.

Author Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about many topics in education including online colleges and online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.