My Two Cents On Online University

I get a lot of flack for online school. People think it’s easy, fun, “OH MY GOD YOU NEVER HAVE TO PUT ON PANTS”. It’s not. I mean, yes, sweatpants are fun. I can’t deny that one. But honestly, no one makes a college movie about the studying, and with distance ed that’s all your left with. So, it’s time online school gets the respect it deserves, and yes, people have said all these things to me.

Online University Comment #1: You didn’t get in anywhere else?

Okay, I get this one partly. The selection process does cater more to mature, working adults and a large part of my application process was life experience. However, they looked at my community college grades and made sure I was up for it.

Online University Comment #2: It must be so much easier!

I took a history course that had six textbooks for one semester. SIX. It wasn’t even a “pick and choose” type thing, it was a “you bet we’re reading every word in here, plus online readings, plus videos!” My friend who took the equivalent at her standard university had one textbook. ONE. The entire thing is readings and essays because it’s not like you’re going to get the information from your twice weekly lecture.

Online University Comment #3: At least there’s no group projects! 

I hate group projects. I know it’s supposed to be about learning to work together and all that, but there’s always that person who… well, I’m sure you know that person (if not, think about how you’re acting in group projects). Naturally, I was super excited about not having a group project ever again… and then I took a math course. You know what’s worse than a group math project? A group math project that has to be done over email when all 4 people are in different time zones.

Online University Comment #4: I would kill to not have to listen to people be stupid in class…

Yeah, so would I. Picture the people who ask a question for the sole purpose of getting to drone on about answering it. Picture that person getting to internet comment. Now, picture you “participation” grade depending on your response showing that you actually read twenty paragraphs of them.

Online University Comment #5: It must be so nice not having to get up and go to class. 

This is the tough one. Yes, it is nice that I don’t need to get up and make myself presentable, but you know what the hardest thing to do is? Getting up and studying when it’s raining and all you want to do is curl up with a cup of tea and a good book and/or it’s netflix equivalent. In college I would rent a locker and keep all my books there. I would be on campus all day and when I was home I would relax. That separation helped so much. When your study area also doubles as a cozy couch it’s really hard to concentrate.

Now, this isn’t to say it’s all bad. Online school has afforded me the option to travel long term and not feel like I’m putting off a goal. Also, it makes for some pretty cool course/trip match ups. Studying modern European history while backpacking Europe? Cool as hell, and everything takes on a much greater meaning. It’s like having the ultimate guidebook.

If you’re thinking about online school, I’m finishing my degree through Thompson River’s University, but there are tons of other ones depending where you live. If you do decide to go for distance ed it can give you some amazing opportunities, just know it’s not all textbooks at the beach.

For reals though, don’t bring a textbook to the beach. Trust me, it never works.

My Two Cents On Online University

Why I Decided to Study Abroad

3.1% of Canadian students choose to study abroad. 

Let that sink in. Honestly, it’s kind of super gross. I went to college after a quick stint as a receptionist. All I wanted was to go back to Europe, but post-secondary is one of those things I thought I really needed. I also wanted to get behind the rope at museums and cultural sites and thought, “Yes, I shall be an archeologist.” I didn’t even know how to spell archeologist. I had never seen Indiana Jones (still haven’t). Imagine my bewilderment when I was walking down the steps from my rude awakening about what archeology really is i.e a physical anthropology lecture, and saw a big sign: “Study Abroad in Europe”.

The program was offered by the college and for four months I’d tour around Rome, Florence, Venice, Lucerne, Paris, and London. The museums would be my classroom and I would be one with Art History (which is a hella lot closer to what I thought archeology was). This was March. The program included a textbook reading and small classroom component in August, and in September I was off.

I loved the learning. There’s something magical about looking at a painting in real life, at the  real time and hearing about it. Also, little tidbits like this:

That’s some graffiti by Michelangelo. Who knows that other than an art history professor?

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t all sitting at cafe’s in Venice and shopping in London. I had some hard days- I was very ill at the start of the trip in Rome and didn’t find a social group. Everyone was quite clique-y and I kind of got lost in the shuffle. I was told in Florence that everyone thought I was a horrible know it all – a side effect of being to sick to party and actually doing the assignments. Luckily my solo traveller heart kicked in and I still had a great time.

Even with the little social fejula I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I grew so much as a learner and a traveller. I learned that social whatever’s didn’t matter as much which has helped me through pretty much every single interaction I’ve had with humans since- especially when I’ve travelled. I’ve learned that if you need to absorb information try looking at it in a more active, realistic way.

Also, I learned that travel isn’t something I can just “get out of my system”.

I did my field school through Langara College, where I was going. The credits are pretty universally transferrable, and they do some continuing ed programs if you just want to take a trip with none of the work. Almost all universities have an international office if you’re not wanting to do the whole tour thing, but instead just want to do a full on exchange. My cousin did one in Milan and literally talked his way backstage at the Versace runway show. Magic.

Some I haven’t been on, but have been wanderlusting pretty hard on:

  • Sea|mester  You spend the amount of time on a yacht learning how to sail, getting your PADI, and taking classes like Marine Biology. Also, they get the most pun points.
  • Where There Be Dragons  These look so beautifully curated. If you read reviews you’ll be just… I don’t even know. I want to go. I wish I had known about these earlier.
  • Kalu Yala You live in an eco town in the middle of the jungle. This is so far in my wheelhouse it hurts.
  • Semester at Sea This is one of the most well known study abroad programs. Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela were guest lecturers. This program is actually bananas. Block off like 2 hours for the website because that’s seriously how long I took forgetting I was doing a blog post.

If you’ve been on any of these, let me know! I love first hand accounts. Also, you’re probably super cool.

And, if you’re rich as and are all like “damn, I want to drop some cash right now!” I’ll gladly let you fund me on some educational adventure. 😉

Why I Decided to Study Abroad

The Language Project

Before I start, I would like to point out that even though I have spellcheck on, I spent at least 10 minutes not believing that language was spelled right. What a weird word. 

This time last year, as facebook likes to constantly remind me, I was in Europe. At this exact time I was probably in Nice, but I’m trying not to think to hard about it, lest my heart shrivel up in sadness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving my new job, I’m super happy about my garden and it’s good getting schoolwork done. Am I sad that I’m not going to Italy to work this year?


However, it still hasn’t quite hit me that I’m going to Australia. So for now life just feels super routine. What I need is a starter. I need a motivator.

I need a project.

“Now Sandy,” you may or may not be thinking. “What about your gorgeous garden?”

Well, things are in the ground. I’ve planted some more seedlings. It now just feels like a lot of sitting around and waiting for things to grow. this gardening thing is great for food, but damn. I want stuff to grow now. Patience is a virtue I’m severely lacking.

I’m taking three classes: Spanish, English Lit from Chaucer to Morton and Intro to Programming.

I found this little infographic and it got me thinking….

24 weeks? 600 hours? that’s…. 25 hours a week or 3 and a half hours a day.

Who has time like that?!

Oh wait, me. Especially for academic pursuits. Mind you, now that I’m working it’s not as magical. So, here’s the plan. I’m going to do some experimentation.

Welcome to week one. I’m going to do my best to hit that magic 3.5 on most days, but I’ll probably have more or less. Also, let’s be real here, I’m not going to include any time during my two weeks in Australia.

I have a multi thronged plan of attack. I’m going to not just use my textbooks for class. I’m also going to explore other mechanisms.

My Background in Spanish:

Some context. I did take take Spanish from grades 9-11. My teacher was a special little flower though, so I didn’t learn much. I went to Cuba twice in high school, and Spain last year. We quickly learned “dos cervezas, por favor.” was my jam. Also, rum is the same in every language. Tequila is conveniently a Spanish word. Or not so convenient. Depends whether you ask that night Sandy or next morning Sandy really.

My Plan of Attack:

TRU SPAN 1001 -Basically the reason I’m actually doing this. I want those three credits. This degree thing is getting old. Also, the prof is awesome. I’ve already gotten 49/50 on assignment one that I handed in an embarrassingly long time ago.

Spanish for Dummies – I think I bought this when I was drunk, but it seems like a decent and light resource. I apparently also bought the French and Italian. – I bought premium for two years before my trip, and I’m going to use it dammit. – Everyone always talks about how great it is. It’s free, I’ll give it a shot.

Podcasts – This is my plan for the gym. I’m trying to multipurpose my hours. I’m pretty much going to download every learn Spanish free podcast that’s on there.

Netflix – Besides the classic Miss Dora, there’s a few shows in Spanish with subtitles. I’ll go ahead and count this as studying.

Youtube – I watched a TON of kids shows in Italian while working in Italy. I really feel this is a great way to learn. If it’s meant to teach toddlers colours it can teach you to.

So, to test these online resources we’ll go for what the weakest prong on the learn online is:


We’ll gauge my success based on how well I do with my phone-in oral exams.

Ever learned a language through a dubious or awesome online resource? Let me know what you did. Or if you think something’s so stupid it just might work, also, let me know.


The Language Project