Thursday, January 26, 2012

External studies is no walk in park but not impossible if you love what you do

When I checked my email recently I found a note from Monash University informing me that my application to graduate had been approved.

While I already knew that I had passed my final units it was a relief to receive this as its one of the last steps in gaining a degree that was completed almost entirely online.

Completing a take home exam
The past few years have been an interesting progression through a master’s degree that often seemed like an all consuming project, especially considering that external studies is a little bit more challenging than the traditional method.

When you complete your degree via distance education (as they like to call it) your living room becomes the exam room, your bedroom becomes the lecture hall and your kitchen gets turned the “uni cafe”. 

This external studies option is not for everyone.
For one, you have to love what you do otherwise it is a lot more difficult to stay motivated.  With few opportunities to attend tutorials and lectures/seminars in person, you don’t have the same level of access to the information as an internal student would have. It’s not to say that internal students are spoon fed in anyway but they can attend tutorials and discuss the material in class and with tutors as well as students which makes it easier to understand the topics covered in the unit.

With the distance between you and the lecturer can span several thousand kilometres, it means that you have to teach yourself the material which is often quite difficult. For me, international law and international economics were the most challenging because of the unfamiliarity of the material but they were defiantly the most interesting.
sending off a hard copy of the final assesment
Secondly, being super disciplined is also important. The reason why most people choose to do their studies this way is because of work or family commitments and therefore life can get super complicated.
There were times during my degree when work became beyond crazy. so running my life like a military operation soon become an essential skill.  
There was this one time when I was working on the 2008 Western Australian State Election Campaign which involved working 6 days a week and 9 + hours a day. As luck would have it, I had a 3500 word essay due the day after election.....So with work, a stack of weekly reading and a 3 hour online lecture to listen to on top of researching/writing this essay, life became interesting for a while.          

More recently, I had to complete my final two units while working full-time (not to mention living in a rather “interesting” domestic situation on top of that) which included 6 hours of lectures per week and mountains of articles to get through.  The challenge was writing an essay while working 8 shifts in 7 days as well as keeping up to date with the other unit.

Luckily I managed to score an overall high-distinction and distinction for these units, which was a great reward for all the hard work. 

Finally, studying by correspondence is a lonely process. If you are a social person or consider “uni life” to be a fundamental part of the experience then completing your degree this way is not for you.

Hanging out with my fellow students is something that I really missed as conversations at the uni cafe and tavern about life, movies/books, politics, and society were defiantly one of the many highlights of my undergrad days. Also, the subject matter defiantly becomes more alive when you are in the same room as your lecturer.

You are also exposed to many more extracurricular and professional development opportunities when you are an internal student.         

But completing my masters externally has given me great freedom. For example, I have been able to complete an internship in Malaysia without any disruptions to my studies as well as attending a study programme at the UN headquarters in Geneva.

Studying externally has been an adventure and I am so glad I did it. Next step is the graduation and then.....who knows!!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gabby,
    Having done post grad studies online part time and while working full tme vs on campus back when I was a full time student only working part time I definitely agree with you about the loneliness of being an external student, the need for better organisation, stronger motivation and really missing the human interaction you get from things like tutes, catching up at the uni café/pub. Well done on completing it - you rock! Cheers Julie


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