Wouldn’t it be great if you could earn an art degree from a university in Paris, a fashion degree from Milan or an architectural degree from a New York City college without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home Well, if you have a computer and a reliable internet connection that’s exactly what you could do via a distance education program. There are currently thousands of colleges, universities and private institutes offering worldwide degree programs for students through distance education, and while some require at least partial attendance, there are many more that necessitate no physical attendance whatsoever. To help you become better acquainted with this ever-growing and extremely popular mode of education, below we will discuss worldwide degree programs and distance learning in a bit more detail, including a description of how these programs work and some information regarding the type of people who make for great distance education candidates.
Worldwide Degree Programs and Distance Education
Distance education programs have been around for over 50 years, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that these programs began to gain a measure of credibility. In the past, the mere mention of an online education would conjure up images of non-accredited universities and fake or virtually worthless degrees, but today that image has changed dramatically. That’s because In the last two decades, the prevalence of personal computers and increased global access to the Internet, have resulted in the exponential growth of worldwide degree programs through distance education—quality programs offered by renowned institutions. Most universities today have at least some form of distance education, including major universities throughout the world that are consistently ranked among the world’s top schools. College administrators and faculty have discovered that by providing certain degree programs in an online format they could afford students greater access and reach a portion of society that would otherwise be excluded. Now students can take university-level coursework and enter worldwide degree programs wherever they wish, without being limited by distance, time or handicap.
In distance education, students send and receive assignments over the Internet and can complete them at their leisure at times when it’s most convenient for them. These worldwide degree programs are today aided by several new technologies that make communication and staying in touch much easier, including email, instant messaging, text messaging, video conferencing and even virtual classrooms, where students can attend lectures in real-time via their home computer. Some of these worldwide degree programs require a minimal degree of physical attendance, usually for things like exams or guest lectures, but many programs are designed to completely eliminate the need for any physical attendance, including exams that are given online.
Worldwide Degree Programs Are You a Good Candidate for Distance Education
Distance education will probably never entirely replace the traditional classroom experience, but it does make sense for many people, including
• Full-time employees who lack the time (and energy) to attend classes because of their job responsibilities
• Stay-at-home moms and dads
• People in rural and remote regions where university education is not available
• Adults and seniors interested in taking enrichment classes
• People limited by physical, mental or emotional disability
• And more…
Naturally, to be a candidate for worldwide degree programs in an online format you will need to be self-disciplined and motivated, able to complete your weekly assignments by the agreed upon deadline. You should also be at least somewhat familiar with the required computer technology, understanding the basics of programs such as email, video and text messaging, Microsoft WordExcelPower Point and others.
If you meet these requirements your educational landscape is virtually limitless. No longer are you limited to the higher education programs in your hometown, but you’re free to pursue the education of your choice at the school or university of your dreams.
Are you a university student considering the possibility of completing a portion or all of your degree at a foreign institution in Europe? If you have, you probably already know there are an endless amount of worldwide degree programs available, including those in the various universities within the European Union. But were you aware that most of the universities in this region have recently switched to a new credit and degree structure? It’s true. Beginning in 2007, the institutions of higher learning in most of the countries that make up the European Union began to adopt a standardized credit and degree structure—a structure which was borne out of the Bologna Process. To help you better understand this recent transformation, below we will discuss the Bologna Process in a bit more detail and show you how these changes have made worldwide degree programs throughout Europe more beneficial and accessible.
Worldwide Degree Programs: About the Bologna Process
The Bologna Process was a course of action aimed at educational reform in the higher education institutions throughout Europe. According to their official website “the overreaching aim of the Bologna Process is to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on international cooperation and academic exchange that is attractive to European students and staff as well as to students and staff from other parts of the world.”
So how exactly do these worldwide degree programs work?
Standardizing the credit and degree system in European universities is the main focus of the Bologna Process. Under this new structure there are now three distinct cycles of education:
Cycle one represents the first level of education, usually spanning three years. For each year completed, students earn 60 credits, with 180 credits needed to finish the undergraduate program. No degree is awarded after the first cycle of education, but students who successfully complete the program are eligible to enroll in cycle two, after which they will earn a degree.
In most countries there is also an alternative program for students not interested in pursuing a second-cycle education. These programs typically span four years, in which students are required to earn 240 credits, ultimately leading to an undergraduate or Bachelor degree.
The second cycle, as outlined in the Bologna Process, spans two years, in which students must earn a minimum of 120 credits (certain programs may take 3 years or 180 credits). Following successful completion of cycle two students are awarded a Master of Arts or Master of Science Degree in their particular field of study.
Students who have successfully completed the Master’s program in cycle two are eligible to enroll in the third cycle, representing doctoral or PhD studies. These programs vary in length, and while there is no specific credit requirement outlined for cycle three in the Bologna Process, most doctoral programs will span three years, during which students will earn 180 credits. More advanced fields may take up to four to five years to complete.
The main goal of worldwide degree programs such as this is to create unity in higher education, not just in the universities in Europe, but in other parts of the world as well. Although the transformation was initially resisted by many countries, the changes outlined in the Bologna Process have now been implemented in almost every European university with good results. Among the many benefits, the new structure has been shown to help:
• Facilitate transfers throughout Europe and ease the mobility of students, graduates and faculty
• Prepare students for careers and life in a democratic society and support their personal development
• Increase access to high-quality education, based on democratic principles and academic freedom
Today there are over 47 countries united under this new educational structure, all demonstrating why worldwide degree programs are more student and staff friendly than those that are merely national or regional.
What is Summer Student Exchange?
Summer student exchange programs are an exciting way to spend your summer break and are becoming very popular among older teens as a way to visit another country without spending an arm and a leg. These four to eight week programs are sponsored throughout the world, including countries in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and even Australia, affording students a unique opportunity to learn a new culture, gain valuable language skills and meet new friends from around the globe. A summer student exchange can be academically-based, in which students study a particular subject (Art in Paris or Marine Biology in Australia), or they can revolve around language programs or even summer employment. Typically, students will study during the morning hours with a qualified instructor who speaks their language. Classroom sessions usually include group discussions and guided practice, ultimately leading to proficiency in the language or subject being studied. In most cases, the credits students earn while participating in the program will count towards their diploma—a fact that gives many students an added incentive to participate.
Once class (or work) lets out for the day, students are free to explore their host country, learning the customs, traditions and language of its people and dining on the local fare. Most student exchange programs include regular excursions to sites of interest within the country—landmarks, museums, galleries and sites of historical significance—places that are usually tied in some way to the subject material they are studying. These trips allow students to observe the daily pace of life in the country and the small nuances that make it so special and unique, ultimately giving them a greater appreciation and understanding of the culture and a wider more sensitive world perspective.
As with the summer camp you experienced as a child, a summer student exchange is filled with new and challenging activities, albeit on a greater scale, and numerous occasions on which to meet new people and make friends. This typically begins with your accommodations, as most programs will pair you with a host family to live with for the duration of your stay. These families, who generously share their homes, meals and their time to make the summer student exchange experience so memorable, will serve as your tour guides and support system during your summer adventure, teaching and answering all your questions and helping to ward off any homesickness. You’ll be treated just like one of the family and be able to visit places such as restaurants, shops, theaters, etc. In many cases, your host family will include someone at or near your own age with whom you can explore all the sights and sounds of the country when you’re not in class.
If you long for the days of summer camp and are interested in experiencing that feeling again, only on a much more mature scale, then a summer student exchange program is definitely for you. While your trip may not include the campfires, archery and ghost stories you experienced as a child, it will feature one eye-opening experience after another as you come to know and ultimately love your host country and its people.
International Schools and Study Abroad Programs
Although international schools and study abroad programs are actually quite different, in most cases they will be listed together in a directory of international schools. Here is a brief definition for each of these terms:
An international school is an educational institution that teaches a different curriculum than the one offered in the local schools, a curriculum that is accepted internationally at most schools of higher education. The instruction in international schools, which offer both primary and secondary education, is usually in English or bilingual (English + another language), and both the student body and faculty are typically multi-national. For decades now, these schools have been popular among expatriates who wish to provide their children with an education that will be accepted globally, including in their country of citizenship. More recently, however, local student enrollment has also been on the rise, as more and more parents are realizing the value of an international education in an ever-growing global society.
Study abroad programs offer students the unique opportunity to study and live in a foreign country for a time, usually a semester or full academic year. While in the host country, students study in a foreign high school or university, but the language of instruction, as well as the textbooks and printed materials are in their own language. Students usually study with other international students in a program developed by their home university, and the credits they earn while studying abroad are fully transferrable. Cultural excursions and outings are an integral part of a student’s stay, providing numerous opportunities to learn and come to appreciate the culture, language, customs and traditions, as well as to sample the local fare. Students typically live in residence halls or with a host family—a family who volunteers their home and their time to benefit the program and their guests.
Using a Directory of International Schools
The easiest and fastest way to find international schools and study abroad programs, whether in your area or somewhere else, is to use a directory of international schools. These digitized online catalogues have collected pages and pages of information from educational organizations around the world and have conduced and simplified the data to make each program or school easy to find and research. There are many websites that now offer a directory of international schools, and most will allow you to narrow your search using certain criteria, including a specific country or language, the type of program or curriculum offered or the duration of the program. For instance, if you were searching for a semester-long study abroad program with openings in Japan, you could first search by country and narrow the results further by the program duration. Once you have conducted the search you will be provided with a list of possible matches, on which you can click to see a description of the school or program. Some of the information you can find with a directory of international schools includes:
• Location of the school and nearby places to visit
• Program description, including dates and important program features
• Candidacy requirements for the program (GPA requirement, etc.)
• Program duration—semester, academic year, summer program
• Daily schedule, including classroom and recreational hours
• Program cost
• Financial assistance and scholarship opportunities (most study abroad programs offer scholarship opportunities)
• Living arrangements—on-campus housing, off campus housing, host families, etc.
• How to apply, including application deadlines
International Student Exchange Programs: What They Are and How They Work
Many students (and people in general) often get the wrong impression when they hear the term “international exchange.” They understand it’s about studying abroad, but they also have the mistaken notion that these students are simply “thrown in” to a foreign classroom environment in which the course instruction is provided in a language that is unfamiliar to them. This is not the case. One of the greatest features of international exchange programs is that students will study in their own language, taking many of the same courses they would at their home high school or university. Even better, in most cases, they will receive full credit for the coursework they complete when studying abroad—credit that will be applied to their high school diploma or university degree. International exchange programs have a very low teacher to student ratio, with classes made up of a number of international students (often from a variety of countries) who speak the same language.
Naturally, studying at a foreign high school or university does offer international student exchange students a unique opportunity to gain a fresh educational perspective; to learn new instructional and learning methods and acquire valuable language and alternative problem-solving skills. Whether they’re studying for a semester, full academic year or just during the winter or summer break, the opportunity to meet the local instructors and students, and to witness how the education process is conducted in another country is a truly enlightening and valuable experience.
At this point you may be wondering why these programs are called international “exchange.” The answer is actually rather simple. International exchange programs are reciprocal. This means if you are, say, an American high school or university student who decides to study in China for a semester, a Chinese student will normally have the opportunity to study in the United States, sometimes taking the very place you are vacating at your home school. This allows both of you to reap the benefits and advantages associated with studying abroad.
In addition to the classroom component associated with international exchange programs, you will also be treated to numerous cultural and sightseeing excursions. Many former international exchange participants fondly recall these day-trips as being some of the most enlightening and entertaining experiences they had while living and studying abroad. Together they afforded students a firsthand experience, allowing them to fully “take in” the country and all it has to offer. The chance to visit some of country’s most treasured sites and landmarks, savor the local fare and speak and interact with the country’s people give international exchange students a rare opportunity to completely experience what life is like abroad on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, many of the people students meet along the way—people they meet in the classroom, residence hall or through their host family—are people with whom many former participants stay close and in touch with years after their international exchange program has concluded.
Off Campus Student Housing: Tips for Avoiding Roommate Conflicts
So you finally chose an apartment, met two roommates (say, Jeff and Manuel) who were willing to share the costs and you moved in. Initially, things were great and the three of you were getting along famously. However, after about the third month you begin to notice a sour smell emanating from Jeff’s room that is rapidly taking over the apartment. You’ve pleaded with him on several occasions to wash his clothes and dishes, but still the odor lingers and the combination of soiled socks with the strong smell of rotting meat begin to make you rethink the whole roommate arrangement. On top of this, despite your constant reminders, Manuel is now five days late with his share of the rent, and the cable television, a bill he had promised to pay, has now been shut off.
Naturally, this scenario is fictitious, but conflicts like these are very real and extremely common when two or more people share off campus student housing. And while not all conflicts can be completely avoided, there are many ways to allay or avoid them. Below we have listed just a few tips that will help make your apartment-sharing experience a little less stressful.
• Address conflicts early. Many roommates, when sharing off campus student housing, fail to address conflicts as they arise. Instead, they let them fester, which only builds more and more resentment between the two parties and what could have ultimately been a minor conflict turns into World War II. This is a common, yet huge mistake. Experts suggest roommates be upfront with each other and try to resolve conflicts early, before they become too big to manage.
• Discuss financial arrangements before moving in. When entering into a roommate agreement the question of who will pay for what and when should be decided prior to making any residential commitment. Put this in writing so there is no confusion down the road.
• Show courtesy. The oldest—and still the best—tip when sharing off campus student housing is to be courteous to and mindful of each other. Behavior such as hogging the television, computer or other items in the common areas of the apartment will only cause conflict, so always act in a manner like you would like to be treated and behave in a way that’s positive and considerate.
Conflicts are a natural part of life and are particularly prevalent in roommate situations, but by keeping the lines of communication open and demonstrating courtesy at all costs many of these conflicts can be minimized or eliminated altogether.
Packing Tips for Your Study Abroad Experience
Whether you are planning to study for a semester, full academic year or longer, the question of what to pack is one every student abroad participant wrestles with. Here are some tips to ensure you pack everything you’ll need for your trip—and nothing you don’t.
• Consider the seasons. Consider the seasons in which your study abroad experience will take place and research the average weather conditions during those seasons. Then, pack accordingly.
• Think layers. Try to pack clothes that layer well together and can be mixed and matched. Hint: solid colors are usually ideal for this purpose.
• Use travel-size toiletries. Most toiletry items can be purchased once you arrive in your host country, but you’ll want to bring just enough to allow you to get by until you have settled in. Keep in mind that many airlines have regulations about the types and quantity of items you can bring on the plane, so be sure to check with them before packing.
• Remember certain must-bring items. There are a number of must-bring items for students who plan to study abroad. In many countries this will include a raincoat and an umbrella for the rainy seasons. A scarf is also essential when studying in colder climates and is an ideal accessory for offsetting solid-colored and layered clothing. Handy wipes and/or antibacterial creams are also a must and will do in a pinch when you cannot locate a sink.
• Don’t overdo it. Many students who plan to study abroad have the tendency to over-pack, but this is something you’ll want to resist. Laundry facilities will be available where you are staying, and you will more than likely be buying some clothing items when you’re in the host country. You will also want to save room in your suitcase to bring back souvenirs you accumulate along the way.
Other Preparation Tips for Study Abroad Participants
As a study abroad participant there are certain steps you should take to prepare for life in your host country—steps you can start before you arrive. In the days leading up to your flight, make sure you are well-rested, well-fed and fully hydrated, which you can accomplish by drinking plenty of water and by avoiding caffeine and alcohol. When you are on the plane, set your watch to the proper time in your host country, and try to get some sleep as you make your way to your destination. This small step will allow you to stay awake until a normal bedtime on your first night in the country, which in turn will help you to adjust to the new time zone more rapidly.
Study Abroad Programs and Transportation
In your home country, or at the very least, in your home city, you have no doubt already mastered the various means of public transportation and how to use them to get to where you are going. However, when participating in study abroad programs you may find some slight variations in terms of transportation, with names and schedules that may initially be a bit confusing. In most foreign countries, public transportation is relied upon heavily for getting around—transportation that often includes trains, buses and taxis—but if you currently live in a country that is not as dependent on public transportation, say, the United States, for example, you will definitely need to become a quick study on how public transport works and the various means available.
Below we have listed and described the three primary modes of public transportation you are likely to encounter in foreign countries:
There are a number of different types of train systems in foreign countries. From underground trains or subways to elevated trains and light rails to high speed trains that serve the entire country, the train systems you may encounter as a member of one of the many study abroad programs can be quite varied. Generally, there are two basic types of trains or train systems: high-speed trains that travel from point to point and slower trains that stop in many towns and regions along a specific route. In Europe, for example, there are:
• Inter-country trains. The inter-country trains in Europe are used to get from country to country. This is a very common way to travel throughout Europe, especially for students of study abroad programs who are unfamiliar with the various countries along the route.
• Intra-country trains. There are many countries in Europe (and in the world for that matter) that have their own train systems. These types of trains travel from city to city within a given country—a true bonus for those in study abroad programs, allowing them to visit cities other than the one in which their university and/or accommodations are located.
Public city buses are the easiest and by far the most affordable means of travel, taking passengers to destinations within a specific city. If you plan to live off-campus during your stay, you may want to look into buying a monthly or quarterly bus pass, as you will probably find it cheaper than paying each time for a single ride.
The final mode of transportation in foreign countries is the taxi. Although certainly not the most affordable means for everyday travel, taxis offer the benefit of direct “Point A to Point B” transport within a city. If you find yourself in a hurry, not willing to stop at various points along the way, or if you need to travel somewhere to which bus service is unavailable, a taxi is definitely the way to go.
If you are planning to study abroad in the near future, either for a semester or full academic year, you are probably experiencing a variety of emotions, ranging from excitement and anticipation to trepidation and even a bit of fear. These are all perfectly normal feelings, and as anyone who has ever studied abroad will tell you, adjusting to a new way of life in another country will certainly have its ups and downs.
According to experts in the field of cultural identity and adjustment, transitioning into a new culture can be one of the most difficult parts of study abroad programs. The reasons for this are many, but perhaps the largest obstacle people face is their own cultural perspective. Think of it like this: For your entire life you have been surrounded by elements of a single country’s culture, your own, including all the traditions, customs, language and cuisine. But now, as an upcoming participant in one of the many study abroad programs, you are about to be “thrown in” to another way of life, with different people, places, attitudes and perspectives. This is bound to cause some internal conflicts. However, by learning to recognize the various stages associated with cultural adjustment, you will be better equipped to overcome these conflicts as they arise.
There are essentially four stages of cultural adjustment that many students will pass through when participating in study abroad programs, albeit not necessarily in the same order presented below: bummer
· “Flying High” or Fascination Stage. Most participants in study abroad programs arrive in their host country with a feeling of excitement, anticipation and adventure. They are spellbound by the newness of the experience and they can’t wait to see what’s around every corner. Food tastes delicious, people seem friendly and the novelty of the experience makes them wonder why they didn’t try this sooner.
· Let-Down or Discouragement Stage. Once the novelty wears off, many students in study abroad programs are faced with the reality of trying to fit into a culture that’s very different from their own. They may face obstacles in their studies; have awkward interactions with the locals; and/or struggle with the new language, complete with all of its colloquialisms. They judge everything they see and every person they meet in terms of how very “different” they are, and naturally, a feeling of discouragement and homesickness usually creeps in. This stage can be a difficult one to maneuver, but if you find yourself feeling let-down or “bummed out,” it’s important that you remain positive and keep an open mind, because the very best part of your study abroad program is yet to come.
· The “Ah-Hah” or Transitional Stage. As time goes on during the course of study abroad programs, most students acquire a stronger command of the language and a deeper appreciation of the culture. Instead of comparing things to their homeland, they essentially wake up to the beauty of the experience and begin to examine the cultural differences for what they are, as well as the attitudes and behaviors of the people. Instead of being discouraged they begin to relish the experience as one that is broadening their cultural horizons.
· The Assimilation or “I Finally Fit In” Stage. With a renewed appreciation for the opportunities and adventures afforded them by study abroad programs, most participants will gradually begin to feel as if they are assimilating or blending in with the people and culture, rather than feeling like a square peg in a round hole. New language skills are mastered, helping them to communicate, and with a deeper understanding of the culture, making friends, which initially seemed improbable if not impossible, becomes a happy reality at every turn.
Although many participants in study abroad programs will face difficulties as they try to adjust to a new culture and a fresh way of life, in the end most former participants feel as if they are much better off for the experience. Some even become so immersed in the culture of their host country that they encounter many of the same adjustment stages in their re-entry phase, as they transition back to the culture and the ways of their homeland.
Are you planning to study abroad in the upcoming future; to live in a foreign country and attend classes for a semester or full academic year? Are you a bit concerned about how life will be and how to stay safe when studying in a foreign city, a city to which you are not accustomed? Concerns regarding safety among those planning to study abroad are perfectly normal, but once you become a bit more familiar with your new surroundings, you will undoubtedly become more comfortable, allowing you to fully enjoy the experience, without the anxiety that often accompanies adjusting to a new culture, language and way of life. Until then, there are a number of steps you can take to help ensure your safety when studying and living abroad—steps we will outline in some detail below.
Safety Tips for Those Planning to Study Abroad
In most cases, ensuring your safety when studying abroad is really no different than the steps you would take at home. The only difference is you will not understand the basic rules and cultural customs of the city or country in which you are studying—a problem that is usually compounded by an unfamiliarity of the language. The most basic rule is to use common sense and to always be aware of your surroundings. As a study abroad participant you must always remember you are not immune to the dangers of your host city, but if you remain vigilant at all times you can generally reduce the likelihood of becoming a target. Good judgment is the key to enjoying life as a study abroad participant, complete with all the fun and excitement your host city has to offer. This means following a few very basic safety rules, including:
· Use the Buddy System. One of the best parts of any study abroad program is the experience of exploring your host city, its attractions and nightlife. However, when doing so it is extremely important that you partner up with at least one, or ideally several friends, including, whenever possible, another student or adult who lives in or is familiar with the city. By never venturing out alone you can significantly reduce the potential of being harassed, annoyed or becoming a target of criminal activity.
· Ask Questions about the City. One of the unfortunate realities that holds true for cities around the world is that there are always certain areas or neighborhoods within that city known for their crime. Therefore, before exploring your new surroundings with your new-found friends, check with some of the local students and ask questions regarding the areas you should avoid and the areas that are more tourist-friendly.
· Avoid Carrying Cash. Avoiding carrying large amounts of cash may sound like a no-brainer, but there are far too many study abroad participants who have made this mistake and paid the consequences. Instead of cash use a more protected source of payment for purchases, such as traveler’s checks or a credit card.
· Avoid Alcohol. As a study abroad participant, particularly in cities renowned for their nightlife, there may be occasions in which indulging in alcohol sounds tempting. However, you must keep in mind that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, affects your good judgment and makes it significantly more difficult to remain aware of your surroundings. One or two drinks are okay when celebrating, but for safety’s sake avoid becoming too intoxicated.
By following these simple steps as a member of a study abroad program you’ll be able to enjoy all that your host city has to offer and stay safe in the process.