By Nichole Ahlstrom
Faculty Member, School of Arts and Humanities, American Public University
Living overseas was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I ever had, but it was challenging at times. Taking in a new culture, traveling, managing my husband’s work schedule, being a parent and teaching online — all while I attended college myself — wasn’t easy.
The time difference made attending an online college difficult, but that wasn’t the only problem because I also had the temptation to travel to neighboring countries. I really had to focus on time management to make everything work.
As you juggle school and live in another country, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, defeated, frustrated or anxious. To manage college effectively, you must set priorities and examine your motivations for continuing your education. Students must manage the experience of living in a foreign land in order to be successful as a college student.
Pay Close Attention to Time Differences and Deadlines
One of the most perplexing issues to overcome as an overseas student was the time difference. It was hard to get the time difference straight in regard to posting class assignments and discussions.
Communicating with my instructors and classmates proved difficult because it felt like I played the “hurry-up-and-wait” game as I anticipated an answer to a classroom post or email. I would post my question(s) at my “normal” time of day and wait for a response that arrived around 10-14 hours later.
I tried my best to complete and submit work ahead of time. Being prepared helped me to decrease my feelings of frustration and deal with time restrictions.
Mental Preparation Is Vital
When you attend college overseas, being mentally prepared is half the battle. The other obstacles that you face are managing your family’s needs and your job requirements.
What helped me to succeed in reaching my educational goals is that I put my family first. I attended to my children’s needs before I focused on my career and schoolwork.
To get started, I created a task list at night about what I needed to accomplish for the following day. I ranked each item in order of importance, which allowed me to focus on specific tasks and move through my list efficiently.
Keep An Open Mind and A Positive Attitude
When you attend an online college from an overseas location, it’s important to keep your emotions in check so that your routines do not get out of sync. You may make many sacrifices in order to manage college while you live abroad, but there is also the opportunity for personal growth.
Living abroad provides you with an additional advantage. You’ll have gratifying, fulfilling experiences that you can incorporate into your schoolwork and memories for a lifetime.
About the Author
Nichole Ahlstrom is an adjunct faculty member who teaches psychology at American Public University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Nichole is currently working on her Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership with the University of Phoenix. Nichole lives in the Washington D.C. area with her husband, who is an active-duty Marine, and they have two children. Nichole loves being a mother, spending time with her family, volunteering, exercising and traveling.
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