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On-campus, online and traveling between the two

By Amy Nielsen

I travel for three reasons - for a purpose, with purpose, or without a care.

I have been travelling internationally since I was small. I consider myself a third culture kid. My mother is the one who taught me about the three kinds of travels, though we never talked about it as such. We travelled together with the rest of our immediate family, she went away on her own for business for many weeks at a time – beginning when I was in grade school, and then there were the trips we took alone together – some of my most favorite memories.

When I travel for a purpose I am traveling with a timeline and specific agenda, like most business travelers. I rarely do this anymore, though I used to do it all the time. I spent many years on the road or in the skies. It is traveling without really seeing or experiencing the differences of place you are in. It is a sad and sorry existence, and it takes a toll on the body like no other stress.

I adore travelling with purpose, it is my favorite reason to be on the move. When I say with purpose, I mean that one is traveling either with a timeframe and no specific route, or better, a specific route and no timeframe. Either way you get a modicum of personal choice in the matter. This mode of travel can be the most amazing vacation or a wonderful business relationship if you can get it.

Without a care is actually quite stressful for me. Many people love the idea of being able to travel without caring where they go, how long it takes to get there, or what route you travel. The ability to do this is rare. My own experience with this sort of travel has usually been one when I really had no other choice, move or be moved and land when the feeling strikes because everywhere is nowhere. It is a tumultuous sort of travel.

Recently, I spent the weekend on campus with my master’s program for the first time. I am pursuing a program that can be taken either completely online, hybrid online and campus, or completely on campus. Because of the state I reside in and the degree I am obtaining, I am required to follow a hybrid or campus structure with this school. As a full-time student, I take eight or more credits, of which two or more must be completed on campus every semester.

This being my first semester, I had a conference with my academic advisor before I started. We decided to just follow the designed course of study for the first term. I am happy I did. I needed time to learn to first be a student again – then - a graduate student, on a new digital platform, several states away from the physical campus, knowing no one else who is in the cohort - and worry about passing organic chemistry and physiology. All in 15 weeks.

Of the two options for this class, I chose the one in the later portion of the term specifically so I was more comfortable with the school before dealing with the added fun of travel and a new environment. I happen to love to travel. I do it well and it makes me happy. This was bound to be a grand adventure.

The field I work in is scientifically technical and mushy feely all at the same time, and getting more so every day. It is practiced by a vast array of people in a multitude of ways. How we all go about it is completely and utterly lost in the classes because we never see each other. Attempts are made at interaction between students in the online portion, mandatory weekly discussion groups, check -ins and forums, and the ever dreaded group paper. But for the most part my courses fail to connect students on even a professional level, let alone personal level.

None of the online projects hold a candle to understanding who you are studying with or as spending some concerted time in a classroom working out a problem together. Getting to know the gal you met on the travel thread, the one who helped you understand that students for the same distance away can make the weekends work, is never going to happen in a classroom chat board. Because we were able to sit together at lunch and get the train schedule and Uber driver’s number, I now have plans to take many more classes on campus.

This trip proved that I can make this program be even more than it was. By discovering the access to the range of class delivery options, it opens up a whole new reason for me to travel with purpose on a regular basis to a place where I will fill my skull with completely mind blowing and baffling ephemera and then coddiwomple home slowly digesting it all.

I will get to hang out with interesting students, occasionally see far flung friends who live near the school, and make connections otherwise missed. These opportunities are just too good to pass up. So when I get home I am going to switch my online macronutrient class to the on campus section as it happens to neatly line up with currently open weekends on my calendar. Off I go!

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