No matter if your volunteering in Central America or living in China for a semester, planning ahead and making sure you're prepared is vital. If you're planning on taking online classes while living abroad, it even more important for you to be prepared -- for living AND taking your classes! Let me help you out.
Taking classes online while volunteering isn't for everyone, but we do have volunteers who take a class or two during their semester abroad. You'll have lots of free time since you're only volunteering part time, but it's up to you whether you want to fill that free time with riding your bike to get smoothies with your group or for studying up for you next test. If you do decide to bust out some credits while you live abroad, check out these tips below to help you get ready for it.
Don't let online classes or any obstacle hold you back. See some obstacles our past ILP volunteers have had and how they overcame them!
It doesn't matter if you're taking BYU Hawaii online classes, doing work for your SUU internship or doing a BYUI study abroad, you're going to need to make sure you do these things before you ever even leave:
How to prepare for taking online classes abroad:
- Bring the correct books and supplies
- Get a VPN if necessary
- Have a computer with a camera and microphone
- Find a test taking site near you
- Bring a planner
- Bring head phones
- Mentally prepare to not do everything
Bring the correct books and supplies
This one is so important that I'd recommend checking your required book list a few times and making sure you have the right book. There would be nothing worse than arriving for your semester in Thailand only to find out your brought the wrong book. If there's any books that you can get the e-book version online, opt for that to save room in your suitcase (books get so heavy!).
I'd also recommend bringing a spiral notebook, your favorite pen/pencil or a calculator. Anything you will want -- there's no guarantee you'll find it in your city.
Get A VPN if necessary
For all you ILP China peeps, you definitely want to check in on this. Some websites in China are blocked (including anything Google related like Gmail), so you'll need a VPN to get around them. Chances are high that you'll probably already get one to you have access to Facebook and Instagram (BTW--have you seen the ILP Instagram yet?).
Make sure to set up a reliable VPN so that you always have access to the sites you need, so that you can receive emails from your professor, etc.
Have a computer with a camera and microphone
Many university online programs will require you to have a computer with a camera and microphone for your tests and other participation projects. Instead of having to go to a physical location, you will be able to do it in your room while having an online proctor watch you take the test over the computer. They will need to see you and hear what is going on around you.
Not all schools do this yet, so check with yours to see how they do it. If your school doesn't do this then you'll have to find a location to take your tests which can be tricky. Explain your situation and see how you can work with them if possible but if not ...
Find a test taking site near you
If your school does not participate in online proctoring, you will need to find an approved location where you are able to take your test. Most colleges or universities near you will work, but make sure you talk to you advisors and find somewhere to you will be able to complete your tests. This can get complicated when you're living abroad so they may have another solution that will work for you.
Bring a planner
Time management is key to taking online courses successfully. If you don't manage your time wisely, you will fall behind and not do your best. Bring one of these awesome planners and keep yourself on track!
Be prepared to make a schedule for your entire semester. Bring highlighters/pens in different colors (you can mark when your assignments are due in blue and when your tests are in red), stickers or anything that can help you stay extra organized!
Chances are high that you will be living with roommates while you're abroad. Since you're going to need to be completely focused on your work and roommates can be loud, you're going to need a way to totally block everyone out. Bring a good pair of headphone (preferably noise cancelling ones) so you can turn on some music and zone into your work!
Mentally prepare to not do everything
It's important to prepare yourself now to sit out some of the things you might want to do. Since you're going to have extra work to do on top of teaching, you're not going to be able to go out with your ILP group every single time. You're going to have to spend evenings finishing up that paper or Saturday mornings taking tests.
Prepare now so when the situation comes up, you can easily say no and be responsible!
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