By Jan Lindeman
My name is Jan Lindeman, 34, I am a Slovak citizen. I work as an in-house translator from EN-SK and SK-EN for the company which handles translations for various Directorates General of the European Commission. I considered distance education because: 1) I could keep my job and study at the same time from the comfort of my home; and 2) distance learning allowed me to choose from a couple of recognized European universities.
Studying in Germany from the distance
I opted for Berlin Freie Universität which offers in cooperation with Center for Global Politics a 2-year Master course (East European Studies), taught entirely in English. After meeting all requirements of eligibility I was admitted and enrolled in this program. It requires a student to be present twice a year in Berlin at the in-house classes. The academic year is divided into 6 modules (2 per each trimester). The course has a unique online environment where students find all information on particular modules, the way of communication with tutors/students etc. Each module is made of a certain number of lectures dedicated to different topics with the deadlines for electronic submission of student’s work (either via so-called discussion board which is basically a tool that serves as a seminar/workshop or using an assignment function for handing in essays, final papers etc.). Our group consists of around 16 students.
Decision making based on transparent information
In my case the decision making was quite simple: after finding (via this portal) the right institution and the adequate course that best suited my interest I immediately submitted my application for the program. The reaction of my friends and family was positive in the sense that they have always encouraged me to study at the university. However, almost none of my friends have had any experience with distance learning and the few that had some experience claimed they certainly had no idea about online distance learning. In spite of this, I felt eager to begin studying. The course I chose prides itself with a couple of awards in Germany which only fueled my interest.
From excitement and occasional doubts to a network of friends
I have to say that there is still one year ahead of me to finish. However, in my first year, I have experienced the whole range of feelings from excitement to (occasionally) the urge to give up. The latter was not something my classmates did not know. We all went through hard times not only because the study subject was sometimes difficult to grasp but mainly due to a fact that we all have had to arrange our time appropriately in order to be able to go to work and study hard. I do not want this to sound as a discouragement for prospective students but all should bear in mind that studying while keeping one’s job is a matter of one’s ability to organize things and to prioritize them. In sum, my first year was difficult but in the end quite manageable due to motivation and self-discipline. And, moreover, I’ve met really nice people from all kinds of different backgrounds and nationalities. We have built a kind of network (using skype and emails) which is helpful indeed for all of us, students. I would also like to mention another positive aspect and this would be the professionalism and experience of the tutors and, mainly, of the staff at the Freie Universität.
Face and overcome challenge - and take pride in yourself
Frankly, as this was initially a completely new experience for me, I was not really sure what to expect. But after the first in-house classes things became clearer and I have started to feel more comfortable once I knew what was the method of teaching/learning etc. Since I have not finished yet this program I cannot tell as yet to what extent has this experience influenced my professional life. I am hoping to get progression in my career once I have graduated as I know I will be eligible to apply for jobs that are within my interest (EU institutions, international organizations etc.). However, it has definitely had an impact on my personal life since the course and the studying is challenging and therefore, have taken most of my spare time. But I like challenges and this one has surely been one well worth of facing.My final words - be patient and motivated
I have only one advice for those who consider (online) distance learning: be patient and disciplined, keep yourselves motivated! In sum, I strongly encourage all students to go for this (still) unique experience.