Some students here picked to join us on the Global Grad January 2019 semester on a whim, only joining a month or so before we jetted off to Thailand. However, I was a different case. In fact, I was the first person to fully register onto their program back in August. How did I get onto the program so early? Because I knew I wanted to take the non-traditional route for years.
So, here’s a little life story about me picking my degree subject and why I chose Global Grad. Most of my previous blog posts have been generic ‘we did this’ shindigs, but this time around I’m going to put my personality in. So be warned that I speak sarcasm more fluently than English. I like brackets and commas too :)
WHO AM I?
I’ve always been a quiet person who’d rather read or write a novel- which makes that sound like a small job. I’d do speeches when needed but I’d awkwardly stare at a bald man’s head and do monotone rather than sound like I wanted to be there (which I didn’t).
I’m also disabled, although I’d get a whack to the back of the head by my grandma if I used that label too much. I won’t list all my conditions here because nobody knows what half of them mean, but to put it simply, I’m blind in one eye and they both hurt a lot of the time. To add to the mix, I’m dyspraxic which affects my co-ordination and speech. It’s a barrel of fun for little (not really, I’m taller than average), old (again, not really, I’m the second youngest in the Global Grad Jan 2019 cohort) me.
STUDYING BEFORE MY ONLINE DEGREE
School has always been a struggle because of this. I’m that annoying type of introvert who will warm up to people and become extraverted with time, but won’t talk in crowds so you’ve got to get to know me one-on-one. Even though my school was way smaller than average and closed because of this, I still would curl up with whichever piece of literature I had at the time, kind of like an armadillo- if they could read.
Some teachers hated the fact I was so quiet and made a correlation between this and failing (which was kind of illogical since I had no speaking exams and you have to be silent in exams anyway). But apart from English Literature (which I eventually go an A in so it must’ve just been a bad day), I did fine in my mock exams.
GCSE exams were an absolute nightmare, and out of my 21 exams, 15 had to have special circumstances. Why? Because my disabilities weren’t acknowledged properly. The optimal conditions for me are enlarged font and my tinted glasses that are a weird crossover between Ali G and Elton John’s. Glasses? Check. Papers? Nope.
In History, for example, I got given the Making of Modern Britain paper. Want to hear (technically read) a fun fact? I sat that in my A-Level. This was for my GCSE- I’d have rather done about Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair since I’m specialising in Politics in my degree. But I’d been studying Watson, Crick and Jenner for the past however many months since I was supposed to have the Medicine through Time paper.
Things like this made me slowly go off of the traditional education system. I’d always loved school and even skipped two years because of a blend of oversubscription and I was one of the bright kids (I had a slip during A-Levels but my brain cells have returned!). I just didn’t feel like I was getting the assistance I needed.
WHY DID I DECIDE TO DO BA (HONS) INTERNATIONAL STUDIES?
Originally, I wanted to be a teacher, but around the age of fourteen I had one of those epiphany moments and realised instead I wanted to work on something internationally.
Here’s the rundown on why:
- My granddad had worked in the RAF from 1969 – 2005 and had been all over the world. Instead of ogling over the TV about celebrities, I’d be asking him about how he’d helped refugees in Cyprus or what the independence of the Solomon Islands was like.
- I’ve also been interested in politics for a long time. I remember when I was younger seeing Obama and Cameron becoming their political leaders, Putin’s speeches following the annexation of Crimea, and a not-so-friendly encounter with John Prescott (long story). While I was only 15 on the day of the vote, I also have an opinion or two about Brexit.
So, the young teenaged Jasmin got her thinking cap on. How could I combine politics and seeing the world? And then I got it- International Relations! Plot twist: I’m actually studying International Studies which is slightly more generic. I get a cheeky bit of economics, geography and sociology as side dishes.
WHY WASN’T I CONVINCED ABOUT DOING UNIVERSITY TRADITIONALLY?
But my logic was that staying in a UK university would trap me a little bit. Sure, a sandwich semester or year would be involved in most courses, but I pictured myself staying too cosied up to UK culture and be one of those annoying tourists who compared everything to home and would be very rich if I got a pound for each time I said the typical Englishperson abroad phrase ‘DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?’. Or shying out because as I said, I’m a quiet person.
HOW DID I GO AROUND CHOSING NON-TRADITIONAL UNIVERSITY?
I wanted to get a full degree while out of the country. Of course, I’d miss the fam, but they expected me to be a traveller with how I’d say random facts about Xinjiang, contemporary history and getting a chance to visit, attend speeches and do a little bit of work with the United Nations in 2017. While I was there, I got to settle a very important debate over which classic car would win in some rally. Clear diplomat in the making here.
At first, I was looking at studying in Europe. Germany and Denmark are my two favourite countries so they were high up on the list, as well as a few others like the Netherlands, Finland etc.
BUT THEN, I stumbled across the concept of non-traditional university when I was around 14 or 15. The one I saw specifically was Minerva Schools, which let students obtain a US degree in one of five fields while travelling through seven of the world’s most well-known cities. I was going to apply had I not been accepted onto Global Grad before applications opened, but there was one issue: They have the world’s lowest acceptance rate.
So, when I saw that, I decided to look around. While there are some choices, they usually had a price tag that made it a no before I even did any research.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MEANTIME?
In the end I decided to take a gap year while I figured everything out. My college was very good with giving advice on what so when we left, but they didn’t seem to understand I didn’t want to take a traditional route. I still had to do a personal statement (a 4000 character humblebrag) and the like.
In the period between finishing exams and when the university-goers would’ve left, I found an advert on Facebook advertising a program where you got to ‘Do Study, Do Travel, Do Both’. If you haven’t seen this advertisement, I’m talking about Global Grad, who are the people behind me sitting in the paradise that is South East Asia right now.
When I checked out the website, it was ticking a lot of boxes. UK-based (one of Europe’s first too since non-traditional has mostly been an American thing), I could pick my own degree (and I didn’t even have to do one, I could do any sort of online course) and a decent price compared to most other travel programs which are similar. And 5 countries in 4 ½ months for the South East Asia semester? Sign me up!
So, now I’ve gotten my wish of studying the degree of my choice while getting to travel around South East Asia and potentially the world if I continue onto further semesters. This not only is going to be awesome when it comes to casual conversation and CV’s but gives a load of life experience too. It’s a great way to throw yourselves in the deep end while still being in a community of like-minded people. While I expected us all to have similar personalities, we’re all very different but have the same wanderlust. I’m allergic to cheese so yes, I’m gagging at that last bit too.
If you want to see for yourself rather than just reading my cliché (but true) writings, then head on over to www.globalgrad.com to find out about them yourselves.
About the author
Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.