© Andrew Neel
Studying at university is difficult. Studying at a university you don't attend is even harder.
Let me explain: for the last three years I have been working on my bachelors in Music and Creative writing.
Yet, despite the hundreds of questions, I don't study in Luxembourg. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, I do my studies through the Open University with what is called 'distance learning', meaning I study via the internet.
The way I explain it is that it's similar to Skype, but with classmates and shared PowerPoints.
The good parts of distance learning
Despite popular belief (at least from what I've seen), distance learning is a legitimate way of doing your university. You can even do Masters courses and receive your degree, all from the comfort of your own home. The only problem is that I don't always want to study when I'm home, so I usually don't get as much done as I would like.
I appreciate the freedom that distance learning gives me. I can travel when I want to (to an extent) and I have the free time to meet people and do things on the side.
However, I don't think it's for everyone. It's been great for me as I have other things to do and things to keep me busy, but I wouldn't recommend it for someone who isn't as busy in their day to day life. Depending on your course, there isn't enough busy work in order to keep you occupied so if you're one (like me) who needs to keep working then I don't recommend it.
I don't regret choosing to do distance learning surprisingly. I'm very happy to be able to stay integrated in Luxembourg and connect with people. It's given me the opportunity to grow roots and work on getting my Luxembourgish nationality.
Why distance learning isn't the best thing
It's an interesting way to study. I don't attend a campus, which makes it very hard for my social life. If I attended university at a campus, ie at the University of Luxembourg Belval, I would get to know my classmates and probably try to be involved in study groups.
Yet I get none of those things.
Outside of the University of Luxembourg there are very few people in my age range. So while I can do my studies, it's not always as good as people expect. One of the good things about it is that I am able to stay in Luxembourg and study at the Conservatoire, which means I am able to do my music and work and be able to adjust my school schedule around those.
(It is something I've noticed, however, that even in the University, most people are over 22/23.)
Distance learning vs. University of Luxembourg
Being a native English speaker and not having grown up with the languages, it's practically impossible for me to attend the University of Luxembourg. While I have nothing against them, the majority of their bachelors are in French which would be incredibly difficult for me.
On top of that, the choices are science, law, languages or education. None of which is my field. I had the same problem being in the IB system at the Athénée de Luxembourg. It was mainly science or language based which made it extremely difficult for me as I am not strong in either of those. For me, writing and music are my forté so I left and did an online course (seems to be a pattern for me) and am now doing courses of my choice and in my field. Distance learning allows you so many more options than traditional choices in Luxembourg - even a family member is doing a Master of Science in Technology Management through distance learning.
While I love learning and usually don't have many issues, I've come to find that the Open University is not great at supporting students that live abroad. They do offer guidance for choosing courses and your teachers help for course material but aside from that there is not much support. They don't offer much in the way of government assistance, so most people don't qualify for CEDIES, and when I asked for help getting a student bus pass all they sent was a letter stating my course credits.
It was potentially better when there was an office here and people who knew the system but the office closed before I moved here. There are also campuses in the UK where you can attend classes, which I think would be able to offer better support.
For those who are interested, you can read the play Educating Rita by British playwright Willy Russel about a woman who attends the Open University in order to advance her standings in life.