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If they can do it, so can you

HDFS Ecampus students juggle school, kids and full-time jobs, and still find the time to study abroad

By Hanna Knowles
Sept. 25, 2018

When Christina Untiet saw announcements for a study abroad opportunity in London her gut reaction was, “I’m too old for this.”

After casually mentioning it to her husband, he urged her to go. “He told me, ‘you’re not dead; you can do this’,” Christina says.

After figuring out the logistics for their six kids and receiving permission from her full-time employer, she booked her first flight to Europe.

From the computer screen to the U.K.

Christina was joined by two other Ecampus human development and family sciences (HDFS) students. Emily Critelli, who works full time at the Tillamook YMCA in Oregon and is the proud mother of an 8-year-old boy, says she wanted to study abroad for two reasons. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could, that I’m limitless, and to model courage and integrity to my son by putting my words into action.”

Ecampus HDFS student Emily Critelli exploring London while studying abroad.

As a nontraditional and distance student, Emily says she was surprised to learn she was eligible for a study abroad program.

“When the London program was announced, I sent word out to all Ecampus HDFS students I advise and encouraged them to apply,” says Josie Miranda, a College of Public Health and Human Sciences academic advisor. “I always encourage Ecampus HDFS students to seek out experiential opportunities outside of the online classroom.”

Christina and Emily spent three weeks in London earning 9 credits each toward a degree in human development and family sciences.

Immersive experience

When Christina talks about her study abroad experience, her eyes glow. “The program was very immersive,” she says. “I loved reading about something in a book and then going to see it.”

Class concepts came to life with an Instagram assignment. After a morning lecture, the class took pictures that represented a concept they were learning in class, such as public health policy, health equity and social determinants of health.

“The Instagram photo assignment helped me understand course concepts in a real-life way,” Emily says. “The process of seeking public health in action engaged my critical thinking skills and forced me to look deeper to identify how concepts and policies are interconnected.”

To help fund her trip, Christina applied for scholarships and used the OSU GO scholarship in combination with tuition reimbursement from her employer.

“It was pretty expensive, but the reward was so much greater than the actual cost,” Christina says.

Determined to get her degree

Christina says the London study abroad experience was the motivation she needed to push through her last few quarters. With renewed determination, when she returned to the U.S. she enrolled in 19 credits for summer quarter, while still working full time at Samaritan Health Services.

Christina is no stranger to hard work. She started her associate’s degree in 1999, and after not being accepted to nursing school, she started taking one class at a time at Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon to inch her way toward a bachelor’s degree. When she learned HDFS was being offered online through Oregon State Ecampus, she was ready to dive in. She will graduate with her B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences in summer 2019.

“HDFS aligns with what I do for work, but also what I hope to do in the future,” Christina says. “The Ecampus option allows me the flexibility to maintain work, family and school.”

Christina will be the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. “I think it’s been a great thing for my children to watch this whole circumstance,” Christina says. “I think it will help motivate them to pursue education and will also show them that no matter what your barriers are you can still continue on with your hopes and your dreams.”

Online degree offers a path to fulfillment

For Emily, the online HDFS program was a path to achieve professional and personal fulfillment. She was rapidly advancing in her part-time role at the YMCA, but she wanted to make a greater contribution.

Emily asked the CEO how she could make herself a viable candidate for a full-time position. “He told me to find something I was passionate about, pursue it and finish school,” she says.

At the time, Emily was taking online classes through Chemeketa Community College to become a speech and language pathology assistant. “I discovered I wasn’t nearly as interested in pathology as I was in human development,” she says. “I knew Oregon State was on the list of top colleges offering online degrees, so I went home that night to look at the Ecampus catalog and was elated to find HDFS as an option!”

Anyone can study abroad

Emily and Christina, both mothers with full-time positions, will be the first to tell you to study abroad.

“Studying abroad is a life-changing experience,” Emily says. “As a distance student, studying abroad offers you the opportunity to collaborate with peers that you would likely not meet in any other situation. It truly enriches your collegiate experience and contributes to your own personal development.”


This article first appeared on the College of Public Health and Human Sciences’ Synergies website.

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