How online learning helped this student chase her international dreams

By Sabrina Doyle –

Leigh Perez -Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany

International exchanges are often said to be life-changing for the students who embark on them. Yet when Leigh Perez went to Germany for a year-long academic adventure, she had no idea the ripple effects (both big and small) it would create.

Originally from the Philippines, she’d moved to Canada with her family in 2015, despite being two years deep into a university program in her home country. Close family bonds are an important pillar of Philippines culture, but as Perez settled into Canadian life, she gradually set her sights further abroad. The international business program at Carleton University — which includes a year-long foreign exchange with an online course requirement — has helped her find the balance between exploring the world and maintaining connection with home.

As part of her foreign exchange in Berlin, Perez had to take a CUOL course on cross-cultural communications. While the course focused on observing the new country, she also found that it provided an emotional link to home. “When I was doing my classes online in Germany, it helped me feel like I was still doing schoolwork for, and connected to, Carleton,” she said. “Now I know I’m not limited to the physical establishment.”

That’s not to say that the transition was smooth. The first few days were particularly challenging for Perez, who for the first time in her life was navigating a foreign country without the comfort of family and with less language fluency than she’d thought she had. Thankfully, the online course was spread across both semesters, and the extra flexibility was a boon for the students who were busy settling in and trying to make new connections (the friends Perez eventually made became some of her dearest relationships).

In addition, the online course forced Perez to develop her organizational skills, which she admits left something to be desired pre-Germany. Digital learning means more flexibility to work at your own pace, which has some definite benefits, but it also requires effective time management. For Perez the growth was uncomfortable, but worthwhile. Perhaps even more worthwhile than she expected.

“When the pandemic happened, [the experience with the online course] helped me prepare and plan out my weeks.” With Covid-19 pushing most students into the online learning realm, Perez has some tips. First and foremost, she recommends students plan out a weekly schedule, which she said helped her to avoid procrastination and get assignments done bit by bit and handed in earlier than in-the-nick-of-time.

Perez is graduating from Carleton this spring. It’s both exciting — she’s chasing her dream of working overseas in the technology field — and somewhat bittersweet. “I love learning. I’m going to miss university for sure,” she says.

Still, Perez isn’t afraid to break from cultural tradition and set out on her own. If there had been a choice, Perez thinks her mother would have opted to stay in the Philippines, stay close to home, hold onto what’s familiar. But for Perez, the loving support she shares with her family and community has combined with the experience of the exchange and Carleton’s online options to fuel a journey that transcends borders.

“The exchange really pushed my goals for after graduation… I’ve been craving to get back out there and see the world again.”


Tuesday, April 28, 2020  |  Categories: News from Carleton Online!
Post Tagged with academic success, online courses, study help