Ecampus Chemistry asked distance student Andrea, who lives in Israel, to share her experience with the 200-level online General Chemistry series. Here is her thoughtful answer–

How did you find the OSU Ecampus Chemistry program? 

I found the online chemistry courses at OSU by searching the Internet for online chemistry courses. I live in Israel and wanted to find a course that would not only be of the highest quality but which would also be designed in a way to make learning from halfway around the planet seamless. The site for the OSU courses was the most professional and appealing one I found, and the testimonials by students gave me a feeling that I, too, could succeed in the course. The fact that OSU online courses have been ranked among the best in the nation was a major factor in my decision to enroll.

The OSU online chemistry program has been an incredibly positive experience for me. I have loved it. The instruction, the textbook, the Mastering Chemistry homework and the exams have all exceeded my expectations for professionalism, quality of materials, depth of learning, integrity and availability of support.

When I registered for my first course, I had no idea what to expect. Truth be told, I was pretty scared, doubting my ability to even finish the course, let alone succeed. After all, I am in my mid-40s, haven’t studied Chemistry since I was 17 years old and live halfway around the planet, in Israel!

What I found once I began my first course was that I had entered a world that was highly-challenging, yes, but designed for me to succeed as long as I put in the effort. The textbook was extraordinarily well-written, making complicated concepts relatively easy to understand. The Mastering Chemistry homework could be hard at times, but it was also a lot of fun and was designed to facilitate my understanding and learning. And most importantly, the instructors (and in some cases, Teaching Assistants) were only a Discussion Board post or email away to answer my questions promptly and thoroughly. Often, other students also answered my questions and helped me to understand complicated concepts by responding to my Discussion Board posts. I always felt that I was supported and part of a community that wanted me to succeed. The fact that I live on the other side of the planet posed no problem at all, especially since the professors generally responded to my questions within 24-48 hours, and often even responded over weekends.

What has amazed me about taking these online courses is that it is 100% possible to learn Chemistry – which is a challenging and complex subject – and succeed in a course without ever stepping into an actual classroom. This truth is a real testament to the quality of the OSU online Chemistry program.

What about the on-campus lab requirement? How does that work, and is it worth the trip?

Regarding taking the summer lab course, I highly recommend it. Initially, the thought of getting myself to Corvallis, figuring out my accommodation and taking an intensive, 9-day course was overwhelming. But now that I’ve done it, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Getting there is easy – fly to Portland and take the HUT shuttle to Corvallis. Accommodation is a piece of cake – the university offers affordable housing in dorms on campus for students taking the 9-day intensive. And the course itself was fantastic. It is intense and challenging, but the atmosphere is collegial and supportive. Being in the lab – seeing the compounds, using the instrumentation, observing reactions in front of my own eyes, thinking through experiments, figuring out why an experiment went wrong or right – brought Chemistry to life for me. I became a pipetting queen and I can perform titrations like a champion now. To really understand chemistry and to enjoy it, you’ve got to get into the lab. In addition, it was very rewarding to meet my professors (Professor Margaret Haak and Professor Daniel Myles) in person and to interact with them on a daily basis. They were approachable, supportive and a lot of fun.

Do you have any advice for other online students?

Yes: You MUST study Chemistry every single day. I know it sounds arduous, but it is the ticket to success in these courses, especially for someone like me who hadn’t laid eyes on chemistry in 28 years. Success in these courses is absolutely possible, but it requires work. I imagine that if you are a genius, you can cram at the last minute and succeed. However, for most of us, I don’t think this is possible. It is essential to read the textbook and/or work through Mastering Chemistry questions every single day. In addition, you must keep up with the course. Getting behind is a mistake. Last, be a prolific question asker: use the Discussion Board and ask your instructors and fellow students questions. They are all there to support you with prompt answers and explanations. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck on a concept and accept that you don’t understand it. Ask as many questions as necessary until you understand it. And the old adage is very true in these courses: NO QUESTION IS A DUMB QUESTION. Don’t be afraid to ask the dumb question because it is not dumb and many other students have the same question and also need the answer. Last, don’t feel that living overseas precludes you from taking these courses and accomplishing your goals. These online courses are what make it possible to pursue your studies from far-away lands.

Additionally, be sure to research the requirements/ prerequisites required by the academic program you are enrolled in or to which you wish to apply. Some programs accept a “virtual, online” chemistry lab but some do not. Several programs to which I plan to apply require that I take actual on-campus chemistry labs (i.e. they do not accept credits for virtual labs). If this is the case, you’ll likely need to take the 200 series of Chemistry courses instead of the 100 series. Don’t be afraid to take the higher level series. You can do it, but you may need to work a bit harder and do more math-intensive problems. I was terrified of the prospect of having to take a more math-intensive series since I hadn’t had a math course since first years of college (25 years ago!), but as I’ve written previously, I simply applied myself and was able to succeed. The 200 series is completely “doable”, but you have to be committed to working hard.

Please share your background so we can get to know you better—how did you end up where you are on this journey?

I obtained my BA in Economics. I then spent over a decade working as an investment banker, primarily advising technology companies on raising capital (through initial public offerings, secondary offerings, convertible debt offerings and private placements of equity). This was a challenging career and taught me valuable professional skills and professional maturity. While I am grateful for this experience, I was never happy. The hours were brutally-long, the travel was exhausting and my time on this earth was passing by at warp speed. In a blink of an eye, my 20s and half of my 30s were gone. In addition, my heart was never in the job, but was somewhere else, wishing to contribute to this planet in a different way.

I resigned from banking and spent years trying different types of jobs and professions, doing some volunteering and traveling, hoping the “right” career and my life’s “purpose” would simply come to me. I even moved overseas (currently living in Israel). Well, neither the “right” career nor the “purpose” magically arrived. I decided to take a Vipassana meditation course with the hope of learning meditation and finding a path to fill that ever-restless, empty space inside that was searching for meaning, direction and happiness. This proved to be the beginning of my new path.

The Vipassana course is a 10-day, silent meditation experience designed to teach the meditation technique established by the Buddha. An important tenet of the practice and the course is an oath not to kill – anything. As a result, students agree to follow a vegetarian diet for the 10 days. Writing this gives me chills because this oath marked the beginning of my new life adventure.

I loved the vegetarian diet and more importantly, loved the idea that through my dietary choice, I was no longer participating in the suffering and slaughter of animals for food. Upon completing the course, I was committed to vegetarianism and, eventually, veganism. From that moment forward, I began consuming books about nutrition and the extraordinary health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. In my case, committing myself to a plant-based diet has also provided me with a profound spiritual peace and a respect and compassion for all creatures (including the many scary-looking, but marvelous, insects that love to visit our home!).

My mind was set: I would pursue an area of study that would provide me with the necessary credentials to get into some area of nutrition: dietetics, nutritional research or nutritional teaching. The beginning of this path would have to be science: I need to complete a number of basic, foundational science prerequisite courses to apply to just about any masters and/or bachelor’s degree program in nutrition. My dream is to help people to choose a healthy diet and lifestyle and overcome serious – but completely resolvable – health issues such as heart disease, Type II diabetes and obesity, through diet change. One day, I would love to teach medical students about nutrition so that diet change becomes one of the first tools they use to heal their patients.

In my mid-40s, I’ve embarked on a complete life course correction. It is challenging and scary sometimes, and there are days when I wonder if I’m completely mad to be pursuing this path at my age (especially since studying is not making me any money!). But my answer to those fears is always the same: if I die tomorrow, would I rather be comfortable but living an inauthentic life or would I rather be challenged and maybe even uncomfortable, but living a life that reflects who I am and what I care about? For me, the answer is clear and once I have that answer solidly seated again in my brain, I look down and put my nose right back into my Chemistry book.

I am a person who never likes to skip a step. When embarking on any new endeavor, I prefer to learn the skills from the ground up. To become an expert in nutrition, it is fundamental that I understand chemistry. All of the academic programs that I have my eye on require a solid foundation in Inorganic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry as well as a minimum of one semester in Biochemistry. Thus, the online courses offered by OSU are perfect for me.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m an avid exerciser. Nothing makes me happier than moving my body, making my heart pound and getting out in nature. My boyfriend and I love to take a vigorous walk above a beautiful, pristine valley near our home as often as possible. Sometimes, we catch glimpses of members of a small group of wild gazelles that live in the valley and prance effortlessly through the olive trees and rocky landscape. I also love acting as sous-chef to my master chef of a boyfriend who is a genius at cooking up “to-die-for” vegan dishes. And of course, we love to meditate together. I have three mischievous furballs (stray cats that my boyfriend adopted from the dumpster) as pets.


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