B.A. in Communication
"Of course! I think there's a very big misconception about online degree programs. But you know, really, we're completing the same exact classes as people that are on campus. I think especially for people who have to work full time or have children to care for but still want to get an education, an online degree program is so valuable and really gives you the opportunity to become a more well-rounded person and worker while still managing everything else going on in your life. And I think specifically the U of A's online degree programs are really catered to people's needs and it's just been an amazing experience for me."
Listen to an audio message from Trinity Barnes
Trinity Barnes, a 20-year-old living in Belgium, is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Communication degree and expects to graduate in May 2024. Upon graduation, Barnes intends to go to law school and work in media law.
“Lately, I've been leaning a little bit towards working more in the political side of things when it comes to media,” Barnes said. “I took a class last semester on political communication, and I realized that I am passionate about how our social media skews people's perceptions of what's going on in the world. I'll probably end up getting a job with a government following in my dad's footsteps.”
Her father is a retired Air Force member, so she has moved around her entire life.
“We've been in Belgium for almost nine years, which is a long time for us,” she said. “Before that, we moved around basically every two years. And I've lived all over the U.S., lots of places in Europe. I've lived in Turkey. So, all over.”
Although Barnes has never lived in Arkansas, she has Arkansas roots. Her father is from Batesville and has family in Newark.
“Growing up, the University of Arkansas was always kind of put into my mind, but I had never considered it until I visited the campus my junior year of high school and I fell in love,” she said. “I was like, this is where I have to go. I love this school. But, then when COVID hit, I was a 2020 graduate, and since I live overseas it was just not a good time to be traveling and so we decided it was probably responsible to just stay home for a year. It ended up being two years, but I really just found out about the online program because I had to. I was forced to. I had to switch. And honestly, I was really apprehensive at first because I was so excited for the traditional experience. But, I've loved being an online student, and I'm really happy that I got to experience it.”
You can even say online learning is in the family.
“When my mom met my dad, because he was in the military, she kind of had to leave her old life behind and move around with him,” Barnes said. “And so, from then on, she's been doing online education. She actually has a class tonight.”
Barnes credits her mom for inspiring her to pursue her degree.
“My mom is working on getting her license to be a therapist, and since my brother and I were young, she's just been getting degree after degree,” she said. “I kind of think it's almost a hobby for her at this point. I think growing up, seeing her always choosing to spend her free time learning and trying to help people with what she learns really inspired me to go to college. I was always excited to go to university and I know that education is really valuable.”
Barnes was grateful to have received the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship.
“I think that it's great that there's a scholarship specifically for online students
because, especially now with COVID, it's really given online students a spotlight
and shows that online education is of no lesser value than traditional face-to-face
teaching,” she said. “This scholarship is going to help me continue my education,
continue my ability to learn, meet people, and have new experiences that will help
me in the workplace after education. I'm just really grateful.”
For Barnes, a typical day in her life as an online student allows room for flexibility. When she was working full time, the online program was “really, really good” for her because she could go to work, come home, and spend however long she needed to on assignments, not having to worry about making sure she was home in time for a lecture.
Barnes loves being able to make her own schedule.
“I think otherwise I would be really, really stressed a lot of the time,” she said. “This allows me to prioritize my work. I get to choose which assignments I want to work on, so I try and get the hardest things done first and that really helps alleviate a lot of the stress that I feel. I get the opportunity to say ohh, I'm not going to do any schoolwork today. I'm going to spend time with my family. I know that if I was doing traditional learning, I wouldn't have that opportunity.
“Normally, I know people in traditional environments, they might have to get up for an 8 or 9 a.m. class, and I just don't have to do that,” Barnes continued. “I still try to have some structure just so I make sure that I get assignments done. I usually block out several hours of the day that I devote solely to getting assignments done or doing my reading. I am a firm believer that you need to have ‘me’ time during the day. That's just how I function. I usually split it up to where half the day I do schoolwork and the latter half of the day I just watch TV or I go outside. I love it.”
Studying online does not prevent Barnes from developing relationships on an international level.
“I tried to e-mail professors pretty frequently,” she said. “I think that it's really important that you build a relationship with professors. I've been able to have Microsoft Teams meetings with some professors when completing research projects. And as for classmates, I normally use WhatsApp. Sometimes we'll create groups just to talk about assignments. There's another app called GroupMe which I've used, but mainly WhatsApp.”
For advising, she will e-mail and meet for about 15 minutes on Teams with her advisor.
“In the past, I have shared my screen so that my advisor can help me work through websites and really help tailor my schedule for the next semester,” Barnes said. “I found my experience with my advisor, Hannah Morris, has been great. And you would think that'd be really difficult considering we are so far apart. But everything has been really smooth.”
Additionally, through the U of A, Barnes found an online volunteer program called ENGin. She was able to match with a girl living in Ukraine and help her learn English. So now, two to three times a week, she meets with her.
“It’s been a really valuable experience for me that I found through the school,” Barnes said. “I was just browsing through the U of A’s volunteer network website, and I was just looking for online opportunities I could complete them from Belgium. And I just found it on there and I completed the application, and it worked out.”
The main piece of advice Barnes would give to incoming students is to identify your bad habits early on.
“There are some aspects of online learning that are more difficult than face to face,” she said. “You don't have a professor or classmates reminding you of deadlines and the requirements for assignments. And so, I think it's important to recognize early on if you have bad time management skills. It might be wise to try and shape up a little bit. I think also just be open to the challenge that it brings and sometimes assignments might be kind of foreign because it's online and we don't have the opportunity to talk to our classmates. Sometimes, assignments are a little weird, and unlike what we're used to, but I think just be open and really ensure that you are up for taking full responsibility for everything.”
Barnes’ response to if she recommends this degree program is an emphatic, “Of course! I think there's a very big misconception about online degree programs. But you know, really, we're completing the same exact classes as people that are on campus. I think especially for people who have to work full time or have children to care for but still want to get an education, an online degree program is so valuable and really gives you the opportunity to become a more well-rounded person and worker while still managing everything else going on in your life. And I think specifically the U of A's online degree programs are really catered to people's needs and it's just been an amazing experience for me.”