Katelyn Flanagan met her future husband, Scott, during her senior year of high school when she was taking a college-level class at the local community college in Lancaster, Penn.
Four years later they married, and with Scott in the Air Force, Katelyn began her journey as a military spouse.
Today, married almost three years and stationed in Spangdahelm, Germany, Katelyn is just a few classes away from earning her college degree online.
While Katelyn admits that studying overseas presents several unique challenges, she says that she has always felt connected to Saint Leo University.
Katelyn recently answered some questions about her military life and her experience earning on online criminal justice degree through Saint Leo.
Did you grow up in a military family?
Katelyn: No. The military life is all new to me.
What is Scott’s rank and what does he do?
Katelyn: Scott is a senior airman. He works in Aerospace Ground Equipment.
Had you ever been abroad before?
Katelyn: No. Arriving here in November 2013 was my first time ever going abroad.
What do you like most about military life?
Katelyn: All the new people you get to meet; you really feel like part of a family. However, this can also be one of the hardest things because often you have to say goodbye to these new friends. I also like the chances to travel.
Why did you choose Saint Leo for your online degree program?
Katelyn: When I started with Saint Leo in the spring of 2013, we had already received our orders to Germany for later that year. Knowing that we were going to be making such a big move, I needed a school that offered a good online program, and Saint Leo is definitely great for online studies. Also, when researching schools that were known for my specific degree, Saint Leo came in as one of the top universities.
Why did you choose criminal justice?
Katelyn: I chose criminal justice with a specialization in criminalistics because I always found the field to be very interesting. I want a career that I am going to enjoy and feel passionate about.
What are some of the challenges of learning online overseas?
Katelyn: The main challenge is accessing some of the resources. For instance, it is harder to pick up the phone and call my advisor or whoever I need to speak to, so email tends to be the main source of communication.
Any other challenges?
Katelyn: Time difference. While this doesn’t really affect my actual studies, it can prevent me from taking advantage of some of the “extras” that Saint Leo makes available, such as the webinars and once-a-week video chats that are offered in our courses.
What support do you receive from your professors?
Katelyn: The biggest support I receive from my professors is their understanding. For example, when making our move to Germany we were in the middle of a term. Having to stay in the base hotel for a few weeks made it difficult to access the Internet at times, and even to find time to do schoolwork. My professors were very considerate and worked with me the best they could to make the transition easy and allow me the time I needed.
What are some of the things that make you feel connected to Saint Leo?
Katelyn: Honestly, practically everything makes me feel connected to Saint Leo. The advisors often reach out just to check in; it is nice to know they are thinking about me. I also like how most of the professors are quick to grade and often post remarks about your work – for example, stating something they liked or that you did well. Since I don’t actually have contact with them, it helps me to know that they really are paying attention to my hard work.
Do you feel connected to other students in your classes?
Katelyn: As simple as it may sound, the introductions in each course are very helpful. By reading them, I feel like I am getting to know my peers as if I was encountering them on campus. While it is not near as personal as meeting face to face, it helps. In fact, during the introductions in one of my classes, I found another student who was here in Germany for work. We were hours apart, but just knowing I had that connection with someone was nice.
How is your day-to-day life different as a military spouse?
Katelyn: Scott’s schedule can fluctuate; he can be assigned to a TDY (similar to a mini deployment) or an actual deployment. Military personnel always have to be ready, and that passes on to the families. Deep down there is always a sense of worry, so to speak. You have to expect the unexpected – you never know what or when something may be going on.
Describe your typical day.
Katelyn: My typical day involves going on base and teaching Zumba and MaxFit fitness classes at our gym. Once we moved here, I became passionate about fitness and nutrition. I was trying to keep myself busy and to distract myself from the idea that we had just made such a big life change. I take care of many errands during the day as well as the house and the bills; I also spend a lot of time on my classes while Scott is at work so we can spend time together when he gets off.
With Scott on active duty, your time together must be very important.
Katelyn: It is. The time is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted as you never know when there may be months separating the two of you.
To what do you attribute your success?
Katelyn: I attribute much of my success to my husband and my family. If it wasn’t for Scott’s encouragement, I may never have pursued this degree. Also, every time I talk to my family they tell me that they pray for me every day and are so proud of me.
And what about your own role in your success?
Katelyn: I do take credit for my success. This degree can definitely be challenging and it requires a lot of time and effort. If I didn’t dedicate myself and a great deal of time to it, I would probably not have the grades I do and be so close to graduation.
Katelyn: My professors deserve credit as well. They have always been very encouraging. They make suggestions if there seems to be a struggle and they compliment me when they think I have done an outstanding job. This has helped me to stay motivated and determined.
What advice do you have for other military spouses considering an online degree program?
Katelyn: I would tell them that an online degree is an excellent choice. With not knowing when you are going to have to pick up and move again, an online degree allows the flexibility needed to continue with your studies. However, it is different than being in a classroom setting, so I would tell them they have to have self-discipline and determination. As a military spouse, it’s easy to get side-tracked and slip on your studies. I would advise them to get into a routine of when to study and to know when to ask for help.
What are your plans once you complete your bachelor’s program?
Katelyn: I would like to continue my studies and start Saint Leo’s online master’s degree program in criminal justice in the spring.
Once I move back stateside [currently scheduled for the fall of 2017], I would love to engage in some line of investigative work, maybe homicide, special victims or homeland security.
I am very open at this time; I have learned to explore options and be flexible – I guess that is something that comes along with being a military spouse. I will just be happy to be part of the criminal justice field – to love what I do and help make an impact for others.
Are you a military spouse enrolled in a Saint Leo online degree program? Let us know if you'd like to share your story on our blog!
Photo credits: Wead on Shutterstock.com and courtesy Katelyn Flanagan