I Used the GI Bill to Attend Online School and Travel the World

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  • I thought I would travel the world as a linguist in the US Air Force, but ended up in Augusta, Georgia.
  • When I left the USAF, I enrolled in an MBA program and used my GI Bill benefits.
  • The GI Bill provided a residential stipend for distance learning that I traveled with during my undergraduate studies.

When people think of joining the US armed forces, they probably have a few other visions in mind. It will certainly be difficult, but you will make some of the strongest friendships of your life and travel the world.

That’s what I thought when I joined the Air Force in late 2009. When I became a linguist, my recruiter blinded me with stories from distant lands that I might one day visit. Korea, Germany, Alaska, Hawaii and the UK all made the list of possibilities that seemed downright exotic to a girl who had barely left the US.

Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed when I was given Arabic as my designated language to learn – and then told I would live in Augusta, Georgia for the duration of my career. So, yes, I’ve traveled across the United States from California all the way down to the Deep South.

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I prioritized travel after I left the Air Force

Seven years later, I left the Air Force (and Georgia) to start my own business. I didn’t have any set plans, but I was aiming for an MBA from Norwich University, a school that specializes in distance learning. And since I hadn’t traveled much in the Air Force, my first priority was to hit the road.

That meant selling my house, storing all my stuff and stuffing my dog ​​in a soft kennel for her first trip to Europe.

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i won’t lie Leaving behind a career without a clear goal was terrifying. I had chosen my degree in the hope that it would help me diversify my skillset while figuring out what I would do.

But from the moment I landed in Madrid, Spain, I knew my life had changed. Travel filled a need I didn’t even know I had and I haven’t let up since.

I’m now a writer, jumping around the world as I tell my stories. I wasn’t then, though, and the only way I could afford my trip was courtesy of good old USAF.

I used the GI bill to travel and get an education

Many of us have heard of the GI bill, which helps service members meet their higher education goals. Depending on which version of the GI Bill you choose, you can get many tens of thousands of dollars in funding for your college education.

I had long ago opted for the post-9/11 GI Bill, the multiple benefits of which include direct tuition fees to your school, a book stipend, and a monthly lodging payment into your bank account.

While the book grant was nice and of course the free schooling is something I will always be grateful for, it was the monthly housing benefit that gave me my freedom of movement.

In general, the GI bill calculates your monthly housing benefit (MHA) based on where you go to school. That means if you’re taking classes in San Francisco, for example, you’re entitled to $4,797 a month for housing.

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However, you will also receive housing benefit if you are enrolled in distance learning. The number for this is calculated using 50% of the national average for housing, so your monthly payments (for 2022) are $917.

Of course, that’s a lot less than the total you would receive if you were enrolled in a local class, but utilizing distance learning also opens the door to ultimate flexibility. $917 a month isn’t a lot of money, but it funded my travel around Europe and Asia for most of a year while I was in college.

There are, of course, conditions for using this program. Their achievements peak at 36 months of school, which is enough for a four-year degree (although some individuals can receive up to 48 months of achievements).

Your monthly housing benefit also depends on how much school you attend. To maximize payment, you must be enrolled as a part-time student or above. Those with fewer classes receive correspondingly lower MHA benefits.

Today, veterans can take advantage of the Forever GI Bill, which never expires and can be used at any point in your life. However, the benefit of distance learning remains the same, meaning new veterans can also use distance learning to travel the world.

My GI bill days are long behind me and at this point I can make a living as a full-time freelancer. But I will never forget that my love of travel was sparked and kept alive by the benefits I earned during my time in the US Air Force.