“Was it hard? Absolutely.”
August 30 2011
Everyone has a story to tell, and Open AU wants to hear from you. Are you an AU student or graduate? How has AU changed your life? Let us know, and your story could appear in Open AU. Don't forget to include a high-resolution photo! Send Us Your Story
I was at a crossroads -- suddenly a single mother of two young children, unemployed, and not as educated as I needed to be. I found a retail job that would pay the bills, but it was not what I wanted to do for the long term. I wanted something more for myself, and more importantly, I wanted something more for my children.
I dreamed of completing my post-secondary education begun over 10 years previous. Juggling work and two children on my own was challenging at the best of times. Adding a demanding class schedule into the mix seemed impossible. Athabasca University provided the perfect solution.
I transferred my previous credits from a local university and enrolled in Athabasca's Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies. Although I wasn't sure what direction I would go with it, I did know that it would open up any number of options for my future career.
I loved the flexibility of working around preschool and kindergarten schedules and not having to pay the extra costs of child care and transportation to class. At a time when my kids had been through the turmoil of a marriage separation and moving to a new house, I was able to be there for them whenever they needed me. I felt like I was able to accomplish my own goals while still ensuring that the kids were my first priority.
Over the course of three years, I spent many late nights at my desk. I lost track of how many papers I wrote and how many emails went back and forth between myself and my instructors. Was it hard? Absolutely. There were many times when I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work still ahead of me. There were nights when I struggled to stay awake and finish one more chapter or one more assignment. But quitting was never an option -- I wanted my kids to see me finish this. I wanted to be the first person in my family to complete a university degree. And more importantly, I wanted to be an example of what it means to persevere and to never give up.
During my time with AU, I bought and renovated a house, got remarried, changed jobs, and watched my children grow from preschoolers to smart, articulate, happy, well-adjusted elementary school kids. I finished my degree without taking time away from them because of the flexibility of distance education at Athabasca University.
My kids understand what homework is, because they saw me do mine. They understand that learning is an enjoyable process, because they saw the joy it brought me. They understand what working hard in school can accomplish, because they've seen what it did for me.
Completing my degree was a huge accomplishment for me at a time when many people thought I wouldn't be able to do it. My self-confidence got a much-needed boost from reaching this goal. That self-confidence led me to start my own business as a communications consultant. And I now continue to enjoy the flexible schedule I discovered while studying at AU by being my own boss and working from my home office. I can be there for my kids after school, volunteer for class trips, take them to swimming lessons and dance classes, and have all the neighbourhood kids over to bake chocolate chip cookies. Just like when I was studying, I still spend many late-night hours at my desk, but my daytime hours belong to my kids.
We couldn't make the trip to convocation, but when my degree arrived in the mail, I had it framed immediately, and the kids officially presented it to me (in their own goofy way). That degree represents so much to me and to our family. It belongs to all of us and hangs on the wall in my office as a constant reminder of the value of hard work, perseverance, and what can be accomplished when you refuse to give up on a dream.
By Christie Hall