Dear Sandra FROM OCTOBER 23, 2002

January 1, 2003 Best Of The Voice

Dear Sandra,

I am in my second semester at AU and I love the courses and all my tutors. I decided to quit working full-time and devote myself entirely to school and this is where my problem comes in; I desperately miss having co-workers to interact with daily. Besides the minimal contact I have with my tutors weekly I am feeling very isolated.

Isolated in Alberta

Dear Isolated;

As a people person myself I can relate with you. I decided on AU because my family and I did not want to move to a city with a university. I love the courses and being able to work on my own time schedule, but there are days when I crave the hustle and bustle of a crowded university hallway or the intense debating of students over hamburgers in the cafeteria.

Having a full-time job where you interact with people daily and then switching to the isolation of your home and the pressures and challenges of university courses is a major change. It’s lonely. It just doesn’t seem like university if you can’t interact with your peers. AUSU is attempting to try and bridge the distance gap between students by providing them with a discussion forum, course review page and encouraging the formation of student groups and clubs. With over 20,000 students world wide at AU it is possible other students live in your area, especially if you live in a major center like Calgary.

Academically, it is so much easier to broaden your horizons if you can interact with other students who are in the same courses. The study buddy program AUSU provides is an excellent way to find someone taking the same courses as you. If you are a psychology major or taking psychology or other related course you can visit the Athabasca University Psychology Students’ Society link off the AUSU website. Other groups and clubs are in the process of being formed and new clubs are always encouraged. If you have a special interest in political science, environmentalism or parenting while being a student take the initiative and start up an on-line club.

Socially, the majority of your friends and family are probably not too sympathetic to the challenges you are facing at school and may not be able to provide you with assistance or willing to listen to you enlighten them on what you have been learning. Your fellow students, who are also facing the same pressures and challenges, may be able to help you and that is why the discussion board has been formed. It also gives students a chance to practice their debating skills, not everyone is going to believe in the same things you do or feel as passionately about them. There are also many issues we know nothing about, such as the plight of Muslim women, which is currently being discussed in depth on the discussion forum. Reading other people’s views and concerns helps to enrich your mind and broaden your horizons.

If that is not enough for you, volunteer your time. Volunteering serves two purposes; it helps out people in need and it also helps you out with work experience. There are so many worthwhile non-profit organizations out there in desperate need of volunteers for a couple of hours a week. Volunteering also helps you prepare yourself for a career. I obtained an accounting diploma a few years ago; I was sure that it was the career for me. I volunteered with an organization as their bookkeeper and found that I hated number crunching. I was good at it, but I did not enjoy it. Why waste four years of your life to find out later that you do not even enjoy the work you will be doing? Volunteer experience also provides you with a community of people to interact with, and it gets you away from the books for a little while. Most importantly, it looks good on a resume or application to graduate studies. Without experience, it’s tough to find a job when you first leave school.

AU students seem to think that they are alone. They aren’t. There are a lot of students out there who want to interact with their fellow students. The discussion board is filled with various posts, the study buddy program is frequently requested and the interest in groups and clubs is rising. We are rapidly becoming an on-line community where opinions are shared over the Internet as easily as they are around the water cooler in an office. Visit today to learn more about the services offered by AUSU to help connect you to your peers.



This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of