AU Profiles – Student: Marilyn Oprisan

April 2, 2003

STUDENT: Marilyn Oprisan

Marilyn, tell us a little about yourself:

“?Oprisan’ is a Romanian name with a squiggly thingy under the “?s’. You pronounce it Oh-pree-shun (The whole word, not just the squiggly thingy).

Tell us about where you live, and your family?
I’m a Torontonian born and raised, married to a Romanian whence comes the name. We’re no spring chickens, I’m 49; he’s 56. We’ve lived in Vienna for a year and a half so far because he works for the United Nations and I also work for an international organization: the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. I’m a finance officer (read accountant, middle-management) in the “Secretariat” (read head office) here in Vienna. Hubby administers industrial projects in developing nations.

Do you have kids or pets?
My daughters are 21 and 17. They are with us but it took some persuading to get the 21 year old to come along voluntarily. They are adapting to European customs as they relate to young people. It’s certainly easier for them to get into a bar here than in Ottawa, where we lived before.

The 11 year old dachshund, sadly, isn’t having as much fun. I think the wind bothers him. Vienna is a very windy place.

When did you first learn about AU, and how are you liking the student life/distance education? How long have you been a student?

I was looking for a specific kind of course – creative writing, at a distance university of some kind. Lots of English speakers in Europe take classes through the British Open University and I was looking for something Canadian like that. This was last summer, and my course began last September. I’ve already had to buy one extension, things being rather busy at the office.

Until this course I confess I didn’t know AU existed. When you live in the triangle of Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal you don’t lack for universities closer to home. It was upon moving to Europe that I had a need for net-based education.

Can you tell us about the AU Courses you are taking at the moment, or a favourite course?

English 381 is my only course at the moment, the one I found by surfing the net. I can’t see too much beyond it, but you never know. As of this writing, the end of March 2003 I’m still not finished it yet. Have to write a novel. (Well, okay, we don’t hand in the whole novel, just one chapter, but I suppose we are on our honour to actually write the whole novel some day.)

Tell me more about your work in Vienna:

The OSCE has operations in Europe (mostly the Balkans) and Central Asia. My staff is responsible for making payments for goods, services and people all over those places. When I say payments for people I mean the payroll. (We do have a department, though, that deals with actual trafficking in human beings – we’re against it.)

What is particularly fun is that our main offices are right in the most “?downtown’ part of Vienna, beside the main opera house. My organization also uses large parts of the Hofburg Palace nearby. It’s quite a big, famous palace and don’t I feel special having a badge to get in and a special permit to park right under the statue of the Ertz-herzog in the middle of the Heldenplatz?

While my husband’s work is more exotic than mine (he actually travels to some of his developing countries while I stay at my desk in Vienna), we do have our occasional whimsical moments. My keyboard keeps changing to Russian of its own accord and that never happens in Ottawa.

The people I interact with all day are from all different countries and cultures and different languages are flying around the corridors. My own staff at the moment are a Russian, a Bosnian, an Uzbek, two Croatians and a Romanian. My Slovenian and Macedonian went to other departments and my Finnish girl went back to school in Finland.

How is AU helping you toward your goals?

Taking the course has given me more confidence than I had before. It is a writing course and outside of some silliness on the internet under an assumed name, and a Star Trek novel the publisher didn’t buy, I’ve never really tried to write before.

It’s been marvellous to have our course tutor – a published authoress – looking at my work and giving me good advice. Thank you kindly for all your help, Caterina Loverso.

Anything else we should know? Funny stories about the dog eating your laptop . . .

My dog likes to sit in my lap when I am at the computer so it’s not to his advantage to eat it. Actually he likes to sit my lap at all times, except at night when he sleeps on my legs.

But seriously, fellow students, there is one thing I’d like to share and that is: I often feel isolated taking a course with only a computer for company. I miss the atmosphere of a real classroom with other students to talk to and a captive teacher to annoy. Our course has a discussion board for students, which I think is a marvellous idea, but not all my fellow students are as chatty as I am.

Thanks so much for taking out the time to answer our questions, Marilyn. You lead an exciting life and are truly an example of the AU dream.

Any Athabasca University student, faculty or staff member interested in being featured in AU Profiles should email the Voice Editor We’d love to hear your story.