In this week’s profile we meet Milca Sheney, a Bachelor of Arts student living in northern Ontario. In addition to studying, Milca runs a home business and cares full-time for her 21-month-old daughter. She shares how planning and prioritizing allow her to manage her studies, family needs, and business contracts, while still leaving some room for hobbies.
Milca, who is obtaining her BA with a concentration in French, is in her final year of the three-year program.
?It’s a little bit of everything, some literature, some language, some translation work,? she says. Milca’s long-term goal is to teach in French or French immersion schools, at a grade school or junior high level. In the meantime, she plans to use her degree as a springboard to teacher’s college.
In Ontario, enrolling in teacher’s college requires a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in a teachable subject area. Since Milca spent much of her childhood in Quebec and grew up speaking French, concentrating in that language was an easy choice. Less clear was how to obtain her degree.
?My husband was in his final year of college . . . [and] we didn’t know where we would be moving the following year,? she says. Enrolling at AU allowed Milca to continue working on her degree without having to be concerned about non-transferring courses and prerequisites for different universities. ?[It] turned out well because we moved to northern Ontario, where the closest university is four hours away!? she says.
Milca started out by fast-tracking her degree. ?We knew we would have kids some day, so I just went for it and got as much done as possible,? she says. During her first year, she took 21 credits each semester?while working 30 hours a week.
Since the birth of her daughter, Rachel, however, Milca has slowed her pace. ?I did half the program in one year, and the rest really slowly,? she says. ?It’s not the same dynamic now [as] three years ago, when it was only me and the hubby, and we were both focused on the same thing.?
Currently, Milca studies in the early morning before her daughter wakes, or in the afternoon while she naps. ?I cannot study with her around,? Milca says. ?I can do all sorts of things and she’ll just play beside me, but as soon as I start doing something that requires attention . . . she starts trying to climb up on me!?
To manage the demands of school, family, and business, Milca relies on both short- and long-term planning. ?Set yourself realistic goals, goals that are achievable,? she says. ?Then make yourself a plan to achieve this.? For example, Milca advises students to first determine which courses they will need to meet program requirements, and then decide when they should take them. Then, after registering in the individual courses, she says, ?make yourself goals of what you want to have done by a certain date.? She also recommends looking at all the course materials, not just the study guide, to see how proportional the units are. ?Sometimes the breakdown they give is not . . . even,? Milca says. ?I just adapt it to the way I know it’ll work for me.?
Broad course planning is important, but having a daily routine can be a lifesaver as well. ?It’s the only way I can feel like I’m accomplishing something,? Milca says. ?I get as much done as possible in the time frame ?allocated? and That’s the best I can do.? To help stay on track, she makes a point of getting up early each morning to figure out the coming day.
A daily schedule allows Milca to avoid the frustration of having too many competing obligations. By prioritizing everything, she knows what to expect. ?My husband and daughter [come] first,? she says. Milca’s schedule ensures that she spends time with Rachel as well as with her husband after their daughter goes to bed. She also focuses on her small-but-growing upholstery business. Although business contracts may be sporadic, when they do come in, Milca ?concentrates on them to finish them quickly.?
Her next priority is homework, which she does while her daughter is sleeping if there are no business contracts. In her remaining spare time, she enjoys designing and embellishing children’s clothes, particularly for her daughter.
Milca believes that the best kind of planning allows for life’s variations. When she makes her master plan for a course, Milca will work in external obligations, such as weddings or holidays. This ensures that they don’t take her by surprise and throw her study plans off track. ?It . . . made it easier to stay focused and to not get discouraged,? she says.
A little flexibility in day-to-day scheduling also goes a long way. Although hobbies may normally be low on her list of priorities, they are there for those days ?when I feel like I’m going crazy and just need some ?me? time,? Milca says.
Milca has 12 credits remaining in her degree, which she estimates she will finish after another year and a half of studies. Even though it may take a lot of effort to juggle her many responsibilities, she feels it is more than worth it. ?I’m lucky that I get to take courses here and there and someday get a BA,? she says. ?The rest is just a bonus.?