AU Profiles – Bethany Porter

STUDENT: Bethany Porter

The Athabasca University Students’ Union has just elected its new council! The next series of profiles will highlight the new and returning councillors of the AUSU Student Council.

In this week’s profile, we meet AUSU councillor Bethany Porter, an AU student who is also a stay-at-home mom. Bethany, who’s studying English, describes how audiobooks give her a head start on her homework. She also gives her best piece of advice for other student moms, and explains why she doesn’t find distance education isolating at all.

Bethany, who lives near Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a newly elected councillor on the AUSU student council. ?I’m really excited to be a part of council for the next two years,? she says.

She became interested in running when she read about some of council’s projects, particularly the H.E.A.T. system for tracking complaints about tutors.

?It’ll really help advocate for tutor accountability,? she says. ?I was also . . . interested [in] the bursaries that the students’ union gives out to AU students,? she adds. ?I thought that it would be a great experience to be able to be involved.?

Currently, Bethany is enroled in AU’s University Diploma in Arts. She plans to finish this year, and then enrol in AU’s Bachelor of Arts in English program, transferring her diploma credits into the program. Bethany decided to split the degree to get an ?interim credential until I can finish the B.A.,? she says. ?I’m probably going to be job-hunting again before I finish the B.A., so this gives me something in the meantime that I can say I’ve accomplished.?

Bethany began by studying at Dalhousie University. However, ?I didn’t take a full load while there . . . I was pregnant with my son at the time and tended to miss class very frequently,? she says. Right after her son was born, she enroled in two AU courses, initially planning to complete a few courses by distance and then transfer the credits back to Dalhousie when her son was a little older.

The plan changed when she discovered that she really liked studying by distance. ?I love the flexibility!? Bethany says. She doesn’t much miss traditional university: ?I find it so much better to work at my own pace,? she explains. ?I’m not tied to waiting for others who don’t understand, or being left behind if I’m slower to catch on.?

Her biggest challenge is studying while staying at home with her two children, one almost three years old and the other just seven months. Distance education is a perfect fit for Bethany’s situation: ?With two kids . . . It’s nice to be able to study whenever possible, and not be tied to any schedule,? Bethany says. ?Distance lets me stay home with them, which is really important to me.?

However, they keep her very busy, she says. When her son was smaller and still took naps, Bethany could study throughout the day. ?I think of those as the golden days!? she laughs. Now, she does most of her homework, particularly essay writing, at night.

However, she keeps an eye out for other opportunities to study. For example, She’s currently studying English classics, and has found that listening to classic novels as audiobooks can be helpful. ?I . . . leave them playing through the day,? Bethany says. ?[It] saves a lot of time later since I’m already familiar with the material.?

In addition, she makes good use of any spare minutes. ?I . . . keep a book with me all the time,? she says. ?I study whenever and wherever I can.?

Another challenge is planning a long-term schedule, especially as Bethany varies the number of courses she takes depending on the associated workload.

?I find that [with] some courses I take much less than the allotted time, but some take every minute,? she says. However, She’s found that the AU student community is a good resource. ?I have met people through both the AUSU forums and Facebook who have taken my classes before, and they’ve . . . been able to provide insight into what kind of work is required for each course,? she explains.

Bethany also staggers her course enrolments, so that She’s at different stages in her different courses. In addition, she registers well in advance ?to give me extra time to review the material,? she says. ?On paper I could be registered in anywhere from one to five classes, but I’m almost always working on three.?

One thing that isn’t a challenge is the socialization aspect. Bethany feels that, contrary to popular perception, studying by distance is not necessarily isolating as compared with traditional university.

?I’ve really gotten to know other students, especially recently with the elections,? she says. Moreover, ?at a traditional university, even though I’d be surrounded by other students, most of them would be full-time students right out of high school,? Bethany says. ?I’d probably feel isolated around them as well, since few of them would understand the pressures of trying to study and take care of a family.?

On the other hand, Bethany has enjoyed meeting similarly situated students through AU’s Student Moms Club, where She’s able to discuss the challenges of studying while raising a family. ?They often have a lot of pointers about doing distance classes with kids around!? she says.

Her own most important advice is to stay positive, even when studying is difficult. ?Sometimes It’s so hard to find time, and there’s days on end when I don’t open a single book,? she says. ?Just do as much as you possibly can when you can find the time . . . and don’t get discouraged!?