The Travelling Student – Second Thoughts

My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is part thirteen in the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In part twelve I journeyed deep into the woods to give a brush cutting job a shot. After a single day of work I emerged completely drained wondering how I would muster the energy to work on my Athabasca courses.
“Wake up you guys, it’s almost five,” I heard as I slowly opened my eyes. It was four forty-five in the morning and breakfast was being served at the work camp. My body was aching from the day before and I slowly forced myself out of bed?dreading the day that lay ahead. Matt sat up in his bed beside mine. He hated getting up just as much as I did but I got the impression he wasn’t nearly exhausted as I was.

“Ready for another day of work?” he asked.

I didn’t bother showering. I simply washed my face and headed over to kitchen where breakfast was being served. Several other workers filled the room eating and preparing their lunches. I filled my plate with grits and pancakes as I waited for someone to leave so I could sit.

After a few minutes later a group of three got up and left the kitchen and I took a seat. I looked over to my right as another worker was eating a plate towering with grits. I realized that this job required an incredible amount of calories and I tried to eat as much as I could. My body wasn’t having it, in fact I could only eat half of what I might eat on a normal day. I sat contemplating my next move.

On one hand if I pushed through the job might get easier and I might improve my physical fitness. On the other hand I might end up sick, not making much money, and failing my Athabasca classes. After finishing my breakfast I decided I would quit. I wasn’t sure what I would do next but I had a deep feeling that brush cutting wasn’t for me.

I approached our contact at the camp Simon and the boss. I thanked them for giving me a chance at the job and apologized that I wouldn’t be able to continue. They appreciated my politeness and thanked me for letting them know. As I walked back to my room a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. While I didn’t know where I’d go I knew I’d have the energy to think and study.

Matt took the news less gracefully. Half disappointed that I hadn’t stuck it out longer to see if I would get use to the work, and half disappointed that he would be the only English and non-African person at the camp when I left later that day. I felt bad leaving, but I think it was the right choice. I later found out one of the other new workers would keep going for two weeks before getting sick. The boss ended up having to buy the guy a bus ticket all the way back to British Columbia because he had made so little.

After getting directions to the nearby bus station I head back to my room. All the workers had left the camp by this time and I head into the washroom for a hot shower. I get some of my best ideas in the shower and I thought it would be the perfect place to plan my next move.

With all my stuff packed into a blue storage tote, I headed down the road. Carrying all your stuff in a rectangular plastic tote is great when you’re travelling by car, but it’s a nightmare by foot. The city had a single bus station, which was also a hardware store, that I lugged my tote and backpack over to. Luckily, the station was only a few blocks from the work camp. With broken French I asked for a ticket to London “Je voudrais ticket au London, Ontario.” The lady at the desk responded in French that I couldn’t understand. I don’t understand I responded in French.

The woman yelled to the back and a young man with a Nirvana shirt appeared. “Hello” he said in a broken accent. I explained that I wanted a ticket back home. He explained to me that because of the remoteness of the town only tickets to Quebec City could be purchased. I didn’t much feel like hanging around in Longue-Rive much longer so I took it.