Minds We Meet – Interviewing Students Like You!

Rémi Straus is an AU student from Ontario who lives in the Kingston area. He’s taking a number of courses at AU in pursuit of his CPA designation.

Rémi was recently interviewed by The Voice Magazine about school, family, and philosophy.

Describe the path that led you to AU.
I’m basically near the end of my AU journey. I’m pursuing a CPA designation, and I needed a certain number of university level credits to meet the education requirements. I already have a degree?in Philosophy, from the University of Warwick in England?but needed to take 20 courses to fulfill the entry requirements of CPA. I’ve mainly been taking accounting and economics courses, and I’m just finishing my 17th course with Athabasca; the other three I have to take elsewhere.

I can’t remember how I heard about AU, but I wish I’d found it earlier. I would have been much further ahead.

What do you do like to do when You’re not studying?
Well, the time not studying is mostly taken up by family and work. We have a 4 ½-year-old and a 2-year-old so the time gets whittled away. I’m really into Eastern wisdom, so one thing I like to do when I have time is Tai Chi. Other things I enjoy doing are reading, meditating, swimming, and hiking. I’d like to get back into rock climbing, too, when I get the time. Last year, I participated in my first triathlon.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
I guess that would be my grandfather. He’s quite an amazing fellow; he’s 95 now. During the second World War, he worked and studied and got a degree. He worked in chemistry and came up with a lot of compounds that are still in use today. Although he was a good influence, I don’t think my desire to learn was turned on like a switch. I’ve always liked learning; school is something I enjoy.

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
Good question. How about Buddha. I’d like to ask him, “Could you please help me help the world find peace.”

Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like? Dislike?
What I really like is being able to work at my own pace. My time isn’t constrained by specific deadlines. Because the time isn’t structured, I can fit it in with family. However, what I don’t like is the missed opportunities. It’s completely lacking in classroom dynamics and discussion. There’s also a lack of immediacy when you query something. Because of the time-lag between question and response, by the time I receive an answer I’ve already moved on from what I was asking about.

When was the point where you wavered the most about whether it was worth it to continue your schooling, and what made you decide to keep going?
I haven’t wavered, really. There have been moments when it seems a bit much, but I’m determined to reach my goals.

What’s your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
There isn’t one that really stands out. They’ve all had their positive and negative aspects and some I’ve enjoyed some more than others, but none stand out.

Describe the proudest moment in your life.
It’s when I see our family together and happy. I delight in watching the kids playing and laughing and holding hands. It’s the small daily moments that make me feel proud.

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
Well, I don’t have any regrets. I’ve given up work experience. And at times the intensity and pressure of having one exam after another has led to stress. At other times, I didn’t have self-confidence which also leads to stress. In the end, though, everything worked out fine.

If you were the new president of AU, what would be your first project?
I would get hard-copy books back. This would be my number one priority. Certainly AU can offer e-texts but they should also offer hard-copy. E-texts just don’t work for everyone. I’m buying my own textbooks and they run anywhere from $45 to $140.

If you were trapped on an island, what three things would you bring?
I’d like to have photos of my family. And a book on Buddhist teachings. And a water bottle, so I can have a drink of water as I walk around the island.

Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people.
That would be my quirkiness. I have a good heart, and I mean well, but sometimes things just don’t come out right.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
We can change the world around us by how we are. We have a tremendous effect on other people. If we have a happy mind and a gentle smile, it can file the rough edges off others.

What do you think about e-texts?
I can’t digest text from the screen. I’ve tried reading off computers, tablets, e-readers, but I just don’t absorb the material. It does make a difference to have a paper text. The move to e-texts has been disastrous for me.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?
In the business department It’s mainly the Student Support Centre. It’s good in a way, but It’s also a pain-in-the-ass. You have to complete a request form for everything, even if It’s just to say thank you. If you want to have a conversation with someone you have to wait. It’s not a fluid process. I understand why they have this structure, but I prefer having tutors you can email directly.

Where has life taken you so far?
I’m from England and I’ve lived in several parts of it. I’ve also visited most corners and much of the mainland of the United Kingdom, for example, the Midlands, southwest England, London, the Isle of Arran in Scotland, and to the coasts of Wales and Ireland. I travelled through Greece for a month on my own, which was fantastic. I’ve also visited France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. I haven’t been to most of Africa but I did visit Egypt. Other places are Lanzerote Island (the easternmost island in the Canaries,) Jersey, Israel, Estonia, and Finland.

When I first came to Canada, I came to study as an exchange student for a year. The following summer, I took a train from Halifax to Vancouver. I’ve surfed on beaches in Tofino BC and in Nova Scotia. I’ve been to the United States, too. But I haven’t been to Asia yet.

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
I’m not reading anything except course books right now. There’s just no time, but spending time with my family is what I should be doing right now anyway. If I was reading something for pleasure, I’d likely read Buddhist stuff.