Minds We Meet – Interviewing Students Like You!

This week: Amanda Gillis

Amanda Gillis is an AU student and a life-long resident of Calgary AB. She is in the Bachelor of Arts program at AU with a double major in History and Anthropology. Ultimately, Amanda plans to be an elementary school teacher.

The Voice Magazine recently interviewed Amanda, and here’s what she had to say about school, Brownies, and Jane Austen.

Besides school, what do you do?
I’m a Brownie leader. I’ve been in Guiding since I was young and I’ve received my 20-year pin. I took a break from Guiding for a while, but got back in around five years ago. When a new Brownie unit was formed in my area, I jumped at the chance to be a Brownie leader. I’m looking forward to leading our pack on a camping trip in five weeks.

Why did you choose AU for your studies?
Mainly for the flexibility, which allows me to take temporary work assignments. It also gives me the opportunity to participate in extra Girl Guide activities, and visit my fiancé at his farm in Minnesota. Also, I’m due for some knee surgery soon so I can’t take regular classes and chance that I’ll need surgery in the middle of a semester.

When I began my program at AU, I was originally majoring in History. I began filling up the blank spots in my course requirements with Anthropology courses. After a few anthropology courses, I looked into it and realized I could add Anthropology to History as a double major.

What do you do like to do when You’re not studying?
In addition to Guiding, I like geo-caching, and I take my dog, Sprocket, along. I do cross-stitching and crochet. I also participate in Postcrossing, which involves sending postcards to people all over the world, and receiving postcards back. On the Postcrossing.com site, people register and then are assigned five random addresses to send postcards to. You mail those out and the receivers register them on the Postcrossing site. As each card is registered, random participants worldwide are assigned to send postcards to you, and you can receive more addresses to send cards to. The number of cards you can send and receive increases once you become a regular postcarder. Since I registered to participate five or six years ago, I’ve received about 700 postcards from all over; the most unusual place was Uzbekistan.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My Dad. He went back to school when I was eight years old. He got a degree in History, then a teaching degree. Even after that he was always learning. Recently, he went to AU to get his Master of Distance Education. Although our programs and courses are quite different, we have a friendly competition to see who gets the higher marks on assignments.

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
Jane Austen. I am completely obsessed with her. I have all her books. I have to keep buying copies of Pride and Prejudice because I re-read the book so often the spine cracks and the pages fall out. My fiancé bought me a beautiful hardcover copy, but I’m afraid to open it?I don’t want to damage it.

My second choice for lunch would be Lucy Maud Montgomery. As with Jane Austen, I have all her books and the movies based on the books. I re-read the books and re-watch the movies often. When I’m studying, I sometimes put one of the movies on. I find having it playing in the background has a calming effect.

Describe your experience with online learning. What do you like? Dislike?
I love the freedom. If I have an appointment, or if something is going on in Girl Guides, It’s easy to get away from school work. And I can study anywhere: I’ve even studied on a beach in Hawaii. What I don’t like is e-texts, especially since I’ve already paid for a full text in my course fees. I’m a tactile learner and I prefer a physical textbook. Reading an e-text makes it so easy to get distracted online, too.

Have you had a time when you wavered about your education?
Yeah, when I was at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.) I couldn’t decide what I wanted to take. I switched focus four times before deciding what I really wanted to do. I started in the hotel restaurant management program at SAIT, then later switched to business administration. I liked business but I knew I didn’t want to be behind a desk all the time. I took a break from school, and when I decided to return I was accepted into the library tech studies. Ultimately I decided to focus on history and anthropology.

It was Brownies that helped me to decide. Leading the younger girls?seven-to-eight year olds?I could see that they really wanted to learn. It’s been fun watching them go from where they were at the beginning of the year to now; they’ve really grown in confidence. Leading Brownies really got me thinking about being a teacher because I can apply my Brownie experience to teaching.

What was your most memorable AU course?
History 215, which I’m working on now. I’m just finishing the unit on Ancient Greece and It’s been fascinating. There’s just so much I didn’t know. For example, the Greeks had an atomic theory in 450 BC!

If you won $20 million in a lottery, what would you do with it?
I’d move to Hawaii and say goodbye to snow-shoveling. I’d finish my AU degree, then get my Masters in Anthropology and Archaeology. Conveniently, the University of Hawaii has that program (and AU doesn’t.)

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I don’t think I’ve given up anything. Maybe some cross-stitching time.

If you were the new president of AU, what would be your first project?
Get rid of e-texts! That would be job number one. Then I’d develop a Masters program in Anthropology and Archaeology.

What is your favourite sound?
My Brownies having the time of their lives. We recently arranged a “lateover” (at which the girls stay late but they don’t sleep over) and we took the pack out for pizza and then to Build-a-Bear. They had the best time ever, building teddy bears and showing each other their creations. The laughter was incredible.

What is your most prized possession?
My Guiding camp blanket. It has 20 years of crests on it?all handsewn on. The crests on my blanket are from different camps and events I’ve attended. Some were my mother’s when she was in Guiding and some I’ve traded with other Guiders or had given to me when they went on trips or as a thank you. I’ve got about 130 crests on the blanket and 10 more waiting to be sewn on. My blanket is a treasure and I’d be heartbroken if anything happened to it.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at your mistakes. don’t care too much what others think about you.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?
Overall the experience has been pretty good. I’ve only had to switch tutors once. I’m quite independent but I try to stay in contact with my tutor throughout the course. It helps keep me accountable.

Where has life taken you so far, besides Hawaii?
I spent five weeks at Laval University in Quebec in the French language program, which I needed for work. I spent two glorious weeks in Italy where I traveled around the whole “boot.” I’ve been to Paris, and I spent twelve weeks in Prague?I have family there. I visit Minnesota often to see my fiancé, and I make quick trips to Iowa to visit a cross-stitch store there.

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
I just finished The 5th Wave, by Richard Yancey, a teen book. Next I’ll read the second book of that series, The Infinite Sea.