I remember several years ago, someone had posted on the AU Facebook page that they were only a few courses away from completing their degree. I recall thinking, “wow it is going to be amazing when I can post that one day.” I “liked” the post; I did not know the person who had posted and while I was appreciating that they were almost finished, what prompted me to “like” it was, I believe, more selfish. I liked that I could see someone nearing the end and that one day?one day that would be me.
A couple weeks ago I ordered my last two courses, and (of course) I posted it. It is a proud accomplishment, the extent of how amazing it feels can really only be understood by fellow students. I was shocked by the responses I received. It made me think back to why I had “liked” that post; my post received over 60 “likes” within an hour (surpassing anything I have ever posted, personal or otherwise), and before it bumped too far down the page, I was over 80. It was nothing personal, a few that I have spoken with personally over the years were possibly liking it because they have come to know my journey, but that would account for a handful, not 80. No, I think they, for the same reason as I those many years ago, were liking the fact that someone was close to finishing, and that one day?it would be them.
The Facebook page has become an incredible source of support. This is evident throughout the posts. I posted my final course-purchase and through the vast amount of likes I was able to draw some motivation and continue my final push forward. Shortly after this, I saw someone post looking for some encouragement, some motivation to keep tackling these courses, this vast amount of work. Within minutes the feed was flooded with personal stories. Stories about struggles others have endured to pursue their education; stories about what drove them and what motivated them; stories about why we sometimes begin our studies later in life. The amount of people that responded lept every few minutes, this post only garnered a few “likes” but the comments section swelled to almost seventy. Threads broke off within the main thread, people commented and posted back and froth about certain struggles.
I believe the original poster received the motivation they were looking for, but this thread went beyond even that. It grew to such an enormous length that everyone could go and find someone who was facing the same, or nearly the same, struggle they were, or are. Through the simplicity of “likes” and the selfless sharing of our stories we are able to motivate and encourage others. Athabasca University may be an online group. We may be spread across the globe. But each of us understands the struggle of distance learning and, when someone is feeling isolated, if they open up about it on this group they will soon find themselves being held up by near, or complete, strangers.
AU may not have the same “campus” feel, but, in my experience, I believe AU students are more supportive than other schools. At the bricks and mortar university I went to I would receive support from a handful of close friends; but at AU we receive support from a much larger population. We may not know each personally, but when we reach out for help, we see a part of ourselves in the other student and the unknown becomes insignificant?and so we reach back.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature