I found a picture while scrolling through Facebook, one of those times I had an essay I should have been doing instead. I found a picture of an ice berg, with the phrase that all people see is success, they do not see everything else that went into being successful: not the work, the exhaustion, the sacrifices, failures, fear, none of it. They are “only seeing the tip of the iceberg.” I posted it on the unofficial Athabasca University Facebook page and the response was astounding.
When I talk with others about my schooling I get a variety of responses: the two most popular are either “Wow that takes dedication, I tried doing distance education for a course and it is tough!” or “So? that is online?” I understand that if you don’t know, you don’t know. But, taking a course through distance is tough work.
We slog through these courses relying heavily on ourselves, our textbooks, and contact with our tutors. We rely on ourselves to comprehend the information and reaching out for help when we need it. It is entirely different from working through a course in a classroom setting. I’m not suggesting one is easier or harder than the other as this depends entirely on the individual. But, taking an online course is not something to be taken lightly. There are many sacrifices we make in order to obtain our course, certificate, diploma, or degree.
In the beginning of this journey I was uncertain about what it would be like to take a degree through distance education. I was unsure how the substance of the degree would compare to a traditional bricks and mortar degree. I think these hesitations are common as distance education is relatively a new field. Or at least it seemed that way to me several years ago. Since then, however, I have come to understand that this is tough work. These courses are excellent, and the tutors are exceptionally experienced in their fields and very helpful. I get more one-on-one interaction with them in this form than I ever would in a traditional school. This is not because the B&M professors don’t have hours when you can go and discuss things with them, but because I wouldn’t take advantage of it.
Being able to rely on myself for my education has been a wonderful and empowering experience. I reach out to other students when I am frustrated and need an understanding shoulder to lean on and vent my frustrations. I reach out to tutors for help in understanding concepts and ideas, whereas with a bricks and mortar university I would likely rely on other students. I am incredibly proud of myself for this accomplishment. I believe that everyone who decides to pursue post-secondary school should be very proud of themselves for taking that step. As AU students we tend to be students who have been out of the game for awhile, or getting an extra course in to help round out a B&M program. But, we have taken that step to improve ourselves, to improve our lives. We have taken a risk and I think that is a wonderful thing. Regardless of failed courses, withdrawals, extensions, or squeak-bys, we should be proud of what we are accomplishing, remembering where we started and where we are now.
I have been working on this program nonstop, taking a week or two here or there. Life has gone on and I have missed many nights out because I need to focus on school. I have been the hermit who only sees people once in awhile. I have worked until I was falling asleep at the keyboard or dropped books on my face as I tried to read when I was too tired. We have all pushed ourselves to our limits, others have very likely pushed themselves even more than me. If someone does not understand the work that goes into it, or why we miss nights out, I understand.
If they don’t know, they don’t know.
But we should never lose sight of how much work we are putting into this. We should not let ourselves or our beliefs be swayed by someone who doesn’t see what is happening behind the closed office door, or closed front door. We know first hand what is going into this and that is what we should remember. I don’t try to explain it, I just let it be and remind myself that I know how much work I have put in, I know how tired I am at the end of the day and I am proud of myself. Those that are close to me see the work that goes into it, support me, and are proud of me. Be proud of your journey and do not let anyone tell you differently.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature