From where I’m writing, Athabasca, Alberta, is 12 hours away, or 1,174 km. The days are counting down to when I will be making this long journey to Athabasca University. I will be taking my first steps on campus, not nervous as a new student, not wondering what campus life will be like, or looking for the coffee shop I am going to become a regular at. No, I am going to walk onto campus the day (before) I receive my degree. I will take my first steps onto campus knowing I have completed years of work to get here. This is a unique experience for AU students.
The path to AU will be a long one, a day’s travel, though it mimics, in a sense, the journey with AU. The journey to the completion of my degree. There will be road blocks along the way making the process longer. At times I will be uncomfortable, and at times it will be stressful and it will feel like there are too many things happening at the same time. But, like the journey to my degree, the road journey is going to end with a feeling of satisfaction, exhaustion, and pride.
There were days when I wondered if this drive was going to be worth it. Though I know many are making further journeys than I to get there. I wondered if I was being silly in making this trip to spend a few moments on stage to be handed my degree. But, it is about more than that. It is stepping foot onto campus, to see the buildings, the bricks, the mortar, the library. Being able to touch these, to see them, will solidify them in my mind. It will make the whole process feel complete.
I finished my degree a couple months ago. And, it seemed, somehow, anticlimactic. There was something that didn’t feel finished, it seemed to just?end. I still feel like a student, even though I have not written an essay in months. There is something about going to the small town of Athabasca and being handed the long sought after piece of paper while wearing a gown that will underline that this is real. I have completed my BA. I am graduating. Being able to meet other students who are experiencing similar things, to be able to put faces to names of students I have chatted with online, to see professors and shake their hands. To be able to chat face to face with people who have had more of an impact on my life than they will ever likely know. The journey to AU to graduate is about more than the moment on stage to receive the degree, it is about the community coming together from far reaches and celebrating a common goal, a common accomplishment.
This journey to AU to receive my degree is going to be an incredible experience (I am sure). I am looking forward to being there, to seeing everyone, and to finally holding that paper in my hand. This pilgrimage to AU will put the exclamation mark on my completion. And, I hope, it will help to make the completion of the degree feel real, exciting, and climatic.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature