Learning through distance can feel like a solitary venture. Students are given contact with a tutor, and sometimes not even that when it is a course based on the “success centre” model. But it is important to connect with the others who are taking a journey like yours?a community of AU students.
One such community is the Facebook group. It was a great place for me to post frustrations or elations (sometimes in the same day). I tend to be a quiet in the social-media world, but speaking out in these groups, commenting on others posts, and posting your own is a great way to feel validation for the range of emotions this adventure puts us through. A great thing about social media is that, regardless of the task you are undertaking, there is a group out there for you to connect with.
I discovered the importance of these connections within the figurative walls of AU. It has served me well as I take the next steps in my journey and work toward a writing career. I have written articles that touched on the importance and usefulness of social media to make connections or in creating a personal brand, but it is also important to use it to find groups to just connect with, to vent to, or to celebrate with. These groups can be a wealth of information and give you perspective on how much you have learned along the way, as you find when you are able (with some authority) to offer advice to others.
I have found that communities of writers are encouraging, and always at the ready with tips and advice. Everyone knows how hard it is to achieve the end goal (which may be different for each writer) and works to help make that happen, whether they’ve reached theirs or not. If you ask for input or advice you will get it. It may not be what you want to hear, but everyone in the community knows that brushing something off or misleading a fellow writer, while it may spare their feelings in the moment, will not help in the end. Everyone within these communities wants to see others succeed.
In the age of social media, it has never been easier to find communities of like-minded people. There are groups for everyone and many to choose from. It can take time to find one that suits you, that has the information and atmosphere that you are seeking, but they are out there. The easiest way is to search hashtags on twitter, google, and forums. These may lead you to blogs, and the blogs will lead you to groups. My preferred groups are closed; I don’t want my writing woes or elations spread around on Facebook for everyone to read. I keep that part of my life close to my heart as I often don’t want to answer too many questions (especially if rejections have been rolling in, or I am [im]patiently waiting for a response on requested materials). I keep a few people in the loop, but only those I am comfortable telling “I don’t want to talk about it now.”
Virginia Woolf stated that, to write, one needs money and a room of one’s own. That applies beyond writing, beyond creativity, and throughout the academics. We need time to think, to work, and to lose ourselves in whatever occupies our mind and drives us forward. With that though, we also need community, encouragement, and support from those who have been on this leg of the journey, and those who may be a few legs behind us.
Deanna Roney is an AU graduate who loves adventure in life and literature.