Sarah McDougall is a 21-year-old student pursuing a double major in English and Anthropology from her home in Barrie, Ontario. She was kind enough to take some time to answer a few of our questions about herself and her studies at AU.
Can you give us a little bit of background information about yourself? Who are you? Where do you live, where do you come from?
Hello! My name is Sarah McDougall and I am a proud Canadian Bachelor of Arts student. I am currently taking my courses online through distance learning and am working towards obtaining a double major in English and Anthropology. I am getting back into my studies at age 21. I have not technically been “out of school” though, since I have taken a Native Studies program through a local college and a PSW program. However, I have been diagnosed with social anxiety and depression and participating in “normal” school posed a challenge to me. I was born and raised in Barrie, Ontario and have lived in the same home all 21 years of life.
What was it that made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and how did you come to AU?
I stumbled across AU through my research on “alternative” schools in order to accommodate my social anxiety and phobias. My choice was between Laurentian Online and Athabasca – I think the choice was obvious! I decided I was ready to take this next step in my education because of my anxiety and depression therapy and recovery – moving forward instead of staying stuck. I was undecided between two programs and first: I was first enrolled in the Bachelor of Management program and later switched to the Bachelor of Arts after deciding that it would be a more enriching course for me. I have always been a book lover and a love of writing, pushing me to my major in English. I have also always been attracted to our world’s history and the people that inhabit it, which brought me to my other major in Anthropology. I plan to use both these courses to further myself in a career in a Library.
Do you find that studying at AU has helped with your anxiety and depression? Has your experience been better than when you went to a “normal” university?
I find that my studies at AU have most definitely helped my anxiety and depression! It may seem odd but completing school online has actually motivated me to leave the house more and participate in more social activities; the open schedule to complete my classes at whatever time I needed has opened up doors for me to participate in activities without restriction, such as yoga classes and anxiety groups.
This is in contrast to my experiences at normal university where I would be constantly struggling to make it to my classes and was confined by a set schedule that didn’t cater to my needs. When I attended Georgian College in Barrie, I found that I missed a lot of classes because of the fear I had for being late to classes. I would not go to a class if I was late, feeling as though I would interrupt the class and the professor and would rather miss it completely.
While studying at AU, I never experience these feelings of unwelcome anxiety and so find myself, for the most part, ahead of my course schedule with time to spare and so I can participate in extra activities like yoga classes and anxiety group classes that help improve my anxiety and depression.
What do you do like to do when you are not studying?
When I am not studying, I enjoy reading casually. I am currently trying to get in the habit of exercising more and go on daily walks – which will hopefully turn into runs now that Spring is among us in Ontario.
What are your plans for this education once you finish?
When I’m done my undergrad through Athabasca, I plan to take my education a step further and attend the Master of Library Information and Sciences program offered through Western University in Ontario.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My greatest influence on my desire to learn has been through striving to follow in the footsteps my parents and sister leaves for me. My mother is a pediatrician and my sister is an RMT (Registered Massage Therapist) with a certificate in business administration. Both these women encourage me to further my education.
Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like? Dislike?
I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with online learning so far. I enjoy that I set the pace of my learning and have the option to move faster or slower through the course. I enjoy that I do not feel intimidated by other students when asking my tutors “dumb” questions. I enjoy that I can do my school work during the hours of the day or night that suit my needs, rather than having to follow a strict time frame of classes, like an 8 am class every day (yuck!). On the other hand, I dislike that I regularly have strain in my eyes from spending so much time staring at a screen. Also, I am not a huge fan of the exam fees. But I can live with that in exchange for school in my PJ’s!
At what point did you waver the most about continuing your schooling? What caused it and what got you through it?
I have always wanted to continue my schooling, however my anxiety and depression (mostly anxiety) have slowed me down. Wanting to be the best version of myself – free from my inner critic – has got me through doubts.
What’s your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
ANTH 277 (Archaeology of Ancient Peoples). This course feeds my curiosity and ignites questions. I like being able to see things in my current world and relate them to facts I’ve learned through ANTH 277.
What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I have given up a lot of my casual reading of fiction – I often must focus on reading the many course texts that accompany my English and Anthropology courses. In my opinion it is an even trade because I still enjoy reading the texts from the course and think of it as a way of broadening my read shelf.
How do you find communications with your course tutors?
I find communicating with my tutors simple – aside from accommodating to Mountain Standard Time. The only thing I would mention as a negative is waiting for certain days to talk to them about questions (fear of forgetting the reasoning behind my question).
What’s your biggest pet peeve, if you have one?
My pet peeve is probably auto-correct on tribe names!
Why is this a pet peeve of yours? Are you a part of any of these tribes?
Since one of my majors is Anthropology, I am studying a lot of our world’s people – many of them indigenous peoples like the Mashco-Piro, and my wordprocessor always auto-corrects the name to “macho”. I do not identify as aboriginal descent myself but find this auto-correct happening quite often.
What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
I would love to have lunch with Diana, Princess of Wales, for the odd reason that I was born the day she died and love to think that I am her reincarnated!
Describe the proudest moment in your life.
Proudest moment of my life so far has been my elementary school graduation where I received the Science and Art awards – I haven’t done much.
I’m sure you’re in good company there. So, what distinguishes you from most other people?
I am someone who strives for perfection and always must one-up myself. I always try to do more (at least the same) as the day before.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
The most valuable lesson I have learned in my life is the belief that if something doesn’t work for you at that moment, it was not meant to be in that moment, but you may try again when the time is right.
Have you travelled? Where has life taken you so far?
I have travelled across Ontario, driven from Ontario to New Brunswick, been in Nova Scotia and Quebec, travelled to Florida, and a cruise that took me multiple locations, like Nassau Bahamas. I have also driven to NYC.
Out of all the places you have traveled, which were your favorite and why?
My favorite places to travel have definitely been on the east coast – Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It feels good to experience different parts of Canada and see how different they are from my own home in Ontario. I enjoyed feeling as though I was in a different world and yet I remained in my home country. I also enjoyed these places more because they were the quietest places to travel – lots of open land, water and forests and not a lot of people. This gave me feelings of serenity and peacefulness where I could relax on my vacation. I never felt intimidated by mass crowds and tall buildings and more welcomed into these cities and towns by the people.
What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
I have just finished the Cats Eye Chronicles series by T.L. Shreffler—check out the first book Sora’s Quest, it’s free on iBook’s!