Courtney is a single mother living in a small town in Alberta. She is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Management in Marketing program and plans to eventually own her own business in the future. This is her story.
Can you give us a little bit of background information about yourself? Who are you, where do you live, and where are you from?
My name is Courtney, I am a single mother to a six-year-old. My life has basically revolved around being her mom, also around children in general. I have a day-home, and I have nannied as well throughout my life. I wouldn’t say I come from one place- but many. I was born in Newfoundland, currently living in Alberta but have also lived in many places during my teenage years. I refer to myself as a gyspy soul.
What do you mean by a day home? Is it like a daycare? How many kids do you watch and what are their ages? Does this support you financially?
I watch kids in my home. I usually have five kids. My daughter is six, two three-year olds, a seven-year old, and a nine-year old. Yes, this is my income during this time!
Did you have to take any courses or become certified in anything to run your day home?
No, I didn’t, as they’re all children of people I know. I live in a small town and have been in child care my whole life. If you intend on having a subsidized day home, you need to do some courses.
Describe the path that led you to Athabasca University. What was it that made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and what pushed you into the program that you have signed up for?
My personal plan was always to spend as much time with my daughter as I was able to. I wanted to set an example, that it’s important to finish high school and go forth to continue with secondary schooling. It was always in the plans to take this journey when she started school.
I had switched my idea of what I wanted to take many times. I am relatively good with computers, so computer science was always in the back of mind, then being a social worker interested me. I ended up choosing marketing because I previously worked with online businesses doing that type of thing and didn’t realize there was a program specifically for it. Once I checked out AU and saw they had a program dedicated to what I was doing- I was sold.
What are your plans for this education once you finish? How does it fit in with where you want to go?
I plan to find a job and start a career that pertains to the knowledge I have learned. I have already started in this type of field but didn’t feel confident enough in my understanding to take on a serious job in it. So, it fits perfectly in where I plan to go from here, perhaps even starting my own business.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
I would like to say my mother. She went onto University when she was fresh out of high school. Moved across Canada with her two kids to pursue her career in accounting. She is currently in school again, despite being ill while facing the trial and tribulations of her life.
Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like? Dislike?
My experience with online learning is that I love the freedom that comes along with it, the lack of pressure I remember feeling when I was younger. I wouldn’t say there’s anything I dislike per say. Although, I would mention that it’s hard to push yourself to do the work sometimes, when you’re not in an environment that’s penalizing you for not doing so. Or a teacher to slap their ruler on your desk when you’re dozing off.
How do you find the structure of the assignments and quizzes at AU? Do you miss pen and paper, or do you prefer having everything online?
I personally find some of the assignments to be long-winded, which is to be expected when having to cram a lot of material in few assignments. The quizzes are set up efficiently, they’re easy to take and brief. I live on the computer, I’m handy with them so I prefer to use it for everything. That and my writing looks like chicken scratch!
Have you ever considered not continuing your education? What motivated you to continue?
I want to say, recently I found myself at a point where I was lacking confidence and it caused me to hinder a bit. The thoughts “Will I fail? Do I even need schooling? Will this make a difference?” Weighed heavily on my mind, until I realized those specific thoughts were coming from the self doubt, I have always suffered from. Picked myself up, brushed myself off and said, “No excuses this time, you can and will do this.” Did a quiz, did an assignment, and getting 100% in both, that was the boost I needed. To reassure myself then when I apply myself, I can do whatever I need to!
What is your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
I haven’t finished any courses yet but my favorite one thus far is MKTG 396, as I am learning all the ins and outs of marketing that I had no idea about, which certainly piques my interest!
Where do you spend most of your time studying? At home, a library, or elsewhere? Any study tips and tricks?
I study at home almost always, though I do have to admit I have studied while being passenger in the car on the way to Jasper because I waited so last minute. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. I learned to not underestimate how much time you need to study and to always give yourself more leeway when it comes to your schedule. Be sure to study in silence, as it is hard to retain information if you’re in a noisy environment, even if you think you’re capable of multitasking and handing it!
Do you find it difficult studying while taking care of your daughter? Any advice for other mothers in a similar position to you?
If I’m being honest, it can be a struggle as a single mom. It is difficult trying to maintain a healthy household and taking on children to earn an income, all while studying full time. The advice I would give is to simply take it one day at a time, breathe and don’t psych yourself out. By the end of the night I’m completely exhausted and slump into my bed. However, nighttime is the optimal time to crack open the book.
Some days I want to throw in the towel, but I can’t, and I won’t. My daughter asks about schooling all the time and she’s the motivating factor when things seem to get to be too much. Manage your time, believe in yourself, and remember there are little eyes watching so push yourself for them and for yourself.
Have you given up anything to go to Athabasca University? Was it worth it?
I haven’t given up anything to be quite honest, maybe a little time I wouldn’t normally have to sit down and focus in a day but it’s worth it. I can’t complain.
What’s your pet peeve if you have one?
People chewing with their mouths open, even worse when it resembles the sound of a horse chomping on hay.
What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
Hmmm, I have never actually thought about this before. I would say Ellen; not only is her humor out of this world she’s such and intelligent, giving and loving person. I like everything she stands for and have never looked at her and thought ill-minded. I would just hope she doesn’t chew with her mouth open!
Describe one of the proudest moments of your life.
Becoming a parent, the most trying yet rewarding thing I will ever do in this lifetime. I was 20, with the dad for a couple years at this point and it showed me the person I was capable of being. Forming me into a much better version of myself than I was.
Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people.
What distinguishes me from most people? Would probably be that I have an online community that I take part in. I have had some of the same online friends for twelve years. Most of these communities are hacker or computer related. So, when someone has a problem with anything technological, they give me a call. With that said I don’t look like the typical “nerd.” Everyone knows this about me, that I have these strange talents that they don’t understand. I am pretty much an open book.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
Never think you have all the time in the world to fix or do things- because the thing about time is you never know how much you have of it. It’s a gamble, and I have learned that’s a game you don’t want to play. When it comes to relationships, friendships, family, schooling, sports, etc. Do it. Fix it. Change it.