Minds we Meet—Interviewing Alekzandrah Sparks

Alekzandrah Sparks currently lives on a farm in Vancouver Island and is enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Human Health major at Athabasca University with a goal of going to medical school and she secretly wants at least three PhD’s.  This is her story.

Can you give us a little bit of background information about yourself? Who are you? Where do you live, where do you come from?

My name is Alekzandrah Sparks and I was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  My father was in the military and as such, my family moved every 18 months to 4 years.  The last posting, I had with my family was in Manitoba, but it was too cold for me to want to stay!  I moved back to Vancouver Island and have settled onto a farm in Duncan.

What program are you in? Do you like your program?

I am currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Human Health major at Athabasca University and I really like my program!

What type of farm do you live on and what type of farming do you do?

I live on a three acre produce growing, child rearing farm!

Describe the path that led you to AU.  What was it that made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and what pushed you into the program you’ve signed up for?

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a doctor.  Unfortunately, I grew up in extreme poverty.  I went to high school in a very dangerous area of town and it did not leave me with a good feeling about school.  After I graduated, I took a few programs to further my education but nothing that was more than two years long.  I started working as a vet technician and opened my own small animal rescue.  When I met my future partner, he inspired me to go forth and get the education and dream job I’ve always wanted.  With the animal rescue, I still didn’t have any money, though,  so Athabasca appealed to me because I could take one class at a time while I continue to work full-time and keep my shelter open.

You opened a small animal rescue? Could you tell me a bit about that? What type of animals do you rescue?

While working in a vet office I noticed a terrible trend; if someone didn’t spend much money on purchasing an animal, they’re not likely to spend much money on a vet bill.  So many pets are just discarded.  Either the owners release them (sudden death), take them home to die without treatment (slow death), or euthanize them even though they are treatable.  I couldn’t take it.  I started having owners surrender these animals.  I would fix them up and re-home them! Usually it was only small “cheap” pets; hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.  I have rescued chinchillas, puppies, kittens, and even a snake.  Now, I take in mostly rabbits.  Vancouver Island has a terrible Hemorrhagic fever affecting domestic rabbits and it can be quite difficult to relocate them (the SPCA and other shelters are not accepting them).

Any advice for people who are on the fence about going back to school?

I say do it! Go back to school, make some friends, expand your knowledge, and get a great job! AU is amazing for accommodating even the fullest of schedules.

What do you do like to do when you’re not studying? Any hobbies?

When I’m not studying, I’m working, playing with my young children, farming, rescuing animals, or working out.

What are your plans for this education once you finish? What would be your dream job?

I would really like to go to medical school once I finished my undergraduate.  I have always wanted to be a doctor.

Describe your experience with online learning so far.  What do you like? Dislike? Why?

Overall AU is the best fit for me.  I can learn at my own pace which means when life gets busy school can be paused, something not available in a traditional institution.  I don’t think I have any dislikes.  I seldomly need help with my studies so independent learning really works for me.

At what point did you waver the most about continuing your schooling? What caused it and what got you through it?

Just after I started with AU (one class in to be exact), I was unsure if I could follow through with an entire degree program.  Money and time were the things that made me waver.  Money was the largest hinderance preventing me from going back to school.  It is still a contributing factor to the pace at which I do my classes but honestly, one class at a time it will get done one way or another.  As for time, if something is important you just make it work.

What’s your favorite AU course that you have taken so far, and why? Would you recommend the course to others?

Microbiology! I loved the lab component, I loved the textbook, and I loved the knowledge gained during this course.  For people I know that are scientifically minded, I would recommend this class.

Which microbiology course was it? You explain the course a bit? What did you learn?

I took Bio 325.  The course described sources of disease whether bacteria, virus, prion, etc.  The course highlighted immunology and pathogenicity.  In the lab component, I learned how to isolate and cultivate microorganisms.  It was very fulfilling.

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?

I have given up time with my kids which I think is my biggest regret.  At this point I think it’s worth it, but only time will tell.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?

Communication with my course tutors has been decent.  I don’t often have to ask questions, so I don’t think I’m a very good gauge at answering this question.  When I first started with AU, marks were back very quickly whereas now they seem to take at least 10 days.

What’s your biggest pet peeve, if you have one?

People who don’t pick up their dog poop!

Describe the proudest moment in your life.

When my daughter was born.  Throughout my pregnancy I had planned a homebirth but had been told by many people that it was dangerous and risky.  At 42 weeks she was born at home without complication or pain medication.  She was beautiful and healthy, and it just confirmed that we were both stronger than everyone thought we were.

Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people.

I love doing homework and I can’t stop.  Even after this undergraduate degree I will probably take another degree and then another and another.  I secretly want to have at least three PhD‘s.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?

To love your life.  Cherish every minute you have because you never know when I love when will leave you for their next life.  You can’t get that time back.

Have you traveled? Where has life taken you so far?

I have travelled a bit, but I don’t really enjoy it.  I think it’s because I moved so much as a child.  I’ve been to Europe and the United States.

Out of the places you have been to, which was your favorite and why?

Of the places I’ve been to so far, home is my favourite because I’m surrounded by love.

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?

Bahaha! Read for leisure, you’re so funny! Currently I am reading a collection of fancy Nancy stories to my children.  It’s about a little girl who likes to dress fancy.  If you have small kids, I recommend it, it’s pretty cute