Jason Appleby currently lives in Toronto, Ontario with his wife and two kids, and he is in his third year of the Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting program at Athabasca University. Jason has travelled to all 56 countries within Europe and provides some advice for other parents trying to get through university with little ones running around. This is his story.
Can you provide us a little bit of background information about yourself?
My name is Jason Appleby. I grew up in Toronto and I have also lived in Chicago, San Diego, and Las Vegas before settling back in Toronto with my new wife in 2016.
What program are you enrolled in?
I’m currently in my third year of an accounting degree and I love it. Commerce and Accounting is something that I should have pursued years ago but I had always seen myself in a creative field and never considered it. I had originally pursued a film degree at Carleton University back in 1999 and it had very little application to various jobs I’ve had over the years. Mostly computer work.
Could you 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 accounting program?
Upon the birth of my first son last May I decided that I needed an educational base and career path that offered more stability and security, and I was not satisfied with the options that my experience and education then made available to me. I knew a business degree was the direction I wanted to go, and accounting seemed the most practical to me with the widest breadth of applications. I was still hesitant, and my wife was really hesitant, about me starting a four-year degree at age 41 and limiting my income until it was complete. However, with help from family with the baby, I was able to get through many of my courses relatively quickly and successfully. I recommend to everyone to constantly continue their education. The flexibility that Athabasca University offers was key to my doing so successfully.
Any advice for people who are on the fence about going back to school?
I highly encourage anyone to start out small, just a course or two to get used to it and then set your goals high!
What do you do like to do when you’re not studying? Any hobbies?
We had a second baby this past August, so between a full course load and the two kids, hobbies are mostly a thing of the past for now. However, I try to squeeze in a little bit of time for music, I used to play bass in a Toronto band and like to drum as well, target shooting, motorcycling, home reno projects, and running with the jogging stroller.
What are your plans for this education once you finish? What would be your dream job?
My wife would like to know as well! My dream job is one that affords me the flexibility to spend time with my family, work from home some of the time, and stability into retirement. At this stage in life, I’m not excited about climbing a corporate ladder, but I am excited about applying what I have learned, working hard, and adding value to people’s lives.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
I’ve always had difficulty with essays. I find writing is easy enough but the lack of motivation to do it always slows me down. I find it helpful to think about the late Stephen Hawking; if he could blink multiple books, I have absolutely no excuses for not finishing 1800 words.
Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like? Dislike?
I love it. The biggest difficulty I have found is lack of recorded lectures, which would help me to understand which material is most important and more thoroughly explain it. However, being able to take exams from home has been an enormous help and having all the learning materials a couple taps away on my iPad has been great! That said, I may be old-school, but I still usually track down hard copies of most of my textbooks because I find them easier to read and retain that way.
At what point did you waver the most about continuing your schooling? What caused it and what got you through it?
When the second baby came, it really slowed me down. I expected it to be maybe 30 or 40% more work, but it ended up being about 200! I really felt like I needed at least a couple months off for the family routine to stabilize before continuing. Around this time, I received a wholly unexpected letter from Athabasca telling me that I’d been awarded an Outstanding Achievement Scholarship! I was totally surprised and honoured! It really helped to refocus me and remind me that all my work has been paying off. I really want to express my enormous appreciation and thanks to everyone at Athabasca for that honour!
Any advice you can give to other parents trying to study with kids? Tips and tricks?
The key is to divide all your activities into things you can do when the kids are awake and things you can do when the kids are asleep and never waste time when they are asleep doing something that you could be doing when they are awake. Do not stress yourself trying to study when they are around, just let it go and wait until you have quiet. Give them your undistracted attention and you will both be happier.
What’s your favorite AU course that you have taken so far, and why?
Fortuitously, I really enjoyed my first introduction to accounting course, ACCT 253 (Introductory Financial Accounting)! I did not know much about accounting processes going into the course and was still concerned it wouldn’t be for me, but the somewhat oddball enjoyment I had doing the course reconfirmed that I was on the right path. I also really enjoyed Business Law but, man, that was a lot of essays.
How do you find communications with your course tutors?
I find it a little difficult. Usually because the pace that I’m trying to do a course or the schedule when I’m able to do an assignment doesn’t allow me for me to wait for a response. Occasionally I’ve been frustrated by the vague responses I have gotten, though I understand they must be careful not to give answers away. Generally, I find the student Facebook groups more useful when I need time-sensitive clarifications. The community has been great and there are times I would have been really stuck without them. One example was just a silly problem I was having installing tax software late on a Sunday night, but I had been going in circles for hours when some other students stepped up to help.
What’s your pet peeve if you have one?
Diapers that overflow.
What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
Henry Kissinger. I’ve found his books fascinating and I’ve always had an interest in history and geopolitics. Another career for another lifetime perhaps. Or to spend a couple hours with Micheal Jackson or Sam Kinison. Or Walt Disney; maybe just a big weird dinner party.
Could you describe the proudest moment in your life?
Introducing baby Ethan to baby Zack.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
Whatever circumstances you are handed in life, you are entirely responsible for your own emotions, your own actions, and your own success.
Have you traveled? Where has life taken you so far?
I had the chance to travel quite bit when I was working remotely over the years. Here’s some trivia about me; I’ve been to all 56 countries in Europe. I really like cities with a lot of history, a picturesque old town, and great food.
What type of job did you have that allowed you to travel so frequently?
I was doing computer work for a couple companies remotely, so I took the opportunity to throw my stuff in storage and just go from place to place, my only restriction was a solid internet connection. I loved every day of it. I loved living out of a backpack, learning about the world, and especially the people I’d meet. You might just spend a couple days with them, but they still feel like old friends.
Out of the places you have been to, which were your favorites?
Three of my favourites are Sarajevo, Jerusalem, and Tallinn.