Psychology major, Ayla Ulriksen, took a few moments out of her busy schedule in Okotoks to talk with the Voice about her desire to use music to heal, and how her AU studies fit into helping to make that a reality.
Could you introduce yourself? Who are you, where do you live, and what program are you enrolled in?
I am Ayla Ulriksen, situated in beautiful Okotoks, Alberta. I am in the final year of my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology Major. I love the program and I am eager to begin a career in line with my core values of caring and nurturing, equality, love of nature, friendship, and justice.
Could you describe the path that led you to AU? What made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and what pushed you into the Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology?
I had taken a couple years after high school to pursue a music teaching path, but after reading the book This is Your Brain on Music I had a deep desire to further my education to help bring the healing benefits of music to myself and the world. I began my undergrad at Ambrose University in Calgary, completing a practicum at JB music therapy. After two years of schooling, I took a break to travel and work in the field as a family support counselor and a supportive room mate. After two years of that, I couldn’t ignore the desire to finish my degree. I knew with a son and home to care for I needed flexibility.
I enrolled at Athabasca and am so grateful I have been able to come this far as a single mother! I still am unsure where I will end up but am more certain than ever that having an undergrad will open me up to finding a path that increases my potential as a woman, mother, and human. The more I see what Athabasca University has to offer, I see the vast amounts of support and guidance needed to secure an enriching career that suits my needs and wants.
Do you have any advice for people who are on the fence about going back to school?
My advice is to be persistent and be gentle. Keep moving forward and there is no room for judgment! All progress is good progress, and doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will!
What do you do like to do when you’re not studying? Any hobbies?
I enjoy creating art, music, gardening, being in nature, making food, dancing and spending time with my family and community.
What are your plans for this education once you finish? What would be your dream career?
I dream of working with women to assist in overcoming trauma. I see music as a universal language that can tap into our deepest emotions. I appreciate a wide range of therapies and would love to integrate music therapy with counseling, sound and energy healing, and movement practices like dance and yoga. Another dream would be open a retreat center that brings all these healing practices together.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My challenges have always pushed me to find support as I grow and learn through them. None of this would have been possible without skilled guides by my side. I have had many teachers that have inspired me to keep growing, along with my mother, grandmother, and mentor.
Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like and what do you dislike?
I found it extremely challenging taking on three courses at a time. I had to adjust and find ways to stay dedicated a midst all the distractions of life, balancing working, mothering, and school. I like the flexibility and being able to work out of my home, but I also miss meeting new people and having physical contact with my Professors. The support is still out there with online schooling, but it is harder to connect without the face to face at times, as I tend to forget it is there.
Was there a point that you wavered about continuing your schooling? What caused it and what got you through it?
I had a tough time during a period where a not-so-helpful mentor talked me into leaving formal education to pursue metaphysical studies at a pseudo-science school. I have a love for the mystical, and my first School was a Christian University, so they didn’t exactly mesh. Thankfully, I am back to finish what I started, but I did lose credits and opportunities dropping out and transferring, which still gets to me at times.
Are there any AU courses that you are excited to take?
I am so glad that Athabasca University offers courses that inspire my spiritual side, such as WGST 333 (Goddess Mythology, Women’s Spirituality, and Ecofeminism) that I will be taking next September!
Is there anything that you have given up while attending AU? Was it worth it?
Living as a single parent student has meant less money and time to enjoy certain things, such as traveling, social events, and owning a home. I see this as the way it has to be for a time, to finish something important to me. Though I feel it will be worth it in the end!
How has communicating with your tutors been like?
I have found it to be acceptable, but I do miss walking into an office to have a chat with professors, counselors, etc., to talk about certain topics and assignments.
Do you find that your tutors reply to you quickly and provide enough feedback?
Overall, the tutors I have had respond fairly quickly and answer most of my questions adequately. It is the face-to-face aspect that I really miss the most.
What’s your pet peeve if you have one?
The way we take more than our planet is capable or giving. Thankfully, it seems to be a prevalent issue, with things like single-use plastic awareness picking up. There is just too much that is wasted.
Describe the proudest moment in your life.
The birth of my son. He is the first grandchild to bless my parents and grandmothers. Celebrating four generations and becoming a mother were both very profound moments for me.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
If I had to pick one, it would be to not try to do anything in my own power.
Could you elaborate on what you mean by trying not to do anything in “your own power?”
I have come to see how the Universe/God, Mother Spirit, and Christ all want to support me. I am blessed with a spiritual community that I can reach out to for inspiration and dialogue. I feel that decisions made in isolation are not as efficient, so it is important to remember to reach out! It truly does take a village and we are made for connection. There is truth that we are all connected at a physical level with the stars, planets, nature, and our breath. Life is more than what we see with our eyes. So, taking time to connect with my spiritual family has been instrumental in my life.
Have you done any travelling? Where has life taken you so far?
I find myself most at home in the forest, so I am grateful my home is near the Rocky Mountains. I have travelled through British Columbia, Europe, and Thailand as well. A trip to Mexico with my family was another wonderful travel experience!