Who are your fellow students? At times, in an online learning environment, it can feel like you are all alone, but across the nation and around the globe, students just like you are also pursuing their Athabasca University (AU) studies! Each week, The Voice Magazine will be bringing you some of these stories. If you would like to be featured next, do not hesitate to get in touch!
The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Wendy Meguinis (she/her), currently residing in TsuuT’ina Nation, Alberta.
Wendy is currently enrolled in the second year of the Bachelor of General Studies – Applied Studies program here at AU. Prior to her time at AU, Wendy worked most of her life and did not have “an opportunity to study,” however; she “started with small goals.” She explained, “My first goal was to complete a University Certificate in Public Administration, which I graduated from in August 2020. My next goal was to move onto a diploma but with some encouragement I am now in my 2nd year of the Bachelor of General Studies – Applied Studies degree program.”
Her “future goal is the Bachelor of Commerce,” but, as she explained, “[W]e will see where I go and how I get there first. Small, attainable goals first. Having an education fits in with anybody and anywhere they go; it is a useful tool and with it, I will always give back to my community and ensure there is a future for our youth.”
Describing herself as “a 43-year-old First Nations Woman,” Wendy stated that she works and studies full time. She continued, “I am married and we are parents of two beautiful daughters and grandparents to one energetic grandson. TsuuT’ina Nation is where I am from and where I reside.”
When she is not studying, Wendy loves “to golf, play pool, binge watch Netflix or movies.” She continued, “I like to be the passenger in a vehicle while my husband aimlessly drives around the city. I love to play with my grandson and have hangout time with my family.” Although like many AU leaners juggling full-time work and school Wendy does not have much time to read non-school related books, she has recently read Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly. She has also begun reading Bears Falling from Trees, On the Wings of Success, and is looking forward to reading, Firekeeper’s Daughter. “One day soon when I get through all these courses I can get to it.”
When asked who in her life had the greatest influence on her desire to learn, Wendy stated, “Honestly myself, I always wanted to study, I always wanted to receive my education.” She continued, “When I was a little girl, I used to carry a phone book around and pretend I was walking the halls of a school; unfortunately, I never had the chance to. It was always my goal, and I knew one day if I fought and pushed hard enough that I would get the opportunity.”
As for her experience with online leaning, she described it as “a lonely world,” adding that “[I]t would be nice to have some peers and study together and walk the school hallways, but sometimes that’s just a want.” She elaborated, “When I first started online, it was great, you have your own study schedule, you can do it anywhere at anytime you want to. But when you start to get bogged down and start to feel alone it gets a little tough. This is where you have to remember your goals and give yourself that extra push to keep going. Also have to remember that this free schedule is an advantage and that I should not take it for granted.”
Like many students, Wendy related that there was a certain point when she wavered about continuing her schooling. She explained, “After I completed my certificate, it was weird not having any courses, so I jumped back into more courses. Then I realized I might have needed a break. I haven’t had a break from courses since May 2018, and it took me a long time to snap back into it. I found myself putting off my courses and getting intimidated by the assignments and course loads. I pushed some courses to the brink, and then I just said ‘That’s enough.’ and I sat down and dove into them. I am not getting my education for anyone else, I am not getting it because I have to or that it is a requirement for something. I am just doing it for my own self and that is what gives me the greatest push is when I remember that.”
There have been highlights in the educational journey as well, including INST 203: Indigenous Studies I. She explained, “Being First Nations and learning about First Nations was a shock to me. It was weird reading about my life, all the things I lived through and experienced were in a book and it was teaching me the reasoning of why I lived that way. It gave me so much insight into my grandmother and mother’s life and managed to work me through many feelings and many realizations. I can’t wait for my next INST course.”
When asked about her communication with tutors, Wendy has not had much to date, stating, “I just try my best to get through my courses on my own.”
If she were the new President of AU, Wendy joked that she would “make it easier to pass all the courses.” “(Just kidding.”) She continued, “If it was easy, everyone would do it. A project I would create is to have the instructors/tutors or writers of the books do an introduction videos or course topic videos. Just so it feels like a school environment and that we have a visual of the staff behind AU. And because sometimes we just need that visual explanation.”
As for pet peeves? “I’m always scared that I am missing important information somewhere in the AU portals that I need for my course. I couldn’t find a study program recently and I was looking everywhere, after some digging I realized it was down. So yeah, my pet peeve is not finding what I think I need.”
When asked which famous person, past or present, that she would like to have lunch with and why, Wendy chose George Strait, “because, you know, he’s George Strait.” She would also “like to have lunch with a famous writer and get the code for keeping your brain on topic and learning how to organize all your words and thoughts.” And the lunch? “A medium well done 6oz steak with mushrooms and shrimp, served with loaded mashed potatoes and asparagus.”
The most valuable lesson that Wendy has learned in life has been self-care. She explained, “You need to be healthy and live peacefully in this lifetime. Make your life happy and create happy comfortable spaces for yourself that you can dwell into and be at peace. Be active and do the things you want to do. If I could tell my 20-year-old self that.”
As for the proudest moment in her life? “Proudest moments in life are watching my children do things that are great. I could go on and on about the great things my oldest daughter has accomplished in her life so far. Seeing my youngest daughter excited and happy about school this year is the highlight of 2021 for sure. Watching my grandson learn to skate and play hockey. The proudest moment of my life so far was receiving my University Certificate. Due to COVID, I couldn’t celebrate with anyone or go to a graduation so that is something I will never be able to describe, just the pride and happiness in my own self is what I hold onto. I always knew I could do it and now I await my next graduation.”
And the one thing that distinguishes her from other people? “Wow where do I begin? From doing this interview I have learned that I am not able to brag about myself or give myself too much credit. I like to share credit with my peers and hype them up or write about other people and not myself.” She mentioned that this was particularly evident in the questions about her proudest moment, where she went on at length her daughter’s accomplishments! She continued, “I also am a very empathetic person and I have to distance myself from anything that brings heartbreak or anger.”
On a final note, Wendy related that she wishes that she had “been introduced to AU when [she] was younger.” She explained, “I feel if I had that opportunity, I would be a lot farther into my goals. But I am ever so glad to have found AU, and I am ever so thankful that I get to receive my education and play out my goals. If you’re reading this and you are not in school, then get to school. And if you’re in school and struggle sometimes, then know you are not alone, and we can do it.” Best of luck Wendy!