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 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 Melanie Dubitz (she/her), currently residing in Edmonton, Alberta. Born and raised in the city, the 28-year old AU student is “just about finished the Bachelor of Science Majoring in Human Science Post-Diploma Program.” She mentioned, “I received my Physical and Occupational Therapy Assistant diploma in 2015 and have worked as an Occupational Therapy Assistant ever since. In 2019, I made the decision to finish my degree with the goal of applying for my Masters in Occupational Therapy. AU was perfect because it offered a post-diploma program that I was actually interested in, and I was very happy to be able to use some credits from my diploma toward my degree so that I was not beginning a 4-year undergrad from scratch. I have recently submitted my application for my Masters in Occupational Therapy for the fall of 2022.”
When she is not studying, Melanie “really enjoy[s] trying new restaurants and cocktail bars in Edmonton and hanging out with friends.” She continued, “I love going to concerts and festivals; I am very excited that the Edmonton Folk Music Festival will be back this year. I also like going to my CrossFit gym, I have a great community there and it has provided the best stress relief while I have been a student and working nearly full time. Otherwise, I of course love a good binge-worthy Netflix show.”
When asked if she is reading and/or watching anything right now, Melanie stated, “I’ll be honest I have not recreationally read a book in a very long time; I have truly been too busy with textbooks that I have no desire to continue reading after I am finished reading. This is something I look forward to getting back into when I am done school. I recently binged up to season 6 of Peaky Blinders and next on my list is Euphoria. I will probably treat myself to a Euphoria weekend when I am finished my last courses.”
When asked who in her life has had the greatest influence on her desire to learn, Melanie chose “the amazing Occupational Therapists that [she has] had the pleasure of working with over the last seven years,” explaining that “they inspired me to go back to school so that I too could become and OT.”
Overall, she has “had a great experience learning online.” She stated, “I like the flexibility and that I was still able to work while completing my education. I also like that you can pace it how you want; I have completed courses at what felt like mach speed when I needed to. Being able to begin semesters at any point in the year and schedule (or reschedule) exams for when it works best for you has also been great. I won’t say it has been easy by any means, it has taken a lot of discipline, time management, and self-initiation, I can see where online learning may not be for everyone.”
Like many AU students, Melanie mentioned that there was a moment that she wavered about continuing her schooling. “When I had to teach myself calculus and statistics after not taking a math course since high school. A tear or two was shed, I’ll admit. I have just never been a math wiz and having to teach it to myself through a textbook was no joke. I am sure there are others that found it a breeze but not me, many YouTube videos were watched at that time. The classes were mandatory for my degree so if I didn’t complete them at the time, I would have just had to do them later anyways. I guess my drive to finish my degree surpassed my fiery hatred for calculus and stats.”
When asked about her most memorable AU courses so far, Melanie admitted, “I am not sure that I have a memorable one in particular, but I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the nutrition courses I took. It is nice to take courses that you are not only thoroughly interested in learning but that have direct applicability to your life. I definitely feel as though I found a mini passion for nutrition after taking 3 nutrition courses at AU.”
As for communications with her tutors? “Overall, I had good experiences with most of the tutors I had. I was able to receive responses within a business day or two, sometimes even on weekends and I never had any concerns with responses or getting marks back on time, although I have heard that others may not have been as lucky. I used other resources fairly often, such as Google and YouTube, so I rarely found myself reaching out for questions or concerns or course material explanations. Not to say tutors were not available for that, I just seemed to figure things out and learn on my own, that’s what worked well for me.”
If she were the new president of AU, Melanie would focus on tuition, explaining, Unfortunately, the increase in tuition has been a burden that students are consistently having to carry and worry about. Even comparing course prices from 2019 when I started to now, there has been a drastic increase. This would definitely be an area I would want to focus on if I were president of AU.”
When asked which famous person, past or present, she would like to have lunch with, and why, Melanie chose “Gordon Ramsay or some other famous chef.” “Maybe they can convince me that cooking is in fact enjoyable,” she stated. And the lunch? “Anything that I did not have to cook would be good. A really good burger, one that is up to Gordon Ramsay’s standards, would probably be great.”
Melanie’s most valuable lesson learned in life has been: “That if you want something bad enough and are willing to put in the work for it that you can achieve a lot more than you may think. I am less than two months away from completing 26 classes over 8 consecutive semesters while working 31-40 hours per week. I do believe that if I can do it others can too. We are much stronger and more resilient than we often give ourselves credit for.”
The one thing that distinguishes her from other is that she has “had the pleasure of working on Edmonton’s Firefighter Burn Treatment Unit for almost six years.”
And her proudest moment? “I cannot think of a proudest moment so far. I feel as though when I am finally finished my degree and if/when I am accepted into OT that will probably feel amazing. I will be very proud of myself and the hard work I have put in at that point.” Best of luck Melanie!