The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Olivia Shepherd, a 22-year-old student from Calgary, Alberta. Olivia stated, “In the spirit of reconciliation, I acknowledge that the land in which I reside is the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Stoney Nakoda Nations, the Metis Nation (Region 3) and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region.”
Currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a minor in Philosophy, program, Olivia explained, “I did a brief stint in a BSc majoring in Biology (don’t ask me why, I’m not even good at science). I’m planning to write my LSAT in 2023 and attend law school once I complete my undergrad, and I’m torn between specializing in criminal law or international humanitarian (thankfully I have some time to think on this).”
Outside of AU, Olivia currently works for Results Canada, a non-profit organization, where she advocates “alongside an amazing group of people to see a world without poverty.” She has spent the majority of her life in a small town north of Edmonton, spending some time in Edmonton “before moving to Calgary in the summer of 2021.”
Olivia had some study advice for AU students. “I best study alone and in silence, but I do enjoy listening to some lo-fi beats every now and then. Every so often I’ll head to a library or coffee shop—seeing other people working helps motivate me to stay on task! Although a distance education university that follows the asynchronous format, I like to designate specific times to study and specific dates to hand in assignments. Before the start of the semester, I’ll look over the syllabus for each class and write down the dates in my calendar to complete assignments, quizzes, etc. I find this keeps me accountable so that I don’t fall behind. I personally enjoy handwriting all my notes as I find I retain information better this way, but I do create a mass document for each class that has keywords, names, and brief notes for review. Quizlet is my best friend; my hand would cramp writing out hundreds of flashcards, but they also have games (such as matching) and the website will create tests with the flashcards which I find way more productive than skimming over what you wrote. (Plus, you can almost always find already made flashcards to save some time). My biggest tip is to create a space for yourself specifically for studying. A nice desk setup goes further than you’d think. I also really try to avoid doing anything school related in bed.”
As for advice for new students? “If you’re on Facebook, join as many Athabasca University groups as you can! There are broad groups and ones that are specific to a class. You’ll find some incredibly helpful tips in these groups, and you can connect with fellow students who I’ve found are more than willing to create small study groups, share notes when applicable, and even proofread your essays before you submit them!”
When she is not busy studying, Olivia enjoys a variety of activities, including “going to the gym to throw some heavy weights around, attempting to cross off a book on my never-ending ‘To Read’ list, hanging out with friends, or lying in bed to watch hours of a TV show.” She continued, “Every so often I’ll head to the mountains or travel back home to see my family and my two border collies, Kobi and Dexter, who live with my parents.”
Olivia also finds time to read, sharing a recent read that has impacted her life with The Voice Magazine, namely The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. “My favourite quote from the book is, ‘We only need to be one person. We only need to feel one existence. We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive, we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.’ The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and this book made me realize that.”
Olivia chose her parents as having the greatest influence on her desire to learn. She stated, “My mom was a great ‘first’ teacher before I started school. She sparked my love to read, so much so that I looked forward to losing a tooth because the ‘tooth fairy’ brought me books instead of money. As for my dad, we love to debate everything, and naturally, I want to have a better, more researched argument against him. He inspires me to look at everything from both sides.”
Her experience with online learning has been positive thus far. “I personally love online learning. I’m not a huge fan of large spaces and tons of people (i.e. A lecture hall at a typical university) and I’m quite content with teaching myself. I can spend less time on certain topics, and more on topics I find difficult or am interested in. It also gives me the ability to have some leniency in my schedule for work, or if I wake up one morning not feeling well, I don’t need to stress about what I missed in class that day. Sometimes I do wish for more of the conversational aspect and being able to discuss or debate certain topics with students or professors.”
She chose SOCI 305: Sociology and Crime as her most memorable course, stating, “I love true crime podcasts and documentaries, so it was awesome to gain deeper knowledge in the educational sense of crime. I was watching Mindhunter over the summer and remember a character talking about Durkheim’s Labeling Theory and thought, ‘Hey, I know that!’ My course tutor, Gordon Drever, also made this course that much better.”
As for communications with course tutors? “So far, so good! I tend to only reach out if I have a question about an assignment or need clarification on a topic that even Google is struggling to answer. I’ve found some tutors to take their time in answering (they’re busy people), and I’ve had some who I swear had an inkling that I was emailing them before I even sent it because they’d answer within minutes. I have yet to utilize the office hours in which you can phone them, but it’s great to know that’s an option.”
When asked which famous person, past or present, she would like to have lunch with, and why, Olivia chose “Emma Chamberlain, though she’s not famous in the traditional sense (she’s a YouTube creator and has a podcast).” She continued, “I’d love to discuss some of the things she talks about on her podcast in more depth, hear her travel tips, and I get the sense she’d be down to people-watch and make up personalities and life stories for people passing by. As for lunch, tacos and margaritas! (I’ll let her pick where and cross my fingers she’d pay).”
Olivia also let The Voice Magazine know about her most memorable vacation, which happened to be two trips! “The first was a road trip through North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana with my family when I was 12 or 13. We visited all the National Parks along the way such as Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Yellowstone, and more where they had a ‘Junior Ranger’ program. Explore the park, fill out the booklet the rangers provide, and receive a badge in the end. I still have them all ten years later! My second trip was also a road trip, through Idaho and Washington. It was my first ‘solo’ trip so no parents telling me where to go (woohoo!). I went to amusement parks, explored museums, drank a ton of coffee in Seattle, and saw my first whale on a harbour cruise. I love sea otters and got to experience the ‘behind the scenes’ of the otters at the Seattle Aquarium while I was there.”
As for her most valuable lesson learned in life? “My most valuable lesson learned is to go with the flow. Much of life is unpredictable and ultimately out of our control. Things will go wrong, but life has a funny way of working itself out.” And her proudest moment in life? “I’m proud of where I am in life in general. Struggling with depression for a long time, I didn’t think I would be here—living on my own, a university student, pursuing my interests and dreams. I’m proud of the things I’ve overcome and what I’ve learned along the way.” Best of luck Olivia!
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!