The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Lara Curry (she/her), a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting student from Calgary, Alberta. She explained, “Math has always come easily for me, so accounting was a pretty natural path. I have worked in accounting for the last 15 years, off and on, mainly in accounts payable roles. I received my accounting certificate 11 years ago via distance learning from SAIT.” Lara plans to obtain her CPA upon graduation and will “use this education to continue to work as a self-employed contactor providing accounting services to small to mid-size companies.” On a personal note, Lara is “a born and raised Albertan,” originally from Medicine Hat before moving to Calgary at a young age.
She had some great study tips to share with fellow AU students. “First, I make sure to set my study schedule laying out what exactly I need to get done for each class every week at the beginning at the semester. I work full time while studying a full-time course load, so having a schedule and checking in constantly to ensure I am on track is vital. At the beginning of each week, I will write down what units/assignment/tests that I need to get done that week. Checking off each unit, assignment, and test as I complete them is really motivating! My job is quite flexible in that I work from home and set my own hours, so I find that my best times to study is for a couple of hours right after lunch and then for a couple of hours in the evening. I also find it important to have a study space that helps keep me focused and, if I need to, I will put my phone on do not disturb to avoid distractions while studying.”
She also shared some advice for new students and prospective students. “Each course has a suggested study schedule, take that and copy it into a spreadsheet and then adjust the dates/weeks to suit your personal schedule. Look ahead and take into consideration if there are any weeks where you don’t think you’ll get as much study in and account for that when setting up your study schedule. Print out the schedule and check off the weeks as you go. I found that this has not only kept me motivated, but also on track. I also like to set my study schedule to give me a couple of weeks of leeway at the end of the semester, just in case.”
When she is not studying, Lara enjoys riding her Peloton indoor spin bicycle, “as well as doing the strength, stretching, and yoga classes on the Peloton app.” She explained, “I have a group of Peloton friends that I’ve connected with online, and we complete riding challenges together, so not only does that keep me motivated to exercise but it also makes it fun! I find that prioritizing exercise 5-6 times a week really helps burn off the stress of school and provides me some very valuable ‘me time’ that I wouldn’t otherwise prioritize for myself! This year I’ve also taken up the hobby of painting and I love it! Time sure flies when I paint! I also love going to concerts whenever a band I like is in town!”
She also enjoys reading, sharing a particular book that has made an impact on her life, namely Gabby Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back. “I have read that book a few times now and it always provides me so much comfort in times of uncertainty,” she stated.
Lara also let us know about her most memorable vacation, which was a road trip with her mother to New Orleans in the summer of 2017. “It was so much fun, we laughed a lot, and it was really interesting to see how much the landscape changes between here and there! On the way back we came up through Albuquerque, New Mexico and checked out a lot of the locations from the show Breaking Bad. They had a Breaking Bad themed store there that even sold blue rock candy (IYKYK). The total trip was about two weeks long and it was so much fun!”
Lara credits her husband Del with having had the greatest influence on her desire to learn. “He’s always encouraged me to do schooling and he’s a lifelong learner himself, so I guess that rubbed off on me as well. Way back in 2008 he was the one who really encouraged me to go to school for accounting. He then was the one that pushed me to actually finish my accounting certificate when I wanted to just forget about it, and he has continued to encourage me to learn. He’s the reason I am working on my degree with AU currently!”
Her experience with online learning has been generally positive. “I like that I can go at my own pace. I tend to work quickly, and I am a pretty fast learner so it is nice to be able to move through courses at my own pace. The only thing that I dislike is that it would be nice to be able to connect with those who are doing the same courses as me as the same time,” she explained.
Her most memorable AU course so far has been CRJS 360: The Psychology of Criminal Behaviour. “I have always been fascinated by the psychology of criminals and so I found that one really interesting,” she stated.
As for communication with her AU course tutors? “I have not needed much help from my course tutors thus far, but anytime I have reached out I’ve gotten pretty quick and helpful responses which has been nice! I had one tutor who sent an introduction email and provided extra materials and guidance without me even asking for it, which was really awesome!”
When asked what her first project would be if she were the new president of AU, Lara “would try to figure out a way for the learning environment to be a bit more interactive.” She continued, “It’d be nice if you could see who is online studying your courses at the same time as you, with live study groups via Zoom, etc. Also, I would get every single course set up with an easy to follow intro video that walks you through exactly how to navigate and get the most out of the class, including what to focus on as you go through the work, things like learning objectives, exercises, assignments, what to make sure to study for the exam, etc.”
The Voice Magazine also asked which famous person, past or present, she would like to have lunch with, and why, and Lara chose Joel Madden from the band Good Charlotte. “They have been my most favourite band since I was a teenager and their music has helped me through a lot in my life! Joel has always been my fave, bonus points if he could bring his wife Nicole Richie with him too cuz she’s hilarious! Lunch would be something super casual, at a bistro or something!”
Her most valuable lesson learned in life has been: “That no matter how close you are to someone, you may never fully know what they are actually going through – so just be kind!” And her proudest moment? “The day that my daughter was born is definitely one of my proudest, and she has kept making me proud since that day as well. She’s almost 13 and I am so proud of the wonderful person she is blossoming into!” Best of luck Lara!
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!