The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Blythe Appleby, a University Certificate in Heritage Resources Management student living in Nova Scotia. Blythe will be graduating in December (congratulations!) and plans to enroll in the Bachelor of Arts in History, with a goal of spring of 2024 for her convocation. She stated, “Working on two programs simultaneously over 4 years (this is my 4th now) has been hard, but definitely worth it to get done quickly! Once I graduate, I’m going to be working in the Heritage field. I am currently an Interpreter at a living history museum, and after graduation I’ll be expanding my roles there to include Costume Assistant and Assistant Curator.”
This busy student had some great study tips for fellow students. “I like to study quickly; I work on courses within normal university semesters, getting them done within three months. I study best without any distractions, especially people, except maybe a little music; A-Ha, Doris Day, and Gregorian chants have all found their way into my eclectic music selection! I can get distracted by the internet, but I discipline myself by setting a timer to make myself work for, say, 45 minutes, then relax for 15. It really works, especially during COVID when I was writing take-home exams!”
She also had some advice for new students and/or prospective students. “This might seem against everything you’ve been told, but it’s worthwhile to study a subject that will give you a good chance at a job when you graduate. A practical skill or certificate is worth a million, especially if experience or a practicum is involved with the schoolwork. Finding a job after graduation is something that I didn’t realize would be so hard, and many people I know are in this situation.”
Blythe enjoys sewing historic costumes in her spare time. “I have completed 18th century and Regency outfits and am itching to start on Victorian. I love reenactment and historic interpretation, and I have worked at a wide variety of historic sites while in university.” She also enjoys reading, and is “never without a book; C.S. Lewis, Georgette Heyer, Charles Dickens, and Patrick O’Brian. She chose author J.R.R. Tolkien as the author who has had the greatest impact on her life, including his novels, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. “These books are a part of my childhood, and I continue to find more meaning in them as I grow older. They helped to inspire my love of English and Medieval history, and of writing.”
She continued, “I also love writing, especially fiction; in 2021, I won 2nd place in The Voice’s Fiction Contest!”
She credits her parents and sister as having the greatest influence on her desire to learn. “I was homeschooled, and my parents always fueled my desire to learn; my sister as well, since from an early age I have always been trying to keep up with her!”
As for her experience with online learning so far? “I enjoy that I can remain at home, although I also wish that there were more internship opportunities for students in all fields, including Bachelor of Arts! I like learning at my own pace as well since I can go quickly. What I dislike the most is the current trend toward e-texts. I find it very difficult to concentrate while reading on a screen, and taking notes from one is brutal. More print textbook options, please! Another problem with online learning is that there aren’t as many options to meet fellow students face-to-face as there are in brick-and-mortar universities,” she explained.
Blythe’s favourite courses so far have been HIST 216: Europe, 1618-1939: From the Thirty Years’ War to the Age of Dictators and HIST 383: The Vikings. “I had wonderful tutors for these courses,” she mentioned. While these are favourites, she chose ANTH 272: Introduction to Archaeology as her most memorable course, explaining, “The course was demanding but helped me improve in my work, particularly thanks to Dr. Laurie Milne, my tutor for this course, who was just wonderful, and by far the tutor who had the most impact on me and my studies. The assignments for the course were demanding, but really helped me prepare for the exams and future courses.”
She finds that communication with her course tutors “really depends on the tutor.” She continued, “Because so much communication depends on emails, some tutors take much longer than others to reply; I’ve waited anywhere between minutes to weeks! I would appreciate more encouragement to speak via telephone, and longer tutor hours, since it’s harder to have miscommunication and long wait times over a phone.”
The Voice Magazine also asked Blythe what her first project would be if she were the new president of AU. She stated, “I would focus on giving students the option between online/e-textbooks and print textbooks when they enroll in courses. I’ve seen this topic being brought up by AUSU candidates during elections, and yet more print text options are taken away. Some students have little online access, and others, like me, find using an e-text very difficult for concentration. I would make the courses easier for rural students to access, which was the original reason for an open university. Courses should be able to be taken without having high-speed, unlimited data.”
We also asked which one famous person, past or present, she would like to have lunch with, and why, and she chose “Prince Phillip, the late Duke of Edinburgh.” She mentioned, “He was such a charming and witty person, and I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to comment on my dress and choice of food! I’d love to get his opinions on a wide variety of topics. We would have a barbecue, and I would serve him beer.” However, Blythe had a more comprehensive answer if the question were to be expanded slightly. “If it could be a collection of people, I would choose a variety of historians and fellow history buffs, such as Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, Alex Langlands, Sir Tony Robinson, Ronald Hutton, and Neil Oliver. It would be exciting to get together with these fellow fanatics and talk about history! We would have a buffet of historic dishes, from Medieval fish and Tudor pies to 18th-century fried chicken and Ratafia Cakes. After lunch we could work on an archaeological excavation on my lawn, which has a lot of historic junk in it.”
Blythe’s most valuable lesson, one which she is “still learning every day, is to trust God with everything.” She continued, “When I find myself worrying about an assignment or some other problem, I need to just stop worrying and trust Him. It’s hard, but it does make things easier to bear!”
As for her proudest moment? “I don’t think there has been a single proudest moment, but it might be when during an interview I was offered a job I really wanted, after having been told by the interviewing panel that they had been trying to hire me for years! Sometimes it really pays off to wait a while for something, and I was lucky in that it was a job in my field that I really have fun doing.”
As a final note, Blythe let us know, “Although I love history and education, the things I love are really just at home. Taking care of a household is my dream!” Best of luck Blythe!
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!