There aren’t any universities in the remote Labrador town of Wabush. In fact, the closest English-language universities in Quebec are a 16-hour drive away.
So when Nicole King, who was working as a nurse, wanted to pursue a master’s degree there weren’t a lot of options for her. It was either move away or pursue a degree online.
She chose the latter and celebrated the fruits of her labour June 7 at Athabasca University’s Convocation where she was awarded a Master of Nursing degree.
Athabasca University’s (AU) flexibility and varied curriculum was a major factor in her decision to enroll with AU rather than the other online programs that were available to her.
“With the flexibility, you didn’t have to follow a set curriculum,” King said. “There was one course at the beginning and another at the end, but other than that you have so much flexibility in when you do your courses, and in what courses you can take.”
The flexibility she found at AU also turned out to be a blessing when her mother died suddenly—a traumatic experience regardless of one’s circumstances—and she was unable to focus on her studies for close to a year.
“With Athabasca I was able to take two semesters off and it wasn’t anything I had to stress about at all. I started right where I left off when I was ready to go back to school,” she said.
King also found there were other points during her program where she began to feel overwhelmed by the workload, but despite being an online school she found that the sense of community between her and her classmates was strong.
When she got to that point in a course, she would join in online discussions with fellow students who were having the same kinds of experiences, and there she found a mutually supportive environment where they encouraged each other to keep going.
“You wouldn’t think you’d form that kind of bond with them or have conversations that aren’t school related,” she said. “But everybody would be supporting each other or discussing problems. It was good.”
Having all that support, and pushing through to finish her degree, has already paid off for King. Before she had even crossed the Convocation stage, she had accepted a job offer. Now living in southeastern British Columbia, she will be doing exactly what she hoped to do once she finished her degree: teaching nursing students in a bachelor program.
“This is a true example of how all the hard work for the past five years through all the obstacles and thanks to the flexibility of AU, has all been worth it,” she said. “I’ve been given my dream job before even being handed my diploma.”