Transforming Lives: Learners at AU is a testimonial series written by AU students and alumni who want to acknowledge how AU has helped shape their lives.
It’s a space for those who want to thank the people who have helped to support and transform their lives through Athabasca University; all while looking forward to their future educational and personal potential.
Their stories are worth shouting from the rooftops! Have an inspiring story of your own to share? Email us! We’d love to hear it.
When I reflect back on the past 11 years I’ve been taking courses at Athabasca University (AU) I’m met with so many emotions, but pride and gratitude are at the forefront.
I started with AU by registering into the Bachelor of Commerce program when I was just about done my maternity leave in 2010. At the time I was a single mom of twin boys and was working full time. While I loved my job as an early childhood educator, I knew it wasn’t something I could see myself doing forever. Instead of waiting out my boys’ younger years, I thought I would get a head-start on my education. However, life threw me a curveball and I met my husband when my boys were three—within two years we married and were expecting our daughter. I knew then that my educational pursuits had to change, not just because of time concerns, but also because I realized my true passion was in the field of education.
A full-force re-entry
I paused my education with AU in order to pursue a few other courses that were meaningful to me and then returned full-force to AU with a switch to a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with plans to pursue a Bachelor of Education upon completion. I continued to work through the courses one at a time, funding them myself by continuing to work not only a full-time job but also a part-time job. My husband began working a more consistent schedule when our daughter was four, which meant he worked (and still continues to work) out-of-town half of every month. Our kids have always been heavily involved in extra curricular activities, and most evenings have us running from one rink to another, or to a pool, or to a gymnastics facility. With the flexibility of AU, I was able to continue to chip away at my degree by completing a course every three months.
A trying time
Life hit me hard in September of 2018 when my doctor found a lump on my thyroid. After six months of tests and biopsies and many moments of despair it was confirmed that I had thyroid cancer. I continued with my studies, increasing to two to three courses every four to six months, as I knew I might need yet again to pause my studies. We decided in April of 2019 that I needed to take a step back from the most stressful events. For me that meant quitting my full-time job, reducing my client list for my part-time job, yet still pursuing my education. In the meantime, I applied to our local school board to work as an educational assistant for that school year. I was elated when I was hired on. In November 2019 I underwent surgery to remove half of my thyroid to remove the cancer. I wrapped up a course in September and decided to wait until after surgery to see how recovery was for me. The surgery was successful and I returned to my studies in December of 2019. It was around that time that I heard of the option to add an Inclusive Education minor to my degree program, I did so happily as my future career will be in the field of education.
“I’m proud that I can show my kids that no matter how life hits you, when you find your purpose and when you have a goal, there is always a way to achieve it.”– Megan Maksym
A successful recovery
I am now almost one-and-a-half years cancer free, and am doing great health-wise. I have fewer than ten courses left to complete my degree at AU and am still working full-time as an executive assistant (EA). My intention is to be done my degree by January of 2022; however, I know that I will be returning to AU to pursue even more educational goals at some point in my future. I am so proud of how far I’ve come through all the life hurdles I’ve faced. I’m so grateful to have been doing my degree through a university that afforded me the flexibility to pause when I needed to, and to resume at odd months when it was convenient for me. I’m proud that I can show my kids that no matter how life hits you, when you find your purpose and when you have a goal, there is always a way to achieve it. For me, this was made possible by AU, the staff, and professors I’ve connected with that have encouraged me, guided me, and supported me through all these years.