How the Ends do not Justify the Means: My Circuitous Path to Higher Learning

Guest post by Aaron Ander (distance student)

Everyone asks me what I plan to do once I finish my degree.  Ask me in three years, I say. Currently, I’m studying towards an BA in Health and Community Services at the University of Victoria. I live in Nelson BC, and as a distance education student, I am far from campus life.

During my two years of college at Selkirk College in the Kootenays I was able to explore courses that I was deeply interested in, like psychology, English, mental health, and addictions.

I was a university transfer student, and although I completed my college diploma, it was always my intention to finish my BA, but what major?

Choosing UVic

I came across a course called “Social Determinants of Health” in my final semester of college, and discovered the School of Public Health and Social Policy at UVic.

I had heard that UVic has a reputation for a high level of integrity in academics and research. Considering that one day I would like to complete my graduate degrees, an undergrad at UVic seemed like a good choice for this important step in my education.

College prepared me for my undergrad at UVic, and I was able to step into third year of my BA once my credits transferred. One thing that helped me during college was the experience I gained working at a local non-profit organization alongside social workers. This exposure gave me practical knowledge to draw on.

What is public health?

People ask me what public health is. Before I was accepted into the school I had a vague idea, but I knew that I would learn more once started the program. It felt right, and it seemed like the thing I wanted to study.

I did not, like many students, choose a career and then work backwards to the education that would get me there. I guess I’m just not a “means to an end” kind of guy.

I couldn’t imagine three years of study towards something that I would not enjoy learning because I believe that how we get there is just as important as where we are going. I’m barely two months in, and I love what I’m learning. I love the interactive way my program connects with other students in my cohort, and how we all met on campus at UVic for orientation in the summer.

So far, so good.

Life as a distance student

Juggling studies, keeping up with online discussions, and maintaining good status as a student is only part of what I do.

I am also a parent, involved in my son’s school fundraising, and volunteer locally. It was important for me to be able to maintain my life, continue to engage in activities that are meaningful to me in my home community, and find ways to apply my learning in the real world, all while tackling a university degree.

I’ve learned that higher education is about changing the way we look at the world, how we think about problems, and what my role is in contributing to change. It starts with the right ingredients. Coursework, life experience and application in real life contributes to the final product.

For me, the anticipation of graduation is like the faint smells that waft throughout my home as the pot bubbles slowly on the back burner of the stove. I can imagine what the stew will taste like, which foods to pair it with, and how much I will enjoy sharing this wonderful meal with my closest friends and community. For now, it is a sensory experience which I salivate to enjoy.

Enjoy every moment

Don’t be too rushed to know what you will do when you complete your studies. Perhaps you will never be finished. I’m 36, and on my fourth or fifth career. It is important to savour every moment and extract meaning from all that we do as students.

This is a special time where theory can meet the ground as the so-called “rubber on the road.” Be open to possibilities as they are presented. We cannot know how our education will change the way we live our life in the future, or the effect our schooling will have on our mind and ambitions.

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