The Hub It took me 10 years to finish my marketing degree. I’m thankful I took my time!

It took me 10 years to finish my marketing degree. I’m thankful I took my time!

By: Carmen Neville (Bachelor of Management ’22)

Transforming Lives: Learners of AU is an ongoing series where real students and alumni share how flexible online learning at Athabasca University (AU) made a difference in their lives and communities. Submit your story.

I graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Management, Marketing Major from Athabasca University. I didn’t follow the traditional route in this achievement, and I wasn’t quick about it either.

In fact, it took me more than 10 years. For a while, I found that embarrassing, but in the years since graduating I’ve changed my point of view. 

I had always intended to take a short break after high school to travel, but none of my friends shared that vision. So, I caved and enrolled in a traditional, place-based university.  

A couple of months from the start date, I began dating a man who lived in Australia. It was great for my travel dreams but, not so great for my education plans. I decided to pause my studies and off I went to see the world! 

Distance education wasn’t top of mind, at first

At the time, distance education was not even on my radar. As a non-Australian resident, applying to be an international student was financially out of reach.

Instead, I spent two years working in restaurants and travelling. Once I got residence status, I completed a two-year diploma with an Australian college. 

We moved back to Canada in 2011, and I was able to land a job working in an events centre. I began my Bachelor of Management degree shortly thereafter.  

Yes, I took 10 years to finish my degree. No, I shouldn’t be embarrassed. 

Applying my studies at work

I finished my degree with 10 years of experience in my field, and I’ve had interesting opportunities to advance my career with different employers.  

I was fortunate that several of these employers offered financial assistance for education, meaning I finished my degree with no student debt.

Having the flexibility to pursue my studies on my own time meant that I could apply what I was learning to real challenges at work. It made my whole experience more beneficial.

Flexibility to balance life and education

I got married while I worked on my degree. I continued to travel locally and internationally, taking the time to experience new things, or to visit people important to me.  

I didn’t miss out on weddings, birthdays, or holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. I took days off, weeks off, and, a couple times, a full month off from school. That time away allowed me to focus on things that were important to me.

My husband and I evolved as a family. We had a baby girl, and I took a full year of maternity leave away from work. I allowed myself recovery time before resuming my studies with AU. I finished up the last course of my degree a couple months after returning to work, and eventually became pregnant with our second daughter.

Celebrating achievements

Taking 10 years to complete a degree meant I didn’t have to sacrifice prime years of my life sitting at home studying.  

I came out the other side without school debt and with a solid career path. Now, I only feel both proud of the achievement and grateful that an option existed where I could work towards a degree at my own pace, while also working on a career and enjoying my life.  

I am incredibly thankful for the support and encouragement from family, friends, colleagues, and employers.

The best part of all? My girls could be there to see me cross the stage to accept my degree! Although they’re too young to understand, that meant the world to me.  

So go ahead, pursue your goals at whatever pace works for you and prioritize living life fully along the way. You just might look back and be proud it took so long! 

Transforming Lives: Learners of AU

Read more profiles of AU students and grads in our series Transforming Lives: Learners of AU.

Carmen Neville (Bachelor of Management ’22) is a business development professional with experience in legal, accounting, education, and property management sectors. She supports company objectives through competitive analysis, prospect targeting, and overall marketing strategy. Carmen lives in Calgary, Alta. with her husband and two daughters. 

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  • February 8, 2024
Guest Blog from:
Carmen Neville (Bachelor of Management ’22)