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Transforming Lives: Learners at AU

Norma Inch: Life is not a dress rehearsal

By: Norma Inch

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.

I am somewhat different from most AU graduates. I am now 83-years-old, and was 72 when I graduated from Athabasca University in 2010, so furthering my career was obviously not my reason for getting my degree.

I grew up in England, and in the ’50s there, girls were not encouraged to go to university. After all, you would get married in a few years and all that education would be wasted; even more sexist, you are taking a place away from a boy who really needs it. I had always regretted that I had missed out.

My mentor, my daughter

Norma Inch and her daughter lifelong learning online university

In 1998, my daughter began her first year of university, and grumbled continuously about the mandatory programs she had to take. I kept telling her how lucky she was, and how I had always longed to go to university. Going myself was no longer an option as, by then, I was nursing my sick husband around the clock.

It was my daughter who went online and found Athabasca University, and, she, along with my husband, started to insist I sign up for a course. After claiming that any tutor would laugh out loud at my efforts after not being in school for nearly 45 years, I finally gave in and signed up for one course.

Mainly, I did this to stop their nagging, but the joke was on me. I was hooked!

Over the next years, I signed up for one course at a time, and worked on them in-between looking after my husband. Being able to sit down for an hour and immerse myself in something that took my mind off the harsh realities of my life was liberating. I’ve never enjoyed anything more in my life.

Experience of a lifetime

I finally completed all my credits for my Bachelor of Arts degree, with a three year History concentration, in December 2008, and in June 2009 my daughter and I travelled from Toronto to Athabasca to attend my graduation. The fact that my graduation took place three days before my daughter’s wedding in no way made it less special. It was the most wonderful experience, and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Norma Inch Lifelong Learning Athabasca University Online University English Bachelor of Arts at an older age

What has getting my degree done for me?

Well, first of all, it has given me a great sense of accomplishment. It confirmed something I have always believed in, that lifelong learning is not only important but essential to a well-rounded life.

I have always enjoyed travelling, but found that I was looking at the places I visited with new eyes. I also started to learn a new language, which I continued with until the next course’s emphasis on advanced grammar did not inspire me. I have always enjoyed creative writing—I took two creative writing courses at AU—and have written some short stories, and some little children’s books for my grandkids.

Since COVID, when I’ve been locked down alone in my own home for months, I have taken two online fiction-writing courses and am now in the process of writing a mystery book.

No time like the present

My advice to others is that it’s never too late to follow your dream. Embrace the opportunities that come your way, both in employment and in your private life.

As someone once said to me, life is not a dress rehearsal.

Norma Inch is an 83-year-old widow, who immigrated to Toronto in 1966 from London, England. Although she trained as a dental nurse, Norma spent most of her working life as a social worker, with a special interest in being with seniors. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Athabasca University in 2009, and pre-COVID, spent time visiting with her family, volunteering at a local hospital, travelling, socializing with her many friends, and enjoying her book club.

  • February 26, 2021
Guest Blog from:
Norma Inch