Garden at Royal RoadsTwo years ago, I embarked on a journey.

Call it a quest, or maybe a crazy idea, and really, what the heck was I thinking?? Part bucket list, part completing something left undone in my 20s, the idea of finishing my degree had been secretly nagging me for years. Finally I realized that it wasn’t too late to do something about it, and I enrolled in the two-year online Bachelor of Professional Communications program at Royal Roads University.

If I ever thought less of a program for being online, let me take it all back now.

Completing an online program is intense. It is hard. It takes over your life in ways you cannot imagine, and cannot prepare for. And this is probably not confined to online programs, but maybe to pursuing higher education in general; it strips you of any feeling of competence and takes you so far out of your comfort zone, you will wonder what made you think you could do this.

And yet, here we are.

Two years have flown by. My friends and family tell me it has gone quickly for them, and in truth it has for me, too. Yet each course, sometimes each week, was painfully slow. Royal Roads promised me I could have a job, a family, a life, and still get my degree, and that’s true. But really, you cannot have it all at the same time. Something has to give, and it is usually family and friends. I almost don’t remember what it’s like to sit in the family room without my laptop open and textbooks around me.

I won’t officially pick up the piece of paper bestowing upon me the Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communication degree until October, but I wrapped up the program by handing in my last assignment on Saturday. (A day early!) I am having a hard time deciding what I feel most. Relieved? Happy? Incredulous? Exhausted?

The program head wrote us a lovely email, in which she had this to say:

You have come so far on the journey you undertook when you began your program. What you have accomplished since then is truly a remarkable achievement and no small feat for any undergraduate student, but particularly for working adults with families and responsibilities that reach far beyond your studies. You have survived and lived to tell the tale!
I want to let you know today how impressed I am with how you have moved through sometimes overwhelming challenges, stretched your comfort zone to the limit, raised your theoretical consciousness, amplified your creative powers, and learned to work so well with others. …
Although it’s hard to do when you’re ‘in it’, I hope you can see as well as I do the personal transformation that has occurred for each of you during the two years of the program. I hope you feel a new confidence that comes from knowing how well equipped you are now to deal with the ‘thorny problems’ that require the kind of questions and approaches you’ve become so conversant with during your time together.

Our whole online cohort has indeed come a long way, and we’ve bonded to an incredible extent through the ups and downs of the program. I am looking forward to spending all of August at home this year, but to connecting with everyone in Victoria again in October. And of course, we’ll always have Facebook!

Photos:  A long path leading to a gate at Royal Roads University in Victoria, B.C. Kind of symbolic, don’t you think? The long journey leading to the future. Taken during the first of the two residencies at Royal Roads.