As SelfDesign, we recognize that learning happens everywhere, in every moment and throughout a person’s life – not just in class or from kindergarten to grade 12. We also recognize that learning may be about Math or Language Arts or Science, while also being about developing self-awareness and building life skills.
As part of our series about SelfDesign alumni, we talked with former learner Mason (Class of 2020) about his SelfDesign journey and the important lessons he has learned at university since commencing from SelfDesign.
This Q&A is and has been edited for clarity and length.
SelfDesign: Tell us about yourself.
Mason: I am 19, soon to be 20 years old. I graduated from SelfDesign in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic! I live in White Rock with my family, and I’m studying Information Technology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I’m also working part-time at Safeway because I’m trying to save money to buy a car.
SelfDesign: Tell us more about what you’ve been doing since you commenced from SelfDesign.
Mason: At the moment, I’m working on completing my bachelor’s degree. I haven’t taken a semester off since I started. I don’t want to – I love university so much.
I had actually planned to study to become a mechatronics technician [someone who provides technical support for automated material-handling equipment in warehouses and distribution centres], but not long before the beginning of my first semester, I enrolled in the Physics program, and after a couple of semesters and some elective business courses, I found I truly enjoyed both business and technology.
From there, I decided to pursue an IT degree, and that has been absolutely the right choice for me.
So far, all of my courses have been online, which hasn’t been a big shift for me. I think I have a small advantage over people who didn’t get experience with that in high school.
I usually spend my free time playing games, doing programming, or spending time with my family. I also play badminton as part of the university’s badminton program.
SelfDesign: What is it about university that you love so much?
Mason: You know, if you had asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have said I loved university.
My first semester at university wasn’t great. I failed one of my courses. I didn’t do well in another course. My grade point average was really low, and I was quite worried. I was in a bit of a hole, actually, and it took me until the end of last August to fix it.
Looking back, I see that that first semester was my learning period. It was the time when I had to ask myself, “What am I doing here? What is all this?”
Then my focus shifted, and I just started to love university. I started to do things ahead of time. I started to aim for higher grades.
The biggest thing was that I conquered my tendency to procrastinate. I use a task list to help keep me on track. Every night, I go over what I can do feasibly in a day, I write it on the list, and the next day I do it. And if I run out of time to do something, I don’t worry about it – I just put it down for the next day, and I do it then. Plus, I’ve learned to give myself rewards. When I finish a task, I’ll give myself a 15- or a 20-minute break or I’ll give myself an hour for lunch… whatever I want to do, really.
Basically, I cracked my code for working, and I’ve been getting nothing but As and A-pluses for grades ever since.
I think the reason things changed is partly because I’m now just really interested in what I’m studying, where I was less interested in what I was taking in my first semester. I’m studying business and software development now, and it’s what I want to do after university. After I achieve my degree, I hope to start a software company.
SelfDesign: How and when did you first come to SelfDesign?
Mason: I started with SelfDesign in kindergarten.
It wasn’t altogether my decision at that age, but I remember being offered a choice between going to a brick-and-mortar school like everyone else or doing online schooling [SelfDesign is a technology-enabled school for students from kindergarten to Grade 12]. And I chose the online route – I think most likely because I wasn’t really a people person then. I was really, really shy. And to be quite honest, I probably thought online schooling would be easier. But mainly, I think it was the people thing – I’m not a huge people person now, but I’m much more social and gregarious than I used to be.
SelfDesign: What was the best part of SelfDesign for you?
Mason: It was the people. It wasn’t the learning. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the learning was great, but the people were amazing. Especially the teachers. Oh my goodness, don’t get me started!
My learning consultant, Abbie, is the best. She was my learning consultant all the way through from kindergarten. I still speak with her from time to time. She has always been a friend as much as she was my teacher.
And Michael, Lisa, Trevor and Patricia… they’re all really awesome teachers [Learning Specialists, SelfDesign’s subject-specialist educators of grade 10 to 12 themes and courses].
SelfDesign also helped me realize what I wanted in a social life. That’s from the camps I went to. SelfDesign made those opportunities happen and helped me realize what I had been missing – and that I hadn’t even known I was missing.
My first camp was in the fall of 2018, and after that, I wanted to go to all of the camps. I couldn’t, of course, but I did go to Fall Camp again in 2019 and to Encounters in 2018. I would have gone in 2019, but I couldn’t get a spot, and then the pandemic happened in 2020.
[Insert button link: In-person camps have returned to SelfDesign: Read more here>]
They were good experiences. I loved the social aspect. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. The activities were fun, too, but it was the social side of the camps that made me want to go back and do it again.
The experience at camp changed me, you know. It drew me out of my shyness. I made friends, I suddenly had a reason to have an Instagram account.
It has helped me in university too because it made me realize that once I was in university, even though I might not know exactly what I want to do, I knew who I wanted to do it with – I want to do it with my friends.
SelfDesign: How else has your SelfDesign experience helped you since?
Mason: It helped me become more philosophical. I’ve been thinking more introspectively because of it. I’m always thinking about my own beliefs and how I can apply them to my work. For example, I have a philosophy that I’ve been following for a while now, which is “anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
SelfDesign: What advice would you share with other SelfDesign learners?
Mason: Keep an open mind. If you’re a recent grad and just entering university, and even if you’re already in university, don’t close yourself off to the idea of other degrees or other programs or other fields or other careers. Even if you think you already know what you want, you really don’t until you get into a program and experience it for yourself. Until then, you have only limited knowledge and limited experience to base your decision on.
My second piece of advice would be, “Do not procrastinate!” If you do, it will hurt you in university. With SelfDesign, if you submit an assignment a day late, you might be okay if you have a valid reason. In university, there’s no guarantee you’ll even get a mark for late assignments. I found that out the hard way – but I learned!
SelfDesign: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Mason: High school with SelfDesign was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I met so many of my friends through SelfDesign and learned a lot of important lessons.
If you are a graduate of SelfDesign Learning Community or SelfDesign Home Learning and would like to share your story, please email us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!
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