Several years ago, Jennifer Sampson enrolled in a Bachelor of Business at Torrens, online.
At the same time, she and her husband bought a bus, and took off with their five young kids on the adventure of a lifetime. They were setting out to travel around the entire, vast, rugged country of Australia.
“I chose Bachelor of Business at Torrens because it was quite literally the first Bachelors degree you could complete online.
As a Family we always loved camping, and would travel in spurts as often as we could. However, it wasn’t until our four-wheel drive broke down one day as I was busy picking kids up from school and running errands that ‘the Magic Happened!’
My Partner was working on the mines and when asked would you like another four-wheel drive. I said, ‘no, buy me a bus!’ and so he did. I registered for home schooling and became our children’s schoolteacher, while their father joined us and became our bus driver! All the while taking my studies with me.” – Jennifer Sampson (BA of Business)
For the duration of her course, Jenn studied and lived in the bus, while traveling all around the Aussie outback, and at the same time, home-schooling the entire family!
As if that doesn’t sound challenging enough, she had to try and complete her online degree across vast spaces without any consistent phone reception, or connection to the internet.
“The biggest challenge was finding a strong signal for the computer! Telstra was the preferred coverage, yet there are many blank spots across the country. My funniest memory is trying to do an online quiz before a deadline, whilst standing on the back of our trailer, with the computer facing up to the heavens trying to get a signal!” – Jenn
There were moments when Jenn really began to question if she could see her bachelor’s degree all the way through to the end. Fortunately, in one of those moments, she decided to call student services and get some help from a Success Coach.
The Success Coach who answered that fateful phone call was Andrea Gonzalez.
“Jenn Sampson and I met early in the evening, on a Friday, back in early 2017 when student services asked me to take one last call. This call was from an online student calling from the remotest outback, who was ready to quit with only 3 subjects to go.
I was on my way out the door to dinner so I took the call in the car with my whole family in tow.
Jenn’s story was so inspiring to me, I was in awe of her resilience under pressure and isolation, and I told her so. Due to her remote location, communication and engagement with her studies and the university was becoming really hard.
I told her if she had a signal, I would be there. I kept my word and answered any time she reached out over the next twelve months, so she knew she could count on me to be on this journey with her.
I travelled virtually across the Nullarbor with Jenn, coaching when she could get a signal long enough, and encouraging her to keep going.” – Andrea Gonzalez
Jenn couldn’t have wished for a better coach.
Andrea has worked at Torrens for over a decade, and has a diverse history of business and academic positions behind her. She’s been an industry speaker, senior lecturer, sessional lecturer program manager, and an undergraduate and postgraduate student in her own right.
“My role as a Success Coach is to be the touch-point for my students (when they are ready) to take their study and career to the next level, no matter what their starting point, or where they are in the world.
I coach nearly 600 Diploma and Bachelor of Business students on the Brisbane campus and online, and I work closely with business academics to deliver success outcomes in the ‘employability subjects’. I coach online students in Dubai, Edinburgh, Canada, London, Italy, Hong Kong, and across all the corners and vastness of Australia.
Our online students are often studying under the most strenuous circumstances you can imagine. I have coached online students finding quiet space in the cleaner’s closet at work, or with only the light of their screen in the middle of the night, on the other side of the world, trying not to wake babies.
Rarely does a session with an online student fit perfectly with our standard schedules or frameworks for managing students.” – Andrea
Even though Andrea had to coach so many students in all their situations around the world, she and Jenn formed a special bond.
Andrea became Jenn’s personal champion, supporting her so she could succeed and thrive, despite her difficult circumstances. Without her, Jenn may well have not been able to continue.
“Andrea was there for me when communications were difficult. At times travelling you are not within signal-reach to connect. Andrea became a bridge for me. She was also a beautiful friendly face and advocate, someone to remind you that there are real people beyond the screens.” – Jenn
So, what advice did Andrea give to Jenn, to help her through the darker moments of this epic journey?
“As a coach, my support for an online student is always intuitive and in the moment. We do not have a lot of time for multiple sessions to make an impact, so I count on my ‘#5 Gallup Strength,’ Connectedness, to show up when we need to get busy quickly, so we can make connections and move forward.
I always remind students to focus on what is right, and what is working, as a platform and starting point for analysing the things challenging them. Mostly, I was there to remind Jenn to keep showing up as the best version of herself on any given day, and she did.”
Over the course of the trip, Jenn and her family learned and experienced new things, both wonderful and difficult, every single day.
“We were free. Free of the constraints of everyday living. Free to travel where we chose in this vast beautiful land. We became a part of the sunrise and the sunset.
Learning became a natural and enjoyable experience with ‘Home & Habitat’ as our theme. I found it enjoyable to study in amongst the gum trees or lazy on my bed or ‘nest’ in the comfort and peace in the bus.
Living off-grid you learn to unlearn everything you once knew or thought you knew and start again. Whilst I was learning, so to was my Partner, because knowledge you can’t help but share!
To share every moment, every view, every adventure, to share that with the people you love, all the while kicking personal goals? That’s the gold.” – Jenn
After all the struggle and challenges of three years of study on the road, and almost giving up, Jenn finally did it.
In July 2018, she successfully completed her Bachelor of Business at Torrens.
“I was the first person she contacted when she finished her final assignment. It was one of the most rewarding moments I have had as a Coach when she emailed; ‘We did it’.” – Andrea
Finally, Jenn finished her studies, and their trip also came to an end. She and her husband decided it was time to park the bus for a while, and put down some roots.
“Since graduating in July we have bought a block of land on the NSW/QLD border, parked the bus up and built around her. Growing our own food, raising chickens, planting fruit trees completely off grid, and utilizing solar and wind power: we hope to teach our children further life skills in building our very own ‘Earth Ship’.” – Jenn
The ex-student and her Success Coach still have a close connection, and Andrea couldn’t be more proud of her.
“Jenn knows I call her my ‘original success story’. I have been a Success Coach since the role originated, and meeting this student early in 2017 meant Jenn’s journey to success has paralleled my own evolution as a coach at Laureate.
I am so proud of Jenn and her self-promise to finish what she started. She kept her own dream alive while fulfilling a much bigger commitment to the life experience and teaching of her five children. I have learned much more from Jenn than she ever did from me.” – Andrea
So, what’s in store for Jenn, in the future? Despite all the challenges of studying her degree online, on the road, in a bus full of kids, Jenn still says she enjoyed it enough to go back for more.
“As for me and my degree… I loved studying so much, I am already thinking about what I would like to study next!” – Jenn
See here for more information about studying a Bachelor of Business online or on campus at Torrens University.
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