Alison Andrews’s bold journey took her all the way to another continent.
She was 19 at the time, and a lot of people expressed hesitation about her getting married and leaving the United States with her now-husband, a crew chief in the U.S. Marine Corps. After all, she’d barely been out of her home state of Pennsylvania, let alone the country.
Now 21, she’s thankful she trusted her intuition and made the brave decision to relocate her life to a place thousands of miles from home.
“At the end of the day, that was what I could call successful, because it made me happy,” she says, “and I’m happy three years later.”
Shifting her focus from the arts to communication sciences
Alison has always wanted to make a career out of helping others. A talented student who took Advanced Placement (AP) art classes in high school, she initially wanted to become an art therapist but ultimately decided to keep it as her hobby instead of a full-time profession.
Her interest in communication sciences and disorders was sparked when she took a school field trip to a rehabilitation center. It was there that she had the opportunity to observe different medical professionals in action.
“I was very drawn to speech-language pathology and eventually audiology,” Alison says. “I’m still kind of figuring out which one I want to go toward.”
Being a first-generation college student is definitely a huge deal not only to me, but to my family.
Making the move to Japan — and to online learning
Alison is a proud first-generation college student, and in pursuing her communication sciences and disorders degree, she initially chose to go the traditional route with on-campus classes at a university in Pennsylvania.
She remembers it as an exciting time, but one in which she had a lot of questions.
“Being a first-generation college student is definitely a huge deal not only to me, but to my family,” Alison says. “There were so many things that had to be learned, like how to apply and file for FAFSA, or how does taking a loan out work, or how to schedule classes. There were so many things that I didn’t know how to do — I remember my mom and I would spend hours just trying to figure this stuff out.”
She was already a year into her bachelor’s program when she learned her husband would be stationed in Naha, Okinawa, for the next three years. Moving to Japan with him meant Alison would need to change her plans and transfer to an online program if she wanted to continue her education. “I Googled ‘communication sciences disorders online,’ and there weren’t a lot of options,” she remembers. “I think Maryville was [one of the few] that had this degree completely online.”
From the moment she applied to Maryville Online, Alison felt valued and supported. As Alison was finalizing plans to leave the States, her student advisor checked in with her weekly to see how she was doing.
“She really, really helped me figure out that Maryville was perfect because of Japan,” she says, “and that really made me feel so comfortable.”
Navigating life as a military spouse
Once settled in Japan, Alison realized how important it was to support her husband and maximize their time together.
“My husband will always be my first priority no matter what,” she says. “It’s difficult to juggle, but it’s also rewarding, because you get to be there with them through this time.”
Now that Alison’s taking classes asynchronously through Maryville Online, she can plan each week around her husband’s flight schedule. If he flies at night, she’ll block out a few hours during the day to complete her schoolwork, and vice versa.
“It’s nice being able to pick and choose when I can do my homework and when I can study,” Alison says. “Being able to decide when to do your work — it’s really great.”
She even makes time to host dinner for her husband’s fellow servicemembers. She’s offered up their space as a home away from home for anyone who needs a break from their barracks.
It’s nice being able to pick and choose when I can do my homework and when I can study. Being able to decide when to do your work — it’s really great.
Putting the work in today for a better tomorrow
Despite the busy days and nights — and being far from her friends and family — Alison keeps going, driven by the desire to help children with speech disorders while raising a family of her own.
“My future makes me motivated to do well now,” she explains. “Just to have a better future for my children and to set them up for success and to help people.”
After graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Alison plans on pursuing a graduate education so she can become an audiologist or a speech-language pathologist for children with disabilities.
“I see success as being happy. At the end of the day, I want to do what makes me happy and is rewarding,” she says.
A rewarding career isn’t her only motivation, though. Alison also knows pursuing her education and helping others gives her the opportunity to be a role model for her friends, family, and community.
“It’s also so important to me because not only am I the first college student [in my family], but I am planning on possibly becoming a doctor in audiology,” she says. “I feel like this is huge where I am coming from, and I’m making a lot of people proud.”
In the meantime, she’s already been able to connect what she’s learned in her classes to her part-time job as a nanny, like hearing a baby start babbling, which is an early milestone in speech and language development.
Sometimes being brave means leaving what’s familiar
What does courage mean to a first-generation student like Alison?
“I think it’s mostly about stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things — like moving to Japan,” she says.
But Alison has also realized being brave doesn’t mean having to go it alone. She still regularly emails her Maryville advisor with questions and finds ways to connect with her classmates.
“If I have a difficult class, I’ll email my [fellow] students and ask them for their phone numbers and then we’ll collaborate on some assignments together,” she says. “Especially with my biology class right now — it’s difficult, so being with a group of students really helps.”
If you’re ready to see how Maryville Online can help you be brave and pursue your educational and professional goals, we’re here for you. Check out our online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees, or schedule a call with an advisor today.
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