Suzanne Kopecki is proving that nothing can stop her from obtaining her degree from Penn State World Campus. Here’s her story:
What will be your graduation year and degree from Penn State World Campus?
I began my studies at Penn State in August 2016 after attending Ohlone Community College for four years. I am very excited to hopefully be graduating in the summer of 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
What is your current hometown?
I live in Union City, California, which is about an hour south of San Francisco.
What/where is your current career and workplace?
I have been in the medical billing profession for twenty years. However, it does not fill my heart, and that is why I have been working to change my career.
What does a typical workday look like for you? How do you fit in your online studies?
A typical workday begins with exercise and preparing my meals for the day. I’m lucky that my husband is able to take our son to school, and my two older children are old enough to take care of themselves. I commute about 30 minutes and begin work at 8:00 a.m. The work I do is mainly on a computer program, and occasionally we will have meetings or training we need to attend.
I take a rolling backpack containing my computer and school supplies to work. My first break is for myself, and I go for a walk outside for my own well being. However, my lunch break and afternoon break are spent working on schoolwork. This allows me to make some progress and hopefully gives me a little more time with my family in the evening.
Once home, sometimes I make dinner; sometimes my husband does. I spend time with my youngest, and we talk about his day. If I have the energy, I will do more schoolwork, especially if I have a deadline coming up.
How did you become interested in your career?
About 7 years ago, I decided it was time to go back to school and pursue my true love of psychology. I have been working on my degree part-time ever since. It has been a long and slow road, but one that I truly want to see to the end. If you have ever felt a career calling to you, then you can understand why I need to do this.
Has Penn State World Campus impacted your career? How?
Penn State World Campus has allowed me to continue my education and keep my day job. Being able to attend such a respectable school online has been a privilege. I’m not sure I could have kept attending night class and working all day.
What are some challenges that you have faced as a Penn State World Campus student? How have you overcome these challenges?
My biggest challenge is that I have several chronic illnesses. I fight depression, anxiety, endometriosis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These conditions cause me great fatigue and emotional and physical pain. There are many times when I feel I can’t go on, especially when my commute and workday alone take everything I have to get through.
Last year, my illnesses really came to the surface, and I was very ill. I had to face my limitations and take a break from work and school for a semester. Still not well, I continued on, but with a different attitude. I had been an A student for 7 years; I worked very hard and put in a lot of time and effort to maintain those A’s. Now, things are different; I’m still trying to learn all I can, but sometimes I have to let assignments and expectations go.
Fibromyalgia causes me widespread pain, severe fatigue, and cognitive issues. There are many times that I can’t remember something I know, and that proves to be a problem when you’re being tested on your knowledge. The best way I can explain it is that I know the answer but it just won’t come to me at the moment, or I suddenly get very confused and disoriented.
The most important goal for me now is to finish my degree and not get more ill. I’m still learning to balance my illnesses, work, school, and my family life. Most importantly, I am not going to give up. I truly hope that my perseverance will motivate others to pursue their dreams no matter their age, status, or health.
How do you stay connected with the University?
I stay connected with the University on Facebook. I am also a member of the World Campus Psychology Club.
What is some advice that you would give to fellow online learners?
The biggest advice I have is to not let anything stand in the way of your goals. It is one thing to dream something and another to plan it out and execute it. For me, planning is a must! I have a planner where I map out all major assignments during the first week. Then weekly I plan out all my assignments/readings, color-coding classes in different pens. The best part is when you finish, and you can cross off the assignment from the list. Planning in this way allows me to break things up to a more manageable amount so I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I can only take two classes at a time with my illness, but it still can be overwhelming.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just because you never actually meet the professor doesn’t mean they aren’t here for you. I have been very fortunate to have wonderful professors so far. They respond quickly to emails and are always there to clarify subject matter. I have even reached out for study tips before.
Lastly, I am living proof that you can do anything you set your mind to. Think it, plan it, do it!