Go­ing Back to School

Westcoast Families - - Westcoast Families - By Mark War­was and Mon­ica Gon­za­lez

mark and Mon­ica are young par­ents of two ac­tive kids, Melisa five-, and Ma­teo, who is four-years- old. Only 14 months apart, they ac­tu­ally in­tro­duce them­selves as the al­most-twins. Mark had a sta­ble ca­reer as a univer­sity science in­struc­tor, which meant he had a very pre­dictable sched­ule, set re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and a life that could be con­sid­ered sim­ple, but ful­fill­ing. But that did not stop him from de­cid­ing to sac­ri­fice this sta­bil­ity to pur­sue his dream. At the age of five, Mark dis­cov­ered his pas­sion for medicine when a team of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als saved his life. Since then, he has worked hard to achieve all the aca­demic and non-aca­demic qual­i­ties needed to gain ad­mis­sion to med­i­cal school. In the midst of study­ing, work­ing, and vol­un­teer­ing, many great things hap­pened. Mark met Mon­ica at the age of 24 and mar­ried not too long af­ter, they started a fam­ily when Mark was still in school work­ing on his Masters de­gree, and they man­aged to have a fun be­gin­ning based on a very sim­ple life­style. While it would be con­sid­ered log­i­cal by many for Mark to con­cen­trate on his ca­reer and move for­ward with teach­ing, Mark agrees that it was his stub­born per­son­al­ity and pas­sion that mo­ti­vated him to pur­sue his dream of be­com­ing a doc­tor de­spite the com­pet­i­tive process and a few set­backs along the way. “I be­lieve rais­ing a fam­ily in­volves not only be­ing able to eco­nom­i­cally sup­port the fam­ily, but, mostly, to teach chil­dren the im­por­tance of life and the way to live it. I feel by fol­low­ing your dream, what­ever that dream may be, a par­ent can find mean­ing for them­selves and will be able to share this ful­fill­ment. The rest will fall into place! In fact, hav­ing a fam­ily mo­ti­vated me even more!” His dream be­came a re­al­ity when in May of 2012, Mark got ac­cepted into the Doc­tor of Medicine pro­gram at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia. Af­ter all the ex­cite­ment from all the great news, re­al­ity set in and it was time to an­swer the big ques­tion: how to raise a fam­ily go­ing back to school full-time? He agrees that the main three chal­lenges in­volved in this change were: time man­age­ment, fi­nan­cial plan­ning, and fam­ily sup­port. Spend­ing time with his fam­ily has al­ways been a pri­or­ity. With a nine-to-five job this was easy to achieve. How­ever, with over sixty hours a week ded­i­cated to class and study time, this means that care­ful plan­ning is needed to bal­ance both fam­ily and stud­ies. This has been one of the great­est chal­lenges and is def­i­nitely dif­fer­ent from his days as a sin­gle stu­dent. “The so­lu­tion was to fo­cus on qual­ity time”, Mark said. Mark spent Mon­days, Tues­days, and Wed­nes­days al­most en­tirely at school re­turn­ing to reg­u­lar hours on Thurs­days and Fri­days with week­ends com­pletely free from school. En­er­gized by great week­ends with his wife and his chil­dren, Mark was then ready for an­other chal­leng­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing week at school. One as­pect of rais­ing a fam­ily is fi­nan­cial sup­port. This was an­other chal­lenge Mark en­coun­tered when quit­ting his job to fol­low his dream. The ob­vi­ous ques­tion was: how does one af­ford to quit a job to at­tend school and still raise a fam­ily? Mark is grate­ful for the fi­nan­cial sup­port sys­tems that ex­ist for pro­fes­sional stud­ies in Canada. He has been able to main­tain the sim­ple yet great life­style with the help of both Govern­ment and bank stu­dent loans as well as the amaz­ing bur­sary pro­gram at UBC. Many lo­cal com­mu­nity pro­grams sup­port stu­dents by al­low­ing them to en­roll them­selves and their fam­i­lies in art and sports pro­grams. His chil­dren are now par­tic­i­pat­ing in swim­ming classes at the Robert Lee YMCA as well as art and dance classes at the Arts Um­brella, just to men­tion few. Mark also rec­og­nizes that his first year of med­i­cal school was pos­si­ble not only by his good time man­age­ment skills or the fi­nan­cial sup­port pro­vided to him, but in huge part to the fam­ily sup­port he re­ceived along the way. “I feel ev­ery­one that is tak­ing the chal­lenge of rais­ing a fam­ily while be­ing a full-time stu­dent will need a sup­port sys­tem be­hind them, I feel lucky to have that and for me, it is that sup­port sys­tem that makes things fall into place!” Mon­ica has sup­ported her hus­band by be­com­ing a stay-at-home mom dur­ing the week and pur­su­ing her ca­reer on a part-time ba­sis. Mark be­lieved that no one should be dis­cour­aged from fol­low­ing a dream of go­ing back to school due to per­sonal cir­cum­stances and he en­cour­ages peo­ple to seek as­sis­tance if needed from their school’s stu­dent af­fairs depart­ment who are very able and ea­ger to help peo­ple from all walks of life re­gard­less of cir­cum­stances. “Our life is now bet­ter for the sim­ple fact that our fam­ily is now stronger and we are a bet­ter team en­joy­ing the present and work­ing to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture”.

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