In this blog series, Zachary Benayon, Tourette Ambassador for Tourette Canada shares his experience with social opportunities in Post-Secondary Education
University or college courses are tough. Getting a post-secondary degree takes a lot of studying, assignment-completing and exam writing, but it also means a lot of opportunities to socialize and have fun. Though it varies by program, classroom time in post-secondary school is generally reduced in favour of more self-directed study. This means lots of free time to use as you wish. In other words, if you wish to party, you can party a lot. However, you need to keep in mind that while getting involved in activities or socializing with others is a lot fun, it can also be extremely time consuming. Your school work needs to come first, you’ll hear it from your parents and you’ll hear it from the school, and now you’ve heard it from. Take my word for it, the key to enjoying the social opportunities afforded to you in college while also succeeding academically is balance.
I personally did not have the greatest social life in high school. I didn’t get involved in activities or clubs and I think that contributed to my low self-esteem. My parents encouraged me to become involved in high school life outside of my classes and to socialize with others, but I had no desire to do so. My anxiety combined with feeling like I didn’t have the time, kept me from taking on any extracurriculars and developing a healthy social life.
After four years of high school and four years of not joining school clubs, I made a gutsy decision. I packed up and left home to attend Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. I was pleased to find that Fanshawe offered a lot more social opportunities than my high school. As I mentioned in part one of this blog series, frosh week was a great way to start getting to know others and develop a vibrant social life. I also met my best friend through living in residence.
My second semester, I joined Fanshawe’s ice hockey pick up league and made a few friends on my hockey team. Not only was it fun, it actually helped me with manage stress. When I played hockey, I would focus on the game and not school and along with my stress, my tics decreased as well. When weather warmed up, I decided to play ball hockey too.
One of the most exciting things I did in college was getting involved in student government. It all started with my LinkedIn profile, which listed the work I did with the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada (now Tourette Canada). I reached out on LinkedIn to Fanshawe’s President, just to introduce myself. He responded by suggesting that I consider running for Student Governor. After writing him back, he explained the election process to me.
As a first step, I completed an application form, managed to get ten signatures (some from friends, some from friends of friends) and attached my resume. To promote myself, I sent out an email blast and posted messages on social media. I found that my Tourette was actually an advantage. In my campaign, I mentioned that through having Tourette, I came to do a lot of volunteer work with Tourette Canada, which made me more qualified to take on becoming Student Governor since it is also a volunteer position.
Getting elected felt amazing. It boosted my self-esteem and confidence. As a Student Governor, I attended Board of Governor meetings, Fanshawe College events, and networked with a number of different people that I may not have met otherwise. I was also able to balance this responsibility with my course work by carefully managing my time. Board materials came out a week before and I was careful to set aside time on the weekend to review it so that I was prepared for the upcoming meeting the following week. I also made sure that I got my assignments done and out of the way, so that I didn’t get overwhelmed.
If you take anything away from reading this blog, let it be that you can do more than you might think. You can enjoy activities and social opportunities while also being successful academically. You don’t need to sacrifice one to have the other. Your Tourette Syndrome may make things difficult at times but don’t let it stop you. Please consider getting involved in something while you’re in college or university whether it is student government or hockey like me or getting involved in the culinary club or the Rotary Club. If you have an interest, they have a club for it. If they don’t, consider starting your own club. The sky’s the limit!
Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 in Zachary Benayon’s blog series on transitioning to college life. Click here to read part one, where Zachary discusses worries and how to overcome them and click here to read part two where Zachary discusses how to obtain academic support.