Skye Van Zetten is an Ontario AU student with a strong interest in people’s relationships with food and communicating. She was kind enough to take some time away from her kids and busy studies to talk to The Voice Magazine.
First of all, whereabouts do you live? And have you always lived there?
At the moment, I live in Brampton, Ontario. I have always lived in or around Toronto.
Which AU program are you in?
I’m in the Bachelor of Professional Arts ? Communications. I took technical illustration in college, which served me well when those digital media skills were current. I decided to go back to school for a degree in Communications to open up some horizons for my future career goals.
Aside from AU, what do you work at?
I volunteer my time supporting families who struggle with food in an online peer-to-peer support group. Until very recently, I ran a home daycare which I enjoyed very much, but I’m also enjoying the break because it gives me more time to dedicate to my own kids. I’m also a licensed hairdresser.
Describe the path that led you to AU.
Oh, wow, That’s a long story. My son had a couple of traumatic episodes with food as a young tot which developed into to a phobia of eating. I love food?I can’t imagine being afraid of it, but he had experienced a full airway blockage on more than one occasion?thank the fates I knew what to do! So from his point of view, eating was a pretty scary activity. Being the parent of a kid who only feels safe ingesting a very limited number of foods comes with a hearty side of judgement. Everyone has an opinion on what went wrong and how to fix it ? none of which was helpful, by the way. There was no physical reason why he couldn’t eat, which made it was pretty much impossible for me to find help for him. I’m stubborn and tenacious by nature, and being mom put me on a quest for a way to help my son overcome his fear of food. I stumbled upon PubMed and started searching for studies on food phobia, eating behaviour, eating disorders… I started a blog about our experience as a family and wrote about the stuff I had read about. To my surprise, people started following my blog! Apparently, what we were going through wasn’t all that uncommon, but what really struck me was how socially isolating it is to parent a child (or be an adult) who struggles with eating. Through blogging, I’ve been introduced to some truly excellent and internationally respected feeding professionals who continue to be my mentors and inspiration. I came to AU to build on what I’ve learned so I can continue to support families who struggle with mealtimes like we once did, and help others improve their relationship with food.
What do you do like to do when You’re not studying?
I feel like I’m always studying or, at least, learning something. Whether its school or keeping up on what’s new or developing in the pediatric feeding world. I love being with my kids and my husband. My husband listens ever so patiently to me explaining something I’ve just read, and my kids are incessantly inquisitive. I love that they ask questions, and question what they read and hear. I also enjoy walking, listening to music, listening to my kids practice their instruments. And sleeping.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
I would have to say my son. His struggles with food are what started me on this journey of learning, and his continued progress inspires me to continue to help families find the support they need.
Describe your experience with online learning. What do you like? Dislike?
I appreciate the regular feedback from the course tutors, and being able to progress through the courses at my own pace. I really like being able to fit school in around my schedule. When I compare my college experience with online learning, I really love being able to go to school in my jammies, and refill my coffee in the middle of a lesson, and being able stop and snuggle with my kids. I miss being able to connect with other students and discuss different perspectives, but at the same time, my family is always interested in what I’m learning and it helps me to know I can explain what I’ve just learned to them, and answering their questions helps me gauge how well I’ve absorbed the material.
What was your most memorable AU course?
I’ve only taken three so far, and two of those I’m working through right now. I think I’ll always remember CMNS301 fondly because it was my first AU course and gave me the confidence to believe in my abilities to succeed as an AU student.
What’s the single best thing AU could do to improve your student experience?
I was super apprehensive about AU when I first considered finishing my degree. I met another AU student who was very pleased with the courses and spoke very positively about the university. Since my first contact with an AU advisor, I have not been disappointed with the support and resources available to students. I would like to connect with more students in my program, I feel a little bit isolated in that respect.
What is your most prized possession?
Please tell us something that few people know about you.
I am ambidextrous. My handwriting is more legible with my right hand, but my drawing skills are better with my left. When I spend a lot of time drawing, I have quite lovely handwriting, but you need a mirror to read it.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
That every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. Little, insignificant things can have a huge and meaningful impact on the people we interact with. Be gentle.
What do you think about e-texts?
I have a love/hate relationship with e-texts, mostly because I’m still learning how to make the most effective use of them. I like the ability to quickly search for and find specific information in an e-text. I find them particularly difficult to study from.
How do you find communications with your course tutors?
My first tutor seemed to take a long time to return feedback on assignments. Being my first AU course, I had no reference for what was typical and it was kind of frustrating to not know if I had done well or poorly on the assignments for what seemed like a long time. My current tutors have feedback for me within a day or two, which I find really helpful and encouraging.
Where has life taken you so far? (travels for pleasure, work, etc.)
In my early twenties, I had an opportunity to travel on a round-the-world ticket for six months. I had never been outside of Ontario before that. I visited Vancouver and San Francisco on the west coast, New Zealand, Fiji, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Egypt and most of the countries in Europe. The trip was full of adventure and learning experiences, such as finding ways to communicate with another human being who doesn’t speak the same language I do. Charades, thankfully, is international, and It’s amazing how far a few words like “thank you” and “hello” will take you. I also got to practice my French, which is never without an embarrassingly humorous tale. I am still teased about the time I was trying to find my way back to the train station in Bordeaux and mispronounced “gare” with English phonetic rules as “guerre.” The group of elderly men I asked got a good laugh out of my error, and I understood one of them say to another in French, “Should we tell her She’s about 40 years too late?” (Ed. Note: This joke gets funnier when you learn that “gare” is French for “train station” and “guerre” is French for war)
Earlier this year, my husband and I were finally able to fulfill a dream of 17 years and visit New Zealand with our 10-year-old twins. I’m looking forward to our next big adventure, wherever it may take us.