Quest student Aaron Slobodin has been recognized for his perseverance with a Crohn’s and Colitis Canada AbbVie IBD Scholarship worth $5,000. He was awarded this scholarship along with 15 other Canadian students who manage colitis and Crohn’s while attending post-secondary school. Despite the challenges, Aaron plans to study abroad in Hungary this year, complete his degree, and pursue master’s studies after graduation.
Fellow student Arlette Akingeneye had an opportunity to chat with Aaron.
Arlette Akingeneye: Maybe we could start by you telling us a little bit about yourself.
Aaron Slobodin: I have been here for five years now at Quest. I grew up on Denman Island which is a small Island off Vancouver Island. At Quest, I am specializing in math, more of pure math than applied. And I am currently working on graduate applications to do a master’s.
AA: What is your Question?
AS: My Question is “How Do Revolutionary Ideas Change Mathematics?” For my Keystone, I did work with Sarah Mayes-Tang, and it was really due to her area of research.
AA: Why did you choose to come to Quest?
AS: It sounds really funny, but I did not apply anywhere else. I decided that I wanted to come to Quest. At my high school, we had people who came around showcasing universities, and I think Spencer, who was working with Admissions at the time, came by, and I fell in love with it [Quest] and how personal it was. Having access to professors was really appealing to me and being able to form relationships with them. So, I decided that I wanted to come.
AA: Tell us about receiving the Crohn’s and Colitis scholarship. How was the application process? And what does this mean to you?
AS: This is my second year applying. The application process is not too intensive. You have to get a formal diagnostic filled out by your specialist. I got reference letters from Sarah Mayes-Tang and Richard Hoshino. And they also ask you to write a 500-word essay. They give you guidelines of things they are looking for. If you answered everything in the guidelines, it would really be difficult to fit in within 500 words. So, I took it as an opportunity to tell them about my background with colitis and managing it while at university. I think it’s officially given to achieving academic excellence in spite of the conditions. So, I tried to highlight how I am trying to do that.
AA: What does it mean to you receiving this scholarship?
AS: I was really excited to get it. It was a really big relief. I feel pretty fortunate that there is this body of people which is Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. I haven’t met anyone in Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, but they have this foundation that gives scholarship to students across Canada. So, I am really lucky that they saw my application and they were willing to support me without knowing me. That was really huge for me.
AA: Is the scholarship meant to only help you with your studies or you can use in other areas?
AS: It is supposed to go directly to your studies, so tuition, but they make it pretty easy that you can apply it to either fall, summer, or spring semester. You can apply it to blocks or other related materials.
AA: How many people were recipients of this scholarship?
AS: They gave it to 15 people across Canada. Usually, they give 10 scholarships, but this year, they gave 15 in celebration of Canada 150.
AA: If we go back in the story, when were you actually diagnosed with Crohn’s and colitis?
AS: Crohn’s and colitis are actually different conditions. I was diagnosed with colitis end of first year, just over three years ago. And I guess symptoms started to develop when I was here, and then it got worse and I had to take some time off school.
AA: How has your experience at school been like, studying and having to go to the doctor most of the times?
AS: The block program is really good. I do not think I would have finished a semester anywhere else. I have taken either eight or nine blocks off during the four years. I was fortunate I was in the block program. I guess it has not been easy, but everyone has got their own things that make it difficult in university. Treating my colitis has not been straightforward, so I see my specialist once or twice every two or three weeks. I think the faculty at Quest has been really supportive. Often, I would go to a classroom and say “hey …just so you know, I am currently having some medical issues.” I kind of give them a little bit of rundown, and I always receive support. Without that, it would have been harder, you know!
AA: What is one thing that people do not know about you?
AS: I think most people do not know that I have colitis. So, that would be something that people do not know. Friends know, but it does not come across a lot in conversations. I am also hoping to do this international math program in Hungry as an exchange in the spring.
AA: What are your plans after graduation?
AS: I am hoping to go straight into grad school. The exchange I am hoping to do this spring, it will finish off my credits at Quest, and I hope in the fall of 2018 to be at one of the universities I am applying to, to continue my education in math.
I think the funny part I would add is …having colitis, and I think this will fall for Crohn’s as well, there are things you appreciate that other people do not appreciate. It kind of gives you a new appreciation of washrooms – the accessibility to washrooms – which is kind of funny.