Anastasia Hunse: Perspectives on Learning and Mental Health

Throughout the summer, Anastasia Hunse worked with a program called SHIFT which she helped revamp at Ryerson, a program that gives a different perspective to mental health. This summer, she was also interviewed by CBC’s Metro Morning by Matt Galloway, on the first morning of SHIFT on July 7th. Nonetheless, I caught up with Anastasia to hear about the program myself.

So let’s start with what you did before Ryerson. You went to another university and were you majoring in Psychology there as well?

At the university I was at before, I was undeclared because I went straight out when I was 18 and I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet.

When did you realize that you take a different approach to learning?

It happened after my first year at at the other university. I had been able to manage my learning disability in high school, but in University, there were too many moving parts. I ended up failing some classes and the mental health did play a huge role in that. After I finished one year and took some time off, I decided to get a psycho-educational assessment. This helps to shine some more light on what it is that you struggle with and the approaches you can take.

Stress levels must have been a huge trigger as well, I imagine.

Stress levels were a trigger for me definitely and that’s partially why I’m interested in stress research because I think that there’s something going on with students when they are making the transition to full-time studies at an undergraduate level.

Something that went on for me was I had a learning disability and everything kind of came to a head and I felt completely alone. There were supports but one of the problems is that when you’re feeling that way, isolation is the number one thing.

You’re involved with the program called SHIFT run by Academic Accommodations Support. Tell me a little bit about that.

Yeah! SHIFT (Students Heading Into Full Time) was an initiative started by my supervisor at Academic Accommodations Support (formerly known as the Access Centre) and basically the SHIFT program has existed for quite a while but she wanted to revamp it completely and make it holistic and unique to our students. It was a 5-day program starting in July with a theme for each day. It was amazing because I think we had 12 incoming students at the end and we had a unique relationship with each student. We introduced them to people they needed to be around before starting their year and helped get them the support they needed.

It was so fascinating to see what these students took away with them and to see how they really developed a bond with each other and us.


So, the main focus of SHIFT is the transition from high school to university, and balancing the stress levels and everything involved?

SHIFT is for students coming in to Ryerson with a disability of some kind so it’s about identifying what your needs are and being able to advocate yourself and work with yourself. So some students came in with learning disabilities and learning about that and what that means for your academic success. So, stress management was a portion of SHIFT.

Why did you think it was a good idea to start SHIFT in July as a summer program?

There’s a couple reasons behind that. I think that part of the rational was wanting to give students some time so rather than doing it right before school, we wanted to give them time to absorb the things they were learning while still enjoying their summer.

The reality is with Orientation Week and Week of Welcome, you have a lot of things going on. So the idea was to kind of hit them in a time when it was a little more quiet so they could reflect during the summer.

What’s your position with SHIFT right now?

Right now, I actually have a new role. I work for Student Affairs and I work in the leadership department. But with SHIFT now we have days set up for the year and I come in and still get to interact with the students and see how their year is going. This way they can still feel connected.

What’s your biggest motivation or drive with anything you do?

My biggest motivation is so cliche but so true, it is just happiness. You want to feel happy and content with what you are doing. You want to feel like you are doing something that is true to who you are. We are all a unique compilation of skills and even though someone else might be better at something than you are, you are one unique complete being.

What are your future aspirations?

For me it is about having goals and aspirations but also about opportunities that come up on day to day life. I am definitely interested in mental health and that field, so something like clinical psychology; but I’m also open to being where I’m at at the moment and the types of opportunities that brings up.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, in my mind, I would like to be helping people each day to accept themselves.

What other advice would you give students?

The big piece of advice I would give students is to let go of all the comparisons and let go of all the things you think you should be doing and focus internally with an attitude of acceptance. That’s an underlying thing for everything because you can’t help yourself if you are adversed with everything going on internally. That applies to virtually every type of struggle a student has, and it is important to be willing to accept wherever you are at.


You can also read here to learn about one participant’s experience during SHIFT, as he wrote about it.