On balancing schoolwork & lifeguarding
An old adage goes that the trick of being a student is balancing courses with extracurricular work. Oksana Soychuke is currently in her second year of General Arts and Sciences at Capilano University with a focus on psychology, and is one such student who has dared to find the answer to it. She works hard to find that perfect balance between schoolwork, a personal life, hiking with her rescue dog Luna and a job that has been seven years in the making.
Aged 20, Soychuke has spent the last three years working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at Ron Andrews Community Centre, and is now up for a new position as a supervising lifeguard. Her love of the water, she explained, bloomed from many happy hours spent splashing around in the pool as a child. “I loved the pool as a kid,” said Soychuke. “My mom took me a lot to public swim and swimming lessons, and I really enjoyed that.” While she was taking her training courses, which she began at the age of 14 and completed at age 17, she also swam competitively for the Chena Swim Club. Much of that time spent in the water helped her find her calling teaching kids the invaluable life skill of swimming, and has given her the skills of a natural role model.
“My favourite part is definitely instructing,” she said. “I love being with kids, I love hanging out with them. It’s always great to see improvement and to make kids and parents happy.” Soychuke explained that her mom and her uncle were also lifeguards, and that encouraged her to look to the pool to find work. Although she has admitted she’s had to contend with a few poolside emergencies, as any lifeguard would expect. The first time she felt that she was more than a lifeguard and truly a lifesaver was while she was volunteering for an aquatics program with the Special Olympics, and had to carry a large male athlete to safety after nearly drowning.
On dry land, Soychuke shows another kind of initiative to overcome obstacles in her path, both time-wise as well as emotionally. “Classes, school, all of that comes first,” she said. “It always has to be the priority… Unfortunately, motivation and procrastination are a big problem for me,” she admitted. As a psychology student and someone who has faced her own personal challenges with it, Soychuke highlights the importance of addressing mental health and wellness, especially at an early age.
“I suffer from depression and anxiety, and it impacts my focus and motivation, but I manage to push through it all,” she said. Soychuke advocates for raising awareness about mental health and illness, dedicating her time to classes such as Abnormal Psychology where she studies the effects of all mental illnesses and disorders. She believes there is a stigma surrounding mental health, and that an early education can play a significant role in breaking down those barriers. “Starting the education of mental disorders in a healthy, positive light starting at the elementary school age, raising individuals to be open about their emotions and symptoms, and increased promotion for access to help is crucial for decreasing stigma,” she said. When hard pressed to juggle numerous responsibilities, including poolside supervision and rescue, it’s important to remember to take care of oneself first and foremost.
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