Please join me in welcoming Jackie Shannon, a fourth-year undergraduate student from Palm City, Florida! She is a nutritional sciences major in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department who is looking forward to her Fall 2020 graduation. In the midst of the transition to online learning and end-of-year preparations, she took time out of her schedule to share her journey to the FSHN nutritional sciences program, her experiences studying abroad as a nutritional sciences student, and why she’s just like a bowl of seafood chowder!
Would you share how you chose the Nutritional Sciences program at UF?
I became interested in nutrition in my early teen years, and I spent a lot of my free time reading about it in books and on the internet. By the time I got to high school, the University of Florida was already my dream school, and at the time I was interested in a career in dietetics.
During the fall of my freshman year of high school, my family took a weekend trip to Gainesville, as I had inspired the family to sign up for a tour at UF. By that time, I had already discovered the Food Science and Human Nutrition department online. After our tour, I visited the FSHN department for the first time and learned about the majors, and my goal was set. I had basically been planning to join the FSHN department since I was fourteen years old!
By the time I graduated high school, I wasn’t sure if dietetics was the right career path for me. Yet I knew that I still wanted to be involved in healthcare, and that I still wanted nutrition to be central in my education. So, when I returned to UF’s campus as an incoming freshman, there was no question about which major to choose: Nutritional Sciences was the perfect program for me!
I hear you studied abroad in Ireland! What was that like, especially as a nutritional sciences student?
My semester in Ireland was truly amazing and one of my most treasured experiences in college. I connected with my Irish relatives and visited the rural Irish town that my family emigrated from in the 1920’s. Besides traveling, I ate a lot of awesome food and met people that I now consider close friends. I also feel I gained a lot of independence while living on my own in a different country and navigating life in a busy city for the first time.
As a nutritional sciences student, one of the most unique experiences I had was my classes at Trinity College Dublin. After many semesters of chemistry, physics and the like, I decided to study history and Irish literature. These subjects were quite a change, but I loved it! Another unique experience was that most other students I met, both Irish and fellow exchange students, were non-science majors. As a science major at UF, my social circle almost exclusively includes people studying the sciences or engineering. Since I don’t usually get the chance to meet Geography, History, or Theater majors, I enjoyed making those connections, and I learned a lot, too!
What do you want to do after graduation?
I plan to attend medical school, and I will be applying this upcoming admissions cycle. I am drawn to medicine due to the rates of chronic disease in the United States, especially heart disease, which are high and ever increasing. My goal and passion in life is to create a medical practice that heavily incorporates preventative medicine (especially nutrition) along with the best practices in disease treatment and management. I want to make a difference that would allow more people to live longer, healthy lives. My experiences as a nutritional sciences major have been instrumental in forming this goal. Clinical research is another passion of mine that I hope to dive into more deeply during my career. Currently, I am keenly interested in the specialty of cardiology, but that may change!
It’s been such a tremendously difficult time for you and your fellow students with the abrupt transition to online learning. How has it been going for you?
It certainly has been interesting! Luckily, except for one course, my courses this semester were all either online or hybrid already, so the transition to online learning hasn’t been terribly rocky for me. However, it is heartbreaking to see so many highly anticipated events be cancelled or indefinitely postponed. As a senior, there are friends that I never got to say an official goodbye to. Even though I am not graduating until the fall myself, the uncertainty of the future is not easy to deal with. For now, I am just making the most of every day, staying thankful for the health of myself and my friends and family, and doing my part to reduce the spread of COVID-19!
Would you share your top tips for making the most of your online learning experience?
Absolutely! My biggest tip is to start the day as if you were going out and about. Change into something comfortable that you would typically wear to class. I personally find that starting my day like this, assisted by a good breakfast and some coffee or tea, is the key to being productive at home.
Also, I recommend trying to set up a regular sleep schedule. I find that without the option to socialize or go to the library at night, it’s a lot easier to go to bed and wake up earlier, which in turn makes it easier to focus and be productive during the day.
Is this anything else you’d like to share about the recent changes going on in your life and in the world?
Despite this semester being so unexpectedly different under such unfortunate circumstances, I am inspired by seeing most people around me doing their part to flatten the curve for the good of our communities. This first-hand evidence of humanity’s flexibility and adaptability makes me proud. The determination of the healthcare workers on the front lines (including my mom, who is a nurse), has inspired me more than ever to be a part of the healthcare field.
While my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by COVID-19, I have observed a few silver linings in this situation. More people than ever are out exercising. Many people (including myself) have taken this extra time to hone cooking and baking skills as we eat out less. The situation has pushed me to connect with friends and family that I might not have otherwise connected with during a typical busy semester. COVID-19 has taught me to not take things for granted, like time with friends or going to a coffee shop.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to read! Being busy with college has stopped me from reading for fun in recent years, but lately I’m making a concerted effort to read every day. I have a stack of books that will last me through quarantine and beyond! In addition, I love cooking, playing tennis, and doing anything outside, especially hiking or going for a bike ride. I adore traveling and experiencing new cultures (especially by trying new foods!), and I hope to travel whenever I get the chance.
If you were a food, what food would you be and why?
I’d be a bowl of seafood chowder! This was my absolute favorite food in Ireland. Each pub has their own rendition of it, and each one is delicious. Growing up by the beach in South Florida, seafood is near and dear to me. I also have a huge weakness for anything creamy. Seafood chowder represents my Florida life as well as my Irish heritage. Its delicious creaminess is balanced out by large chunks of healthy fresh salmon, mussels, and various other fish!
Anything else you’d like to add?
It has been an absolute joy being a part of the FSHN department! I’m grateful to have had great support from advisors, faculty, and fellow FSHN students during my journey as an undergraduate. Go Gators!!!
P.S. Want to read more about the amazing work going on in the FSHN department? See our previous student and faculty profiles below:
Shannon Mai, Dietetics
Alex Colon, Dietetics and Jenny Duong, Food Science