Student, Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Studies & Psychology
She is passionate about learning more about human behaviour from a social, cultural, mental health and disability perspective, says Pia Jane who is studying part-time for her Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Studies & Psychology.
“For me, being Deaf and raised in the disability community means that I have two distinct identities; one as a person who is disabled and another as a person who is also Deaf. I consider myself to be Deaf plus; Deaf and having additional disabilities. My health condition makes it difficult for me to communicate with both hearing and Deaf people because of a communication disorder. I wanted to learn how to support others who may have gone through something similar to what I’ve been through.”
Both Deaf studies and psychology are fascinating subjects, she says.
“Environmental, social, physical and linguistic variables all contribute to my understanding of the reasons that have an effect on my Deaf community. These topics related to Deaf mental health have a lot of history, but there is little information on how people who are Deaf and disabled deal with mental health. Generally, they prefer to deal with it one on one with a qualified Deaf person, but that isn’t available in New Zealand. There’s an opportunity for those who are Deaf plus to become a successful psychologist.”
Supported to thrive
Being able to receive the support she needed from AUT’s disability student support team has made a big difference to her.
“I was delighted to get continuous support from AUT’s disability service whenever I faced difficulties, and I also suggested a few solutions to them, which led to other Deaf students finding it easier to complete courses. Approaching lecturers for meaningful communication could be a challenge at times, but using the New Zealand Sign Language interpreters and the transcribe app enabled me to be independent without always relying on others. I also appreciate that AUT enables Deaf students to submit assignments using just New Zealand Sign Language.”
She also still remembers the wise words of one of her lecturers.
“In one of my courses, Lifespan Communication, the lecturer encouraged students who had low self-esteem to believe in themselves. I had low self-esteem at the time, and if it hadn’t been for her, I may not have known who to turn to for seeking kindness. Fortunately, one of my classmates, who studied criminology, has been there for me at all times.
“I’m grateful to AUT for providing a chance to support all students socially during courses, which will lead to beneficial networking in the future.”
Advice for other students
Expecting to complete her studies in 2022, Pia has some great advice for other students.
“I still remember one of my professors saying, ‘Do not put too much pressure on yourself when studying; you should feel free to do anything you want for an hour, then return to study when you are ready.’ I took on that advice, and it turned out well for my marks.”
Her other piece of advice is simple: look after your mental health.
“I’d also like encourage students to explore their own resources to help them with their mental health as being a university student can be very stressful.”