This week, we are celebrating the college graduation of our very first two Jack & Julie Narcolepsy Scholarships recipients from 2014. Recently, Kendra graduated from the University of St. Thomas and Jacob graduated from The Ohio State! Today, Kendra shares beautiful reflections on college life and studying abroad with narcolepsy. Read Jacob’s update here.
Kendra’s College Graduation Update:
Kendra was diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy at age 15 during her freshman year in high school and received a 2014 Jack & Julie Narcolepsy Scholarship. This May 2018, Kendra graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of St. Thomas with a B.S. in neuroscience. She plans on applying for and attending medical school in the near future.
Project Sleep: What was a moment of pride or success during your college years?
Kendra: During my capstone neuroscience class on sleep and circadian rhythms, I had the opportunity to give an hour long presentation on narcolepsy to my classmates, which was a great culmination of my four years of undergraduate education!
Was there a experience during college where you stepped out of your comfort zone?
Studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark for four months! I was initially wary that the jet lag would compound my excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and make me too sleepy to have fun; luckily, I did not experience jet lag and my EDS was surprisingly minimal while abroad. I learned a lot about neuroscience during my time in Denmark and I really enjoyed two of my courses: Psychopharmacology and Neuropsychology of Social Behavior.
One of my favorite memories of studying abroad was visiting my friend Elina, who had studied at my high school during our senior year, in Helsinki, Finland. I also traveled to Malmö, Sweden; London, England; Munich, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden; and Oslo, Norway during my time abroad. I became much more confident in my social skills and my ability to live far away from home while studying abroad.
What surprised you about your experience with narcolepsy in college?
Something that surprised me about living with narcolepsy in college is how much of a morning person I am. My EDS is definitely the worst during the late afternoon (3 PM-6 PM) Additionally, I was surprised at how much my narcolepsy symptoms stabilized during college. I hope that beginning to work a 9-5 job will not negatively impact my EDS!
Did you find mentors, teachers or friends who were particular important to you during college?
I formed a strong bond with my English professor as she was a wonderful teacher and a caring person. She was incredibly interested in narcolepsy and how it impacted my daily life, which I was truly grateful for.
Additionally, my six roommates helped me succeed socially in college. They accepted that I was sometimes too sleepy to participate in roommate outings and reassured me that my narcolepsy was not hindering their interactions with me.
What advice might you give younger students taking on college with narcolepsy?
I would advise undergraduates with narcolepsy to schedule their classes during times when they feel the most awake. Additionally, I received accommodations that allowed me to receive an extended amount of time for test-taking, which was very helpful.
Please join us in congratulating Kendra and wishing her luck as she starts the next chapter of her journey! Meet all 50 of the students we’ve given scholarships to over the past five years.