Hannah Sun

Hannah Sun
Hannah Sun

Never too young to make a planned gift

Hannah Sun is 26 years old. She moved from Taiwan to study in Canada. She graduated from her geography programme at UVic last year and is looking for a job. Sounds like your typical recent grad, right?

Not so fast.

In August of 2007, after completing a year of university in frigid Ontario, Hannah moved to Victoria seeking warmer climes. She began her time at UVic like a lot of new students: she only knew her two roommates, lived far away from any family members, and hadn’t totally decided what she wanted to do. As a lover of nature and people’s connection to their environment, she thought environmental studies might be a good fit, so she enrolled in courses in that area. Then one month into her semester, everything changed.

Hannah was hit by a car when crossing Ring Road as she walked through campus. Though she was in a crosswalk, the driver didn’t see her and didn’t stop. She was struck on her left side, landed on her head, and promptly went into a coma. Eventually the doctors managed to bring the swelling in her brain down by creating a hole in her head which was later covered over by a titanium plate. Many surgeries later, Hannah has had her vision restored to normal and her speech is catching up, but along with having to learn to use her left hand instead of her right, she is still coping with physical and psychological side effects.

With most of her friends and family strewn across borders, Hannah faced a titanic journey to recovery. She lived close to campus and the facilities she needed weren’t nearby. “I knew I had to take it one step at a time, but I didn’t know where to begin,” she recalls. Luckily, it was Hannah’s own environment that connected with her. She found respite at the Jack Petersen Health Centre, the campus home for Health Services that is nestled among the residence buildings. “The proximity and accessibility were very helpful to me,” Hannah says with a grateful tone.

Hannah Sun

Hannah Sun
(BA, '14 in geography)

Being an international student meant that Hannah did not have a local doctor. At the Health Centre she was assigned a regular doctor who took out her post-surgery stitches and provided her with the notes she needed to register with the Resource Centre for Students with a Disability. The clinic also helped her look after her mental well-being by providing psychological care and more. Forced by her injuries and ongoing recovery to spend a lot of time there, Hannah got to know the clinic staff well. So well, in fact, that, to her, “it was almost like my second home.”

Despite the support, it took Hannah much longer than she planned to finish her degree. Volunteering with the Student Alumni Association (now known as the UVic Student Ambassadors), she experienced the bitter-sweetness of watching her friends graduate while she continued her studies. Connecting with her community, however, strengthened her resolve: “I am going to finish what I have started out to do, no matter how long it takes.” Eight years after the accident, Hannah walked across that convocation stage like her friends and decades of alumni before her.

But Hannah's unique story doesn’t end there. With a Bachelor of Arts degree fresh in hand, and a settlement in her pocket, Hannah wanted to give back. “I like things with history, and I feel part of UVic’s. I want to help it flourish, to continue the support I still receive,” she explains. Extremely rare on the part of someone her age, Hannah drew up a Will which includes a bequest to the Jack Petersen Health Centre, ensuring that students will continue to benefit from the clinic’s care long after she is gone.

A current volunteer with UVic’s Young Alumni council, Hannah does not want to break ties with her campus community. She helps to provide resources to new alumni and students finishing up their degrees. Working with them to ensure they are prepared, Hannah lives the lesson she wants to share: “Appreciate life by learning from every opportunity.”

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