Mike O’Donnell – Student Story
Mike O’Donnell, a Vancouver local, is a self-professed “sports-guy” who travelled around the USA and across Europe playing semi-professional hockey.
A bad break-up pushed Mike to get out of his comfort zone and do something new. Mike said he always enjoyed giving and receiving massages and so decided to enrol in a Weekend Introductory Massage course where he learnt the basics of Swedish massage.
“I fell in love it with it,” Mike said. “Five or six years ago I never would of thought about doing massage but now I’m a lot more open minded. Credit goes to my ex-fiancé for that. We’re still good friends and I’ve learnt to takes the positives out of everything. It’s led me to the spa program, which I’m absolutely loving.”
After the weekend intro, Mike decided to enrol in the part-time Spa Therapy Program after being attracted to the holistic healing approach of the program.
“The teachers want you to succeed not only in massage but also in life. We only have 12 students in the spa class; it’s such a good size. Everybody really gets attention when we need help,” he said.
Being male in a female dominated industry poses some unique challenges, particularly in the context of a spa school. “We were a little timid at the start with taking clothes off before receiving a massage but you get used to it. Playing sports growing up, it didn’t really bother me,” he said.
Students in the Spa Therapy Program practice massage techniques on each other throughout the program, particularly when learning a new modality.
“Everybody in our group is really close now. I really have a good time going to every class. I particularly enjoy self care and body mind integration – it has really helped me move forward.”
When he isn’t at school, Mike works Monday to Friday for the City of Burnaby’s Parks and Rec Department. “I start and finish work early so it gives me time to head to class afterwards.”
Classes for the part-time Spa Therapy Program are held on evenings and weekends allowing students to work and study simultaneously.
“It doesn’t even feel like you’re going to class sometimes. It’s just a group of people having fun. Nothing but smiles. I’m more of a hands-on learner so Deep Tissue and Swedish is perfect for me. Anatomy can be a little bit challenging, but our anatomy teacher is great, very knowledgeable, and we use ‘Simone’ the Skeleton to help us learn all our bony landmarks and muscle groups.”
Mike said his work in anatomy class has definitely paid off in the student clinic, where students practice their new skills on paying members of the public with supervision from teachers.
“We’re all getting great feedback. One of my clients said that he thought it was a professional massage, which I was overwhelmed and so happy with. Each time I go into clinic I try and work on things I think I need to improve on and try out different modalities. It’s so much fun.”
After graduating Mike says he would like to go travelling and work in the spa industry in New Zealand or Japan.
“I’m really ‘go with the flow’ right now. I’m happy going to school and working so I’m just going to let my intuition guide me and see where massage takes me. I hope after I graduate it takes me onto my next adventure.”