When you first meet John Tison, he may seem like your “typical” college student. Tison is a native of Columbia, South Carolina, the youngest of three and was drawn to Clemson for its atmosphere. However, the senior English major has lead an interesting life.
Tison, who graduates in August, didn’t actually begin his tenure in Tigertown as an English major.
“I [actually] took General Engineering courses that first semester and was drawn to [STEM] more than I had been in high school,” Tison said.
Along with his classes and the daily struggles and accords of a college student, John was also a member of Clemson’s Fencing team, the sport being a fond love of his for years. The student is even the No. 1 epeeist in the state, a feat which isn’t easy.
“I got into Fencing when I was 11, I don’t remember exactly how,” Tison said. “I kept to it mainly as a hobby until I came here and got competitive. It’s been really great. I think most of the friends I’ve made at Clemson have been through the club here.”
However, soon after starting in the engineering program, Tison felt as though he was in a rut. Not only that, but — academically — he wasn’t finding anything that piqued his interests.
“I switched [majors] a few times, but most of those were between engineering and STEM degree,” Tison said. “I had two summers where I’d interned with an Engineering contractor. I was on track to graduate around the same time as I am now. I could pretty much see myself getting to a place like that and ending up as a manager and just kind of staying there.”
Alongside these doubts about his school choices, Tison ran into an issue that changed his perspective on life.
“Around [Summer 2016], I had a fairly serious medical issue,” Tison said. “It really made me look at how I wanted to spend my life. And since career is such a big part of that, it was the first thing I began to reevaluate.”
With English always being an interest of his, Tison decided to consider a major change, and that Fall, he switched into the English department. For Tison, the decision wasn’t hard — especially with an interest in the study that he’s “always had,” along with a desire to become a writer before his STEM days. This all cultivated in Tison’s switch, which he said “[brought] back that earlier love for [the subject].”
During his year and a half in the department, two of Tison’s favorite classes have been Literature in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Psychoanalysis and Anti-Racist Thought. For the senior, what drew him to both courses was the deep literature, as well as the connections to today’s national conversations.
“Each class brought a new level of insight to their topics,” Tison said. “I feel there still isn’t a ton of conversation about the culture and thought in the Middle East and North Africa or about some of the deeper complexities that come up in how one’s thoughts can be so heavily influenced.”
The hardest parts for Tison have been making sure to not let school overstress him. However, he’s found a technique to create balance.
“It’s good to create some distance from class,” Tison said. “Not the anxious distance where you’re just watching Netflix for hours avoiding work, but where you actively make a choice to enjoy your own time or create a space for free time. It keeps you sane.”
This stems from his time Fencing, where he’s learned that the sport helped him with his mentality.
“[Fencing is about] keeping yourself focused on the task at hand without worrying about everything else. Not letting your emotions dictate your actions either, whether they are positive or negative … There’s a balance to it.”
Reflecting on his time here, if Tison could start his time over at Clemson, he says he would have started with the English department.
“I’ve been here awhile now. So if I could have started with English, I’d have graduated much sooner.”
After graduation, Tison has a few different ideas for what he wants to do. As the current news editor of Clemson’s student-run newspaper, Tison is considering journalism. However, as someone who is a big fan of creative writing, he’s also debating getting an MFA or even teaching English in France, a favorite country of his.
Regardless of what’s next for Tison, it seems as if the senior will always move forward with what keeps him the most balanced.
Written By: Saavon Smalls and Allison Daniel