When people talk about university the first thing they mention is the Freshers week.
At Solent it was Freshers Fortnight which meant two weeks of late-nights, parties, alcohol, nightclubs and bars but best of all the Freshers Ball. Prior to starting uni I purchased an AAA band, one for my PA and one for myself.
The wristband would get us into all the events and parties in the two weeks giving us access and discounts into the nightclubs and bars.
The main thing in freshers fortnight that I was looking forward to was being able to go out and be with my friends as we all enjoyed the days and events during the fresher weeks.
For me, one of the biggest problems of going out is the accessibility of the bars and clubs. My new friends and I would phone ahead and check this out before I went along. Unfortunately, I overlooked the element of getting there and back every night.
Unlike Birmingham, I couldn’t find any taxi companies willing to take my electric wheelchair. Excuses ranged from “we have no taxis in the area” “we have no accessible taxis available” “we only have taxis that can transport wheelchairs which can fold up and you can transfer in and out of the chair”
Whatever the excuse was the message was clear – drivers weren’t willing to waste time or energy to take me to places, when they could be elsewhere earning twice the amount of money they would gain doing our one journey.
This was heartbreaking as the lack of taxis prevented me from going out during Freshers Fortnight, having an effect on my social life in University.
Other people bonded on these nights out and I felt really left out. I felt I struggled to fit in with any specific group of friends.After a few days of feeling very frustrated and fed up, I devised a plan to increase the possibility of going out with friends.
If I knew when my friends were going out in plenty of time before the actual night, my PA and I would set off earlier so we’d have time to get there before my friends arrived. If the location was too far to walk, we would look around for possible means of transport on the days leading up to the event.
Worst scenario I organised to see my friends before they went out to join them for a few pre-drinks so I could still have fun with them.
For those events I was able to attend, I enjoyed every minute of it. I especially enjoyed the themed freshers events and parties.
As part of freshers fortnight, I attended a two-day freshers fair, in which there were different stalls advertising events around Southampton and also businesses around the town.
Some of the stalls were giving out items and free food, there were also stalls showing different clubs and societies available at Southampton Solent University.
I had a look around. There were plenty of sports clubs to join and but only a small number of other clubs and societies to join. Due to my personal circumstances, I found I couldn’t join the sports teams; this was a big disappointment as I do enjoy sports when they are adapted so I can participate. I love Botcha, and I am pretty good at it, but there wasn’t a club that did this.
I hoped that by looking around the stalls, I would find things that would suit my interests and passions but that would also benefit me on my course. It was a bit of a struggle actually and I almost gave up, when I came across a society called SonarTV and SonarRadio. These were the names of the university’s own radio and television stations.
I had a good think about it, and decided to join this society as it was a great interest of mine and I also felt I could get hands-on experience.
During each show you were able to take on a different job role and I would to help produce a live or recorded television or radio show. I also felt it would be exciting to actually see and feel what it was like working on a live show.
When I started university in September, I was determined to meet new people and go out with friends. I wanted to really make the most of university life. This is when things started to go a bit pear shaped as unfortunately my PA/carer didn’t feel the same about going out as I did.
She wasn’t a sociable person and had strong ideas about me going out without her. She felt I shouldn’t go out with my friends without care however, she didn’t always feel up to going out herself and therefore I missed nights out.
I tried negotiating with her saying I would take my mobile phone, going out with reliable friends and being home at a decent time but each time I said this I didn’t get the result I wanted. I couldn’t help smile as I felt like I was backing at home as if I was trying to convince my parents to let me go out.
The frustration mounted with the more times I missed going out and the longer I didn’t get my freedom. It was horrible to watch my friends get dressed up to go out and not being allowed to myself, it reminded me of secondary school watching my friends go out onto the playground when I couldn’t.
As much as I tried to convince myself that the extra time allowed me to keep up with my coursework, I was becoming a bit depressed. Friends started to notice and joined me in trying to convince my PA/carer, telling her that they would be with me to help in any way I needed. This again, reminded me of school and friends telling teachers to let me come out onto the banned playground!
After a few weeks I realised I wasn’t going to win this argument, still adamant she wasn’t going out and I wasn’t allowed to go out without her, I spoke to my morning carer who agreed to take me on nights out – albeit not being part her role. It felt good to finally tell my friends I could come out with them! Being aware of my needs, my friends adjusted their plans so I could come. I enjoyed it all, the getting ready routine, having a drink and laughing with them.