I am not perfect. I make mistakes as does everyone. But now I have completed three years at University. One year at Southampton Solent University and two at De Montfort University. Each one of the years was full of their own set of challenges, some more than difficult to overcome than others. The challenges and years at University have really taken their toll on me but have taught me some valuable life lessons. I think being at University is difficult for any student but going to University with a disability intensifies the challenges I face.
Trust me, there have been times where I have wanted to throw in the towel but I have persevered and tried to make the best out of bad situations.
At first, I was terrified of leaving my family and my home to pursue my studies and my dreams at a University. I couldn’t stretch my imagination to consider living away from home. I have always known a life with my parents and everything is taken care of, my only responsibility is to make decisions for the present, not for the present and future. But the more and more I thought about it, the more I accepted that the fears and apprehensions I had were valid but I had to try and look past them and see the pros to my decision of moving away if I did decide to do that.
the first thing I had to consider and think long and hard about is the course that Southampton Solent University offered, that I was interested in. Was Media, Culture & Production the course that I really wanted to study? Yes, I had to consider that studying this course would mean I would have to live away from home but do I want to study Media, Culture & Production because if I did, the rest we could sort out.
Thinking long and hard about my options, I decided that I did want to study Media, Culture & Production at Southampton Solent University.
My first year at Southampton Solent University was a settling in process, to come to grip with a new living and study environment. The year taught me to have independence and to have the courage of living away from my parents and the courage to make my own decisions. It also taught me to shoulder more responsibility for myself and my studies. Compared to school and college, the responsibilities of your studies, deadlines are yours and you needed to learn to manage your time properly to balance your studies, deadlines and the way you manage the way you are living. There are people who are there to support you but the majority of the responsibility is yours.
Leaving Southampton Solent University and restarting De Montfort University as a first-year was still scary but not as much as when I first went to Southampton Solent University. The year at Southampton Solent University prepared me for what was coming.
I was still living away from home in Leicester while studying at De Montfort University but it was closer which made it more manageable. As I was living closer to home, it allowed me to concentrate on the skills I had already obtained.
Living in halls of residence in Leicester allowed me to have that independence and the responsibility for myself, my deadlines, my studies and the way I live.
I am not saying that it takes quitting one University and starting a new University to learn and acquire these skills. I’m saying, try not pressure yourself into anything. Go to the University you want to go to and study the course you want to do. Take it one step at a time at your own pace and throw yourself into the experience of University and seize all the opportunities that you come across.
Now, thinking about my second year at De Montfort University, I must admit, though I had the skills of independence and managing my deadlines helped me, the pressures and responsibilities of my second year at De Montfort University defiantly caught me off-guard, it was much, much harder than my first year at De Montfort University on many levels.
When I returned for my second year at De Montfort University, I was held in high expectations. I was expected to shoulder more responsibility and pressure of my studies and use what I learned last year and build on it. The lecturers and tutors were still there in the background to assist as and when we needed but we as students had passed that settling in period where we needed guiding through things.
Now, we have the tools to work hard and independently, with little guidance from our lecturers and tutors. I expected this and I accepted it but it was a much bigger leap than I anticipated. It was continuous assignments, projects and deadlines, one after another, after another. There was absolutely no respite what so ever.
Following important decisions that I made at the end of my first year, I had to embrace the challenges that this caused me to have in my second year. One of these decisions that I made at the end of my first year, was to complete my dissertation in journalism in my third year. It is a long and intense project and the majority of journalism lectures and seminars were dedicated to preparing for the dissertation that we are to write in the third year. Though I still have doubts about writing my dissertation, I was excited to research and base my dissertation on ‘How Disability Is Represented In The Media.’
The dissertation proposal was very hard to construct and there were a few hurdles but I remained focused and wrote a very long but detailed dissertation proposal. I broke it into pieces to make it more manageable and took one part of the criteria at a time, which proved effective. I think being able to break it down made it a little less daunting. I know I have a big dissertation project ahead of me but I really think I’ve made a strong head start by creating such a detailed destination proposal.
My next bit of advice is, whether writing a dissertation is mandatory or not in your third year on your course, make sure that you base it on a subject you have a great deal of interest in and a subject that you are passionate about. You are going to spend a lot of time and effort on it and are going to be sick of by the end of it. At least this way you will enjoy writing it, focus well and hopefully get a good mark because you are confident about it and this confidence will show through in your dissertation.
I had a great amount of pressure to deal with this year. Not only was it my second year and there was a lot of expectations from everyone but I knew that this year counted towards my final grade of my overall degree. I knew I had to think very strongly about my dissertation and what I plan to do and how I planned to manage it. But I knew I also had my other deadlines and projects to complete alongside it, which were as important. Just because I had my dissertation to prepare for, doesn’t mean I could let my other assignments and projects slip.
It is all about balancing and confidence…