University

Heads up. This post is going to be a long one. During university there were so many hurdles and unexpected events to deal with on top of my academic work. In the end though it has taught me more about myself and dyspraxia than any other part of my education has done so far.

GAP YEAR

Before stepping into the exciting world of university, I took a year out. This wasn’t so that I could go off travelling. I was only just used to public transport in London, travelling to other countries would need more preparation. No, this time was for me to grow up a little bit more (my mum was hoping that I would become more savvy and independent).

Unfortunately, this didn’t go to plan. I became quite ill due to the stress of trying to survive in the real world. This lead to me losing my retail job. However, during this time I was slowly beginning to recognise some of the warning signs of my dyspraxia. By paying attention to these signs, it would lessen the impact when and if things went wrong.

FIRST YEAR

After my gap year I was ready to finally get back into education. In university things are very different. Although you still go to classes, get homework and have teachers/lecturers that help you, everything about Uni is independent. The assignments given for each module were announced at the beginning of the academic year. Somehow I had to use my time management skills to assess when I should focus on them so that I handed them in on time. I was also having to travel across London to get to Uni, which in itself provided plenty of things to challenge me.

Due to my lack of time management skills, I got by with my usual technique. I would start my assignments the day before and stay up all night to finish them and my revision involved re-reading the lecture slides multiple times during the week before a test.

University is supposed to be the time when you socialise by going to all of the uni events and joining different societies. I tried to do this, but juggling a social life and my studies was difficult. Especially since I needed to include time to be by myself to recuperate and time to talk to my family to help me process what had happened that day.

I didn’t prioritise my school/home/ social life well since I didn’t take into consideration the fact that the first year doesn’t count towards the final grade. This meant that I studied more when I should have been making friends. It also didn’t help that I lived 2 hours away from uni and I really need 10 hours sleep to function properly. In the new year my attendance progressively dropped so that I could focus on trying to revise for my end of year exams. I wanted to use the four hour commute each day for studying instead of being on the train.

SECOND YEAR

During the summer holiday I had decided that enough was enough. I started to research how to study better, trying to work out what would be the best way for me. I spent hours reading articles and going through wikiHow, but this changed once I found out my grades. Yet again, due to my success the previous year, I became complacent and started the year wanting to make friends and prioritising my social life (I really am a bit backwards with my prioritising).

However, I managed to stay on top of my assignments with the same old tricks, but this time I wasn’t getting the results. Since this year counted, I needed to properly plan my essays so that I was able to go into the depth that was needed for each assignment and my revision was getting lost since re-reading the lecture slides wasn’t making the information stick in my head anymore.

Then something I wasn’t expecting happened. Someone close to me was in a road accident and was in hospital for two months. This threw out the window any flimsy plans I might have had for my academic year. I tried revising in the hospital every day I was there, after my friend was discharged there were still many more appointments that would ultimately take up my whole day. As a direct result of all of this my attendance plummeted, I had to balance supporting my friend and getting ready for my exams. I knew by now that I wouldn’t be able to manage two major events in my life simultaneously and I informed my tutor of what was happening (a bit late, but they say better late than never). Luckily, they were able to postpone my assignments and exams.

THIRD YEAR (FINAL YEAR – TAKE 1)

This year I decided to be an independent woman and I moved out. It Probably wasn’t the best time to spread my wings, but I had had enough of the two hour commute to university and I wanted to experience uni life properly before it was over.

I went into this new adventure knowing that it was going to challenge my dyspraxia in a way I had never experienced. Living with my family had meant that I always had the security and support I needed if something went wrong. My mum had been training me for this by slowly increasing my responsibilities in the house like doing my own clothes washing, which is simple for some, but for me it can be difficult to find the right time when I have enough energy and not preoccupied with stressing over something else.

Money management was something else I had to learn. Now that I was paying rent and utilities, my money wasn’t my own to do as I wished. I didn’t put into place any plan for managing my money and ended up getting an overdraft to fund my new life. Unfortunately, the overdraft lasted about as long as the student loan that was all but a distant memory by this time. Ultimately, I had to let my mum know what sort of mess I had got myself into. I had managed to hide all of my financial difficulties from her and so it came as a bit of a shock to her to find out I wasn’t managing. With my families help we were able to work out a plan to pay off my overdraft and get me back to square one. I had gotten myself into this mess due to the fact that, when I spent money, I used my card. I couldn’t see how each time I bought food or clothes, it was adding up and my money disappearing.

In the end, I failed the year and decided to take a year out, before throwing myself back into it all again.

FOURTH YEAR (FINAL YEAR – TAKE 2)

At the beginning of the summer holiday I moved back in with my family. My mum was due to have a back operation and I had found a job near my family home. During this time I came to realise that the real world was not for me and I started to miss the safety of education. I knew I was doing the right thing by taking some time out to learn more about myself and my dyspraxia. Dyspraxia had been a hindrance my whole life and I was determined to find a way to thrive with it (and maybe conquer it… I was so naive).

However, there were people in my life telling me that this was the wrong thing to do, it would not look good to future employers and getting back into the swing of education would be difficult. So, I decided to go back the following academic year.

Instead of learning from my mistakes, I went back to uni and kept the job I had gotten in the summer. I knew this would be difficult because I was pushing more onto my saucer sized plate instead of focusing on passing third year this time. What I didn’t know was that there were going to be more hurdles to come.

The first time I met my dissertation supervisor was horrible. I went into the room feeling positive, but once I sat down, my supervisor pointed out my falling grades and asked me what “issues” I had. My heart dropped and I politely pointed out that I had a learning difficulty. I wasn’t allowed to say anything more and she told me what I was going to do. I had done preparation and research into the subject I wanted, but apparently I wasn’t allowed a say. The following meetings with her didn’t improve and she continued to treat me like a lazy student until she said she wouldn’t help me anymore and I had to do it by alone.

Luckily I had someone on my side when I signed u to have a disability support person during this year. I could have taken advantage of this resource from my first year, but I believed that I could do it all by myself. I mean, I had sort of successfully managed my own education up until this point. This was the most valuable time since I became more accepting of my dyspraxia and the challenges it creates, it was also amazing to finally speak to someone who had an understanding of my difficulties and could help me find the right tools to manage them.

This year was another year for a set back. Unfortunately it was in the form of my grandfather’s death. We had known it was coming, he had been diagnosed with cancer at the end of the previous year, but it was a short and intense illness. This meant that I had to postpone my dissertation so that I could focus on processing what had happened and trying to prepare for my final exams.

To prepare for my final exams I started to go to the library every day and trying my hand at revision notes, but mainly relying on the lecture slides that I had highlighted and made notes on.

Even though I had postponed my dissertation I managed to miss the deadline. The final deadline was during the summer when I was on holiday half way across the world. I had spent most of the holiday trying to finish my dissertation instead of spending the day with my family. I worked really hard to have it ready for the deadline to find the university had changed the deadline from late afternoon to early morning. It didn’t help that I was on US time and didn’t take this into consideration. Yet again, my tutor had to fix my mistake.

FIFTH YEAR (FINAL YEAR – TAKE 3)

Luckily I was allowed yet more time to finish off my dissertation. Since I had passed all of my other modules, I didn’t have to go into university. Instead my tutor became my supervisor and I met with him a few times during the year and we corresponded through email. When asked about what had happened with my previous supervisor, I tried to tell him without being too negative, but luckily other disability students had come up against her as well and he understood.

Although, my tutor was helpful and encouraging, I had had enough. I had been trying to finish this year for three years. I did what I could with the little energy I had left and decided to hand in my dissertation knowing I wouldn’t get the top marks my tutor said I could. My only thought was to get it over with and continue the rest of my life instead of being stuck with the same monotonous procedures.

So, you are all caught up on my life up until now and so tomorrow I will be talking about my life right now as a working woman. I hope to see you guys there.

My best wishes for all of you.

Jessica

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