My College Journey
When I first stepped onto campus as a freshman as the first and only blind student, I was terrified. I was extremely homesick. My parents were even hesitant to leave me on that first day. I called Mom that first night crying, saying I wanted to come home. That I wasn't cut out for this, and that college wasn't for me. I felt like a lone fish being tossed around by the ocean waves, surrounded by tons of other foreign schools of fish.
Luckily, within a few days, I reunited with one of my friends from VABVI summer camps. Her name was also Sarah. It was perfect. We were both visually impaired and somewhat shy. We were going through similar challenges and we had a lot in common. I no longer felt alone. Sarah had already made a small circle of friends, including her boyfriend, and I soon fell into her circle. I was soon immersed in the college life: going to parties, hanging out and watching movies in the dorms, and even going off campus to wander Church Street in Burlington. I felt like a young adult for the first time and I was having a blast!
I ran into a few roadblocks in my classes. We had to have several meetings with my professors and the disability services, but my freshman year was actually quite a success. Teachers were very open and excited about teaching a blind student. In my college writing class, I was considered too advanced for the class, and therefore spent extra time with the teacher outside of class to do extra work.
As time progressed, things got a little trickier as my classes became more challenging. However, most things were overcome by meeting with the disability service staff, but most of all, finding patience and determination within myself. Tutoring services also helped quite a bit.
As some of my friends either graduated, I became a bit more lonely and isolated. Being that it was a small campus, there were not always a lot of activities going on. Or if there were, I often didn't know about it because the listing of activities were not made accessible to me because they were images or posters. I tried reaching out to the disability staff and they did their best to let me know what was going on. However, it wasn't until last year, when another blind student moved on campus, that they began sending out emails of the activities to us in an accessible format. I was very grateful for this, and hope to take full advantage of this during my senior year and go to as many activities as I can. Especially now that all of my friends have graduated.
Overall, my college experience thus far has been a rocky road, but the smooth parts were amazing. I had some difficulties with professors not willing to adapt or accommodate my needs, but most of that is overcome by talking with the disability staff and coming up with alternatives. I am still afraid how people will view me due to my disability. Will they be excited and curious? Will they be neutral? Or will they be terrified and therefore shut down due to their fear and therefore reject me?
My fears, like many other college graduates, is what I will do after college. I do not have a concrete plan as of yet. Entering my senior year, I plan to keep an open mind. When things don't work out, I know who my supports are. I will have to work extra hard to make more friends. The biggest battle I have to face rages within myself. I have to sift through all of the differing societal expectations and somehow define myself. People have various opinions on what to expect from someone who is blind. I have to figure out what I expect for myself.