Sunday 15th October is World Student's Day. It is a day to celebrate multiculturalism, diversity and cooperation among students across the globe. Moving on to University is a huge step forwards for many young people, and it is a time to make big decisions. Have a read below to see what decisions Lexi and Jess had to make before they started studying their degrees.
Lexi, 20, Studying BA Media & Culture and Creative Digital Media
I wouldn’t say that I always wanted to attend university, as I had never liked the idea of being in debt but I know that this is an opportunity I have that many others don’t and it’s something that I am keen to make the most of to help me get to where I want to be in my career. I also know how proud it makes my parents to see me going to university.
As a young wheelchair user, I’ve always been pretty independent at home, but a move away would require a lot of research and planning to make sure that I was going to be able to live by myself for three years. I was nervous but also very excited and I couldn’t wait.
I had originally enrolled at the University of Birmingham, which I had intended to go to, until I heard about the University of Worcester through going to wheelchair basketball tournaments held there. I love sports and I also play wheelchair basketball regularly so this was a huge attraction for me and one of the deciding factors in making the switch to study in Worcester.
I also knew that I wanted to study for a Joint Honours degree, which the University of Worcester offered – BA Media & Culture and Creative Digital Media – so I decided to go along to the open day, take a look around the campus and check out the accessibility. The campus was great and very easy for me to get around so I it wasn’t a hard decision to make. Worcester is also a much smaller university, which has the perk of getting more time with my tutors and lecturers. I enrolled and made my way up in September 2016 to start my course.
I have travelled away from home quite a lot going on weekends away and abroad with school so it’s something that I was already quite used to before I got there. It was great to get to my room, which was in the halls on campus and I got settled in quickly. I have an end suite, which is a bit bigger and I have a large en-suite bathroom which is accessible for me. The staff also added in some extra desk space. My room is located just five minutes from where my lectures take place as well, which is great and makes it so easy.
The public transport in Worcester isn’t as good as my hometown London, but once I get into town it pretty easy for me to get around. I have a lightweight manual wheelchair which helps. It has a much quieter and relaxed environment than London, which I really enjoy. I also have a support worker, who comes twice a week to help me with my grocery shopping, my laundry and help to clean my room, which is really helpful. These are things that my mum would usually help with so it’s great to know that I have someone who can help out if I need it.
On the whole, I would say that going away to study at university has been a very positive one and it’s great to be able to learn new skills and experience student life in Worcester. It has offered me an opportunity not only to study the subjects that I am passionate about but also the chance to learn to live by myself in a safe environment and become as independent as I can.
If I was going to give any advice to young wheelchair users, it would be to do your research and make sure you ask for help where you need it from the university. I have been fortunate in getting the right support, such as a larger accessible bedroom in a good location near to my lectures. These are all things that will make your studying experience the best it can be.
Jess, 21, Studying English Literature and Creative Writing
My name is Jessica and I’m a first year Open University (OU) student. For a lot of people deciding whether to do university is a fairly easy decision. But for me it wasn’t so easy.
See I live with a chronic illness, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which makes it very hard for me to study for long periods of time and I rely on a wheelchair, provided by disabled children and young people’s charity Whizz-Kidz, for mobility. Therefore residential university would be extremely difficult for me.
My health condition is complex and rare. It affects pretty much all parts of my life including my organs, my ability to walk, my concentration, my ability to write and speak for long periods of time and it causes extreme fatigue. I spend a lot of time bed bound; hospital visits and stays are frequent.
I was told it would be fairly impossible for me to study University the “normal’ way right now, as my health is so complicated and constantly changing. However, Open University presented me with the perfect opportunity to achieve my ambitions. See The Open University has a distance learning format, which means that I can do most of my studying and assignments from home or hospital.
It is the largest university in Europe, has a wide range of courses available to choose from and it allows you to study part time, which gives you flexibility to complete your course over a longer period of years.
This type of studying is ideal not only for people with health issues - more than one in five (21 per cent) of the students enrolled in at the Open University, for the 2016 – 2017 academic year, registered as having a disability - but also parents, people with full time/part time jobs and carers, as it gives them a route to gain a degree in which they may not otherwise be able to.
It sounds like an easy decision doesn’t it? For me not so much, see I wasn’t always sick and since I was a child I have always loved learning and dreamt of the day I would finally get to go to university! My dream was to go to medical school and study to be a surgeon. When I got sick that option was taken away from me and ever since then I’ve be striving to find a new passion and I finally did a couple years ago, I discovered my love of writing and a new dream was born.
I dreamt of becoming a journalist and, despite my illness, I still longed to go to residential university. However, I knew it would take a massive toll on my health. I wasn’t sure which way to turn when I was presented with the idea of doing Open University. I hummed and hawed about it as I felt like it was not ‘real’ University, but as I started to learn more about it and talk to other people who had studied there, I soon realised that it is just as much of a ‘real’ University as any and that it gives me a fantastic opportunity to achieve a degree, gain lots of new knowledge and skills while also taking care of my health.
I still need to be very self-motivating, determined and organised, as I still have deadlines to work to and just like any other University; I have been allocated a tutor, who I can contact for advice and support. I am also given the opportunity to attend tutorials with other students studying my particular module.
After my enrolment at the Open University, they have been incredibly supportive in getting me ready for this new experience and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity. I now realise that this is absolutely the right thing for me!
I am excited and nervous but I know that this is the right way for me to learn and gain my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, which will enable me to pursue my career goals and dreams.
My advice to anyone to anyone who is thinking about University, I would definitely suggest you look at all your options including The Open University, as you may find as I did that it fits into your life as perfectly as it did mine.