On September 17th, 2016, I moved into halls of residence at university. It took a good three years of deliberation for me to decide whether university was the right place for me. Ever since I was around 8 years old I’ve always known that I wanted to further my education as much as I possibly could. Back then, I felt like nothing could hold me back. My parents have always been so supportive of every decision I make (well, most!) and have never believed that my medical conditions would hold me back.
When you have a medical condition/disability/illness, you’re frequently told no by everyone, whether they be teachers, doctors, nurses, family, friends- basically most people. ‘You can’t do that’ or ‘you’ll never manage’. As soon as someone says these things, there’s a little fire that just ignites inside me, and I’m the first person to try and prove these people wrong. When it came to my A-Levels, it took me an extra year, and multiple doctors and teachers told me that maybe I should just rest, maybe I should just stop trying with education, maybe I should just become housebound. In true Em style, I moved to a different college and carried on with my A-Levels, even if I spent a lot of time doing ‘distance learning’ at home. I achieved BBD at AS level, and CCD at A2, and it was enough for me to secure a place at my first choice university. If I’d given up and followed others “helpful” advice, I’d never have known what I was (and am!) capable of achieving.
Most people were, and still are, shocked when I say that I live at university rather than commuting. For me, living in was the best option for me. It meant that I could have a wheelchair accessible flat, rent is reasonably cheap, and it’s what I call a half way house. By living at university there are 24/7 security teams, accommodation teams, maintenance teams etc, which you obviously don’t get if you move into a normal house. Wasn’t I scared? Of course I was. With CAH, it can be life threatening if not managed correctly, and I’m not the best at managing my condition and the medication that comes with it. My parents? Of course they were. But they knew that university is a life-long dream of mine, and the field of work I want to go into requires a degree. Ultimately, it’s my life, and the decisions I make are ones that I have to live with.
My first day at uni I had what I will refer to as a ‘mini breakdown’. I didn’t know how I’d manage, I cried to my mum over the phone and she encouraged me to stick at it. Here I am, 3 weeks later, settled in, and actually enjoying my life here. University is an experience that I believe everyone needs to have, regardless of disability or medical condition. Yes, the world may not appear to be particularly suited for people with extra needs, but it’s the world that we have to live in whether we like it or not, so make the best of it, and chase your dreams regardless of which path they take you in in life.