SMA News Forums › Forums › Going To College When You Have SMA › What was your biggest hurdle in college?
Tagged: advocating for yourself, college, Living with SMA
What was your biggest hurdle in college?Posted by Alyssa Silva on May 15, 2023 at 7:28 pm
It’s crazy to think that this week marks 10 years since I graduated college. Earning that degree is definitely a big accomplishment of mine. I remember being in high school and thinking there was no way I could tackle the demanding workload that college brings.
But I took a huge leap of faith, and even though I hit many roadblocks along the way, it all worked out in the end. Though I’ll never forget missing my first-year final exams after being hospitalized with the flu, dragging my mom to classes because I couldn’t find caregivers, or having to advocate for my needs every semester.
Did you go to college? If so, what was your biggest hurdle?Blake Watson replied 4 days, 22 hours ago 4 Members · 15 Replies
Blake WatsonMemberMay 16, 2023 at 10:48 am
Yeah finding caregivers was probably the toughest thing. I went to a school about three hours from home so having reliable PCAs was critical. PCAs are a high-turnover job as it is but it was made even more difficult because of living at home during summers—juggling people in two cities.
But it was all worth it. Going to college was a great experience and I feel like I learned a lot living on my own. If only I wasn’t so goofy and awkward back then 😂.
DeAnn RMemberMay 18, 2023 at 12:51 pm
Just curious Blake, did you live on campus? What was the housing like?
Blake WatsonMemberMay 22, 2023 at 2:37 pm
@drunge I lucked out and had an on-campus apartment that was designated for married couples and grad students. It was nice and quiet but still connected to my university’s extensive sidewalk system. And I had an automatic door opener installed so that I could come and go on my own for the first time ever.
When my brother joined me a few years later we had the ultimate setup—two apartments next to each other that constituted the whole ground floor. We slept/showered in one apartment so that we could share an overnight PCA and had our computers, TV, and such in the other apartment.
I definitely miss being able to decide on a whim to leave my apartment and meet up with
the girl I had a crush onpeople at the Starbucks on campus. 🙂
DeAnn RMemberMay 23, 2023 at 9:15 am
Nice! Did you have a lot of choices where you went to school? I chose the most accessible campus I was aware of. My first year I lived in a dorm room on campus. Technically it was double occupancy but I had it all to myself. It had a sink, but to shower I needed to be rolled to the bathroom. Luckily it was the next door down.
After the first year I got an apartment just off campus. The building catered to elderly and disabled, so it was an interesting mix. If the weather was nice I could wheel to class but in the winter I had to take the bus. What was the sidewalk system like? Did you have to contend with weather?
Blake WatsonMemberMay 23, 2023 at 11:38 am
@drunge It was kind of a given that I was going to attend Mississippi State—much of my family went there and at the time I still cared about sports (I don’t now). So my only consideration was whether to go to my local community college first. But I decided to go straight into university.
Yeah weather played a big part. I was usually allowed to miss if there was a lot of rain. MSU has a large campus so walking distances were relatively large for me. But yeah nearly everything was connected by a sidewalk so even if it was a long way, I could still get there. I def have some funny stories getting stuck in bad weather.
Did you have to go out in the hallway in a lift to get to the bathroom? Or did you use a shower chair or something? Just wondering how you dealt with getting to and from without streaking lol.
DeAnn RMemberMay 25, 2023 at 11:01 am
Thankfully my shower chair had a commode attachment, so I could use it in my room and we would just empty the basin in the bathroom. To shower though I’d have to get rolled to the bathroom. I was covered and made sure it was quiet. Modesty and disability can be a tricky balance.
Bet we could swap a lot of funny stories. I lost a shoe crossing the street getting to campus. Of course on a day I had to give a presentation. It threw me off but I doubt anyone noticed. If they did they didn’t care.
Mississippi State sounds like a huge campus. Where I went, once you got to campus everything was connected so you didn’t have to go outside. That was especially nice in the winter. We had a lounge I liked to frequent. They had the best food and great comedy shows. Gotta know, did you ever ask out the girl @blake?
Blake WatsonMemberMay 25, 2023 at 11:12 pm
@drunge Ok yeah I figured you would’ve had to have been rolled into the hall. I nearly had the same setup in a dorm before I lucked out with the apartment.
Of course on a day I had to give a presentation.
Lol, yup classic timing, as expected.
Yeah MSU has a sprawling campus. Weather was a problem at times and just the amount of traveling in my wheelchair would wear the battery down. One time my chair died like 20 feet from my apartment door.
Regarding the girl, I stupidly sat on my feelings until the week of graduation when it was too late. RIP.
Alyssa SilvaMemberMay 17, 2023 at 10:20 pm
That’s awesome. I commuted so I didn’t have to worry about the headache of finding PCAs full-time. I’m sure living on campus is an unforgettable experience though. What did you study?
DeAnn RMemberMay 18, 2023 at 10:12 am
After thinking we had everything lined up, no one showed up to get me out of bed the first morning at the dorms. Thank goodness my parents hadn’t left town yet and stopped to say goodbye before they headed out. We did get things straightened out, but unfortunately that wasn’t the only time no one showed up. I learned quickly how to advocate and stand up for myself (figuratively speaking of course.) Oh, and sleep with the phone and cell phone within reach because if no one shows up and you only have one the battery might be dead and you’ll have to holler at your neighbor when you hear them walking down the hall. Yup. It happened.
Trying to transfer schools for a program I wanted didn’t work out. For the life of me I couldn’t get housing and care lined up simultaneously. Maybe it was for the best. Transferring back was a pain though because Mom had to live in my apartment with me for almost an entire semester because the agency couldn’t line up care. Once they figured out I wasn’t going away, they shifted gears and found staff.
Despite the challenges it really taught me that I can make a go of it. I made great connections too. I’m still friends with the girl from across the hall who came to my rescue. I’m meeting up with another friend in a few weeks at the MOA when I have my service dog recertification.
Question for you Alyssa. Since you commuted, do you feel like you got the entire college experience? For me personally I’m glad I took the route I did, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
Alyssa SilvaMemberMay 18, 2023 at 11:48 am
That’s a great question. No, I don’t feel like I got the full college experience but it doesn’t bother me that I didn’t. Nor did it bother me back then. I definitely didn’t form close relationships with people whom I’m still friends with today, but I had friends on campus during college. I met a lot of people through my caregivers, went to parties, joined an organization, and whatnot. But at the end of the day, I’d just go home. I think it was the best decision for me.
Patrick LenihanMemberMay 18, 2023 at 2:20 pm
My biggest hurdle was choosing which dive bar to frequent when skipping classes. I am only half joking, which is why it took me six years to graduate. I attended college before the ADA was passed so my largest problem was getting classes that were scheduled in inaccessible spaces moved to accessible rooms.
Alyssa SilvaMemberMay 22, 2023 at 3:35 pm
Haha hey, those are some tough decisions to make. 😉
I never considered how the ADA may have impacted the college experience before. Were there any other issues besides inaccessible spaces that you ran into?
Patrick LenihanMemberMay 23, 2023 at 8:26 pm
When I enrolled at URI in 1982, I got around on crutches and long leg braces. I also was able to drive a car and didn’t need caregivers at that point in my life. The only accommodation I needed was an accessible class room. Most of my professors were awesome and would ask me if needed any other accommodations. There was one professor who refused to move a class. I needed the class to graduate, so I had to crawl up the stairs dragging my crutches with me every day to get to class. In hindsight, I should have gone over his head and made him move the class (back then public schools and universities had to comply with the I.D.E.A.) but given the imbalance of power I felt because he was grading my work, I didn’t pursue it.
DeAnn RMemberMay 25, 2023 at 11:15 am
Wonder what his excuse was for not moving the class. That can be really frustrating because like you said you don’t want to stir up trouble when you need the credit. Glad it worked out for you though even if it did take six years. Oh, and dive bars have the best food. Any favorite menu items?
Patrick LenihanMemberMay 25, 2023 at 2:37 pm
He just said he couldn’t change rooms. One of the dives I frequented had decent pizza and another had good Jamaican patties but to be honest the main reason I was going to dives was for the tequila and Guinness and to shoot pool. I also preferred the live music in the dives to the music the music In dance clubs and the what we called “meat markets”. I am a big folk, blues, jazz and reggae fan. Many acts that became popular in the 90’s I saw in dive bars before they “made it”.