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BLOG: What it’s like starting Uni as a visually impaired student #UniInSight

In this blog, LOOK mentor Megan reflects on her time at Uni and shares what she wishes she had known back then! #UniInSight

Meet Megan

I’m Megan, I’m 22 and  partially sighted. I have congenital glaucoma and have been VI since birth. My vision had been stable but is gradually and slowly deteriorating. I did my BA in English and Creative Writing at Leeds Beckett University and I’m now working towards and MLitt in English Literature at Newcastle University. I became a LOOK mentor this year, I applied as soon as I found out about the program in the hope that I can help younger VI people with the things I struggled with.

What worried me most about starting Uni?

The thing that most worried me about going to Uni was moving away from home and being in a new environment. It was the first time I had ever lived somewhere other than my family home. I ended up being placed in student accommodation with five other girls who were amazing. One of them has become my best friend who I talk to every day and I still keep in regular contact with the others. 

I was also worried about navigating a new city. Previously, I had only ever lived in a small town and hadn’t had much practice getting around a larger area. I should have taken advice and used some of my DSA to get orientation sessions. Instead, I relied a lot on google maps, the local buses and trial and error. One thing I did find difficult were the dark nights during winter- sometimes the buses didn’t have the ‘stop’ announcements on and a few times I got off on the wrong bus stop. I was given the option by DSA to get reimbursed taxis – looking back I probably should have used them. 

Things I wish I’d been told by a VI or deafblind mentor who had already been to university

Say yes to all the help you are offered. The well-being team are there to help support you – don’t be afraid to get in touch with them. I was also offered a specialist mentor in my first year – this was a member of the student wellbeing team who would meet with me every week. We talked about what I had to do, strategies for things I was struggling with. I found it really helpful to talk through my thought process with him and he also acted as a go-between for me and lecturers when I needed to make them aware of things. I was also offered a sighted guide for the first couple of weeks. I now wish I had used the service since it would have alleviated some of the stress in the beginning of my uni days.

Make use of the library. Many uni libraries have accessible rooms which are quieter, have specialised software on the computers, have adjustable lighting and other accommodations. I only found out about this in my third year and I wish I had known earlier. Also, there are subject librarians who can give you research help. You can often book a meeting with them and get help with where to start with your research and how to find accessible copies of journals or books.  

Two pieces of encouragement for your first day at Uni

Everyone is in the same boat, you’re all meeting new people and are in a new environment so don’t feel too anxious about sticking out – everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to be judging you. 

Also, try to talk to as many people as possible so it doesn’t get to half way through the semester and you realise you haven’t talked to half of the class.

My main message for VI students starting university this September is: It’ll be great! Try to make the most of your time at uni; join societies, go for drinks with your course mates, explore the city. 

Megan is taking part in the Uni In Sight campaign with Thomas Pocklington Trust, Deafblind UK and LOOK. You can find out more about this campaign, here.

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