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I gained more than a degree when I went to university

Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,679 Scope community team

Chloe is 21 years old, and last week she graduated with a BSc in Psychology and Child Development. She has mild cerebral palsy, amplified musculoskeletal pain disorder and became registered as partially sighted during the second year of her degree.

When I started university, I knew my experiences would differ from my peers. I never saw this as a bad thing, yet certain things in the lead up to me starting weren’t quite the same as everyone else. Due to my own needs, moving away to university wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Personal Assistants (PAs) and this is something I found daunting and exciting.


Prior to university I had relied on family and friends to get from one place to another and to ensure I was safe while out in public. I cannot thank them enough for doing this, yet I couldn’t help but feel a bit in the way or like I was a hassle. It also quickly became apparent that I had little spontaneity as it very much depended on whether friends wanted to go shopping or to the cinema. I hoped a PA would give me a level of freedom and the chance to do the things I wanted to, and they did!

However, when people were getting to know their flatmates, I was also getting to know this stranger who now arrived at my bedroom door at 8am every day. I was learning how this professional but intimate relationship would work, and they were learning what my needs were. It worked out really well, but initially it did take a lot of getting used to. Having a PA enabled me attend events, get to lectures in one piece and be there during high pain days.

I was well into my first year of university. Lectures were going well; I had really supportive lecturers and I was loving the course I’d chosen to study. Things were settled with the two PAs I had and the whole thing was working! University, socialising and independence. It was all I wanted from the experience.

Then I started to notice a change in my vision. I could no longer see what was projected in lectures and my peripheral vision quickly reduced. I wore glasses but they suddenly didn’t help. After various tests, a few months of going backwards and forwards to the hospital, they came to a conclusion. My glasses now only minimally corrected my sight, I was registered as partially sighted and was on a waiting list to learn how to use a long cane.

Everything that was once settled, needed to undergo a process of adjustment ⁠—one that still continues to this day.

To an outsider’s perspective, it was as if I’d gone blind over the summer as I began my second year using a long white cane. I feared a lack of understanding and judgment as I appreciate it is not the easiest thing for you to get your head around, for myself included! I now had to learn how to do things, but also how I now needed to be supported. With my sight declining rapidly during my second year, it also started to impact on my studies. Things that had always taken me longer than my peers would now take even longer than before.

It was at this point I had to get support. I began to take the extensions when I needed them and had to do my best to rest my eyes when I wasn’t working. Which is easier said than done when you use your vision for everything! Yet I also wanted to be more involved, so I ran in the student election to be the Disabilities Officer. To my absolute amazement, I was elected and started my final year of university with this new role.


It was probably the craziest, but best decision I made. With the chance to run awareness sessions, stalls and campaign for things like assistive technology it made my final year a one to remember. It was a chance to leave my mark on the university before I left and to be able to share my passion around disability rights. Some of the things I did went down like a lead balloon, but some things really did work!

I graduated last week with a BSc in Psychology and Child Development. Yet I also graduated being a completely different person. I’m more confident in my abilities and now know that independence is possible. I graduate having shared the things I am passionate about. To be more open about accessing support, because I didn’t have to do to it by myself.


It’s been such a rocky but rewarding three years of my life. I know the experience of my peers will have been different, but that’s okay.

How was your university experience? Did you learn anything new about yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

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Replies

  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Administrator Posts: 7,597 Scope community team
    Glad to hear you enjoyed your experience, however difficult it became @Chloe_Scope! :smiley:
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  • April2018momApril2018mom Member - under moderation Posts: 2,882 Member - under moderation
    Lovely story!

    Congratulations. I loved college. I had the opportunity to make some new friends. One of them has been there for me when I needed it and will be bridesmaid at my wedding in September. 
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,679 Scope community team
    Thank you @Adrian_Scope and @April2018mom!

    That's great you have been able to stay in touch for so long! I'm still friends with a few people that I went to high school with is really nice :)
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  • Lucas_ScopeLucas_Scope Member Posts: 8 Connected

    I ran in the student election to be the Disabilities Officer. To my absolute amazement, I was elected and started my final year of university with this new role.


    It was probably the craziest, but best decision I made. With the chance to run awareness sessions, stalls and campaign for things like assistive technology it made my final year a one to remember. It was a chance to leave my mark on the university before I left and to be able to share my passion around disability rights. Some of the things I did went down like a lead balloon, but some things really did work!

    I graduated last week with a BSc in Psychology and Child Development. Yet I also graduated being a completely different person. I’m more confident in my abilities and now know that independence is possible.

    Congratulations, it's great to hear a positive story, I wish my last year of University went half as well yours did. My university experience was very different, and difficult at the end. However, I can relate to the sentiments you raised about what feel like crazy decisions turning out for the best in the end, bringing you confidence and independence. 

    For me that was packing my bags and moving away from home 9 years and 1 week ago, on a Saturday no less with nothing but clothes in my car, due to start work on the Monday with nowhere to stay. The experience that followed gave me confidence and knowing that independence is possible too even when I initially doubted myself. We all do it I think, some things are just scary for everyone when we haven't done something the first time.

    So, what's next for you now you've finished Uni? :) 
    Digital Influencing Programme Manager (The Big Hack)
    Tell us about your experiences with digital technology so we can work with technology companies to make the tech industry more inclusive of disabled people: 
    bighack.org | #BigHack
  • DithreabhachDithreabhach Member Posts: 7 Connected
    Congratulations Chloe! I'm about to restart my first year of my first ever degree with Open University at the ripe old age of %$ years (age redacted for vanity reasons!). Started last October but had to stop due to mental health issues.
    Couldn't go to uni when younger as I was carer to my dad from being 10 years old. 
    Now both my parents are gone I am free to get a degree at last.
    Your Twitter feed is always good.
    Good luck for the future!
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,679 Scope community team
    edited July 2019
    Thank you very much @Lucas_Scope, I'm glad you too found independence from the experience, but doesn't sound like the easiest way to do that! Now I have finished uni, I get to work with all of you lovely people on the community! 

    Hi @Dithreabhachand a very warm welcome to the community! Thank you for your kind words! The beauty of a degree is that it can be done at any time. How have you found the open uni? I've heard really good things about it. Please do keep us updated and I hope things work out. What are you studying? :)
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  • atlas46atlas46 Community champion Posts: 827 Pioneering
    Hi @Chloe_Scope

    What a great blog, you have been on a tremendous journey in the three years at uni.

    Especially in your second year having to overcome your sight problems.

    Then in your third year being elected, by your fellows as the Disabilities Officer, have you thought about writing a blog about you time as The Disabilities Officer, I am sure the community would be most interested.

    Did your parents and family, manage to get to see you graduate?

    They should be very proud of you.
  • JumpingJamesJumpingJames Member Posts: 19 Connected
    Well done that's great, I have a psychology degree too.
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Administrator Posts: 7,597 Scope community team
    atlas46 said:
    Then in your third year being elected, by your fellows as the Disabilities Officer, have you thought about writing a blog about you time as The Disabilities Officer, I am sure the community would be most interested.
    Great idea!
    Senior Community Partner
    Scope

    If you have a few minutes to spare, we'd appreciate your feedback on our online community.
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,679 Scope community team
    Thank you so much @atlas46! I really appreciate your kind words.

    Ooo that would be good, I'll have to have a think about what to cover :)

    My parents, siblings and grandparents were there. It was a really lovely day!

    Thank you @JumpingJames! How did you find your degree? I always found social psychology the most interesting :)
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  • DithreabhachDithreabhach Member Posts: 7 Connected
    ...Hi @drinatrinh2703 and a very warm welcome to the community! Thank you for your kind words! The beauty of a degree is that it can be done at any time. How have you found the open uni? I've heard really good things about it. Please do keep us updated and I hope things work out. What are you studying? :)
    @Chloe_Tear - was that supposed to be a reply to me? I can't see a post from dritnatrinh2703 on here :smile:
    I'm doing the Open Degree - in which you can do modules from pretty much any other degree and customise your own course. I'm going to be doung a mix of Arts/Humanities with Statistics in first year (actually 2 years as you can only do your Level 1 modules over 2 years). In Year 2 proper it will be a) Classical Sudues (Latin) with b) Creative Writing. In Yesr 3 a) Social Science or Philosophy with b) more Statistics or Art History. Quite a mix!
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,679 Scope community team
    Hi @Dithreabhach, yes it was. Sorry about that one! I have edited the comment now :)

    That sounds so interesting! I hope you enjoy it! Is there anything the community can help you with? Feel free to just have a look around.
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  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0 Listener
    Fabulous post @Chloe_Scope! Your articles are always incredibly informative and I wish you every success for your future plans!
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,679 Scope community team
    Thank you very much @AmiHI
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  • JumpingJamesJumpingJames Member Posts: 19 Connected
    @Chloe_Scope yes social psychology was my favourite area too! I don't know if you did it but 'social cognition' was pretty complicated.
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Administrator Posts: 10,679 Scope community team
    No I agree with you on that one @JumpingJames! Very interesting though!
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