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My Transition to College During the Pandemic as a Disabled Teen

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College is said to be a transformative period of your life where you have the opportunity to explore multiple sides of yourself. Immersed into a new social bubble and environment, it can be haunting at moments, where the unfamiliar residence unlocks the village of voices and nervousness that comes along with change.

A neurotypical student will have concerns about how much space they are given in their dormitory or what activities are available when considering a school. Those factors correlate with my aspirations as well, but as a person with a disability, my priorities lie in the questions:

Are the walkways on campus uneven or safe to cross?

Do they have accessible options within buildings for disabled students who struggle with steep inclines or steps?

Does the shower in the bathroom include a grab bar to support myself when I need to take a break after exhausting my energy?

How fast will I be able to make it out of a building in case of an emergency?

If I cannot keep up with someone physically, will I be left behind?

Does the school offer solid disability services and if it does, is it for progress or to stick the “inclusivity” sticker on the campus’ reputation without actively displaying guidance to students?

Standing outside on the grass in front of a school with a blue and gold sign that says "Welcome Cyclones."

In the midst of finishing my first semester of college, especially in our current climate, the transition between high school to university was difficult emotionally for different reasons. I am so grateful and ecstatic that I allowed myself to experience a dip into newfound independence by living alone to pursue my studies.

I honestly believed during the first few nights I had made the wrong decision for myself and was incapable of mentally being in a healthy mindset to start this new chapter. Then I started whispering to myself, “You are present. You are scared. But you made it through.”

Even completing simple tasks such as getting food from the dining hall was a struggle, and some days my lack of energy would win and I would stay in my bed. Then sometimes I would make myself go as a way to experience “normality,” to  experience campus during a pandemic — and that encouraged me greatly.

If I’ve learned anything about starting college as a disabled teen during a pandemic, it is that this is a new normal for all of us, and we should not be ashamed if we have draining days. It is a work in progress, but I am proud of my feats. And you should be proud of yours too.

Originally published: December 14, 2020
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