Dyslexia and Me: Dreams or Reality (Graduation)
This photo is of me on Tuesday 8th July, 2014. It’s the day after I graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a 2:1 in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Studies – History. What’s the significance of this photograph? Well if you had told me 10 years ago I would be graduating from university at all I would have laughed and told you to pull the other leg! The tshirt I am wearing in this photograph is from a sketch in Father Ted, my favourite comedy series. In the episode, Father Dougal gets very confused between dreams and reality, so Ted draws him a diagram to explain.
10 years ago I was coming to terms with being told I had the ‘classic signs of dyslexia’. I hadn’t been diagnosed and I didn’t realise how much of an impact it had on my life. I had dropped out of school and left college thinking that I was thick or lazy, despite getting great grades in my exams. I had ruled out university completely and had no intention of returning to education. It had a lot of bad memories of bullying and teaching staff not believing my struggle. My self-esteem was rock bottom and I resigned myself to working in minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life.
After a relationship breakdown, I found myself moving back in with my mum at 24. After working a fairly steady job for 2 years, I couldn’t find any work. I was applying for jobs here, there and everywhere, but to no avail. It seemed as though I would have to sign on at the Job Centre for the third time since I’d left school, which really doesn’t boost anyone’s self-confidence!
I’d started talking to a friend about bits of history and became really interested in Early Medieval history. I had been told there was some Scandinavian blood in our family, so I started to become fascinated with genealogy and Viking history which I began researching when I wasn’t sending off applications for jobs. Another friend was about to start university and asked me to help him pick which courses he should take. I pointed out a whole load of subjects that looked interesting. ‘No, Hannah. Not courses for you, courses for me!’ And that was when I decided to look into universities in Scotland, what they taught and what I’d need to get in. (Thanks Spencer and Bryan!)
I applied to college to pick up the highers I had missed out at school. I told them there was a possibility that I was dyslexic but I’d never been diagnosed. I was accepted onto the course to study English, History and Sociology. Before I started classes I was assessed for dyslexia and sure enough the results proved once and for all that I was.
My college was very helpful (thank you Edinburgh’s Telford College) and gave me all sorts of support! It was strange to be back in education after almost 10 years. I was getting good results in my assessments and essays! I was surprised at just how capable I was after putting myself down as a ‘failure’ all those years! And at the end of it, I left with 3 A’s!
University was a big step for me though. I really didn’t know what would happen in the 4 years I’d signed up to!
My first year was crazy! So many new subjects to study, so many new people to meet, so many different teaching styles! I had another assessment for my needs and it took until Christmas before the equipment I needed came through (which meant I missed a lot of support in my first semester. I’m glad it didn’t end up counting towards my final degree or I would have been a bit upset). I had some extra help and support from a dyslexia student support guy. Other than university work, we did spend plenty of time discussing comics related to my subject which resulted in me becoming hooked to the Northlanders series! It was nice getting help but feeling that I was talking to a friend rather than a teacher from school looking down on me. I did pretty well in my first year with the majority of my results in the 2:1 band. I passed the year and was looking forward to my second year!
Second year I decided to study abroad on the Erasmus scheme. I moved to Ireland to the same university as my friend who had inspired me to look into going back to university in the first place! The support I got as a dyslexic student was actually pretty bad compared to what I’d had at my home university. Times for exams were given so late that I turned up late to one exam after having to run from one part of campus to another. I had one exam where people walked in and were talking and making a racket in the hallway (fortunately my lecturer agreed that it was unfair and the department allowed me a resit). I understood that I wouldn’t get any extra funding from my Erasmus university, but even the basic support wasn’t there. Other dyslexic students I knew that were home students complained bitterly about it. Apparently the funding to Learning Support had been cut in the economic circumstances facing the university (though the President of the university had his wages increased in that time… I won’t say any more on that matter). The Learning Support staff were lovely though, it’s just a shame they didn’t seem to get the funding or support they needed to carry out a smooth operation for the students.
Third year I was back in Scotland to start the two years that would go towards my final degree. I was accepted onto the honours degree after worrying if I’d done enough. I struggled through a literature course (something I wouldn’t have chosen if I had actually been given a choice) and got the lowest mark of my degree. It was very upsetting for me because I tried really hard with it, but I find literature impossible despite doing all the reading and attending almost all the classes. My other class I picked up a first for, which I was very happy with. The second semester I passed one course with a 2:1, which was good for me considering it was a period of history that I wasn’t overly familiar or comfortable with. The other course was another I had no choice in and wouldn’t have taken if given other options. However, I got the overall highest mark in the class in a mixed class of third and fourth year students.
Final year was heavy on the reading. One course there was so much reading that the non dyslexic people struggled to keep up! Again, I wouldn’t have chosen it if I had been given the choice, but I did alright in it. The other course I picked up another first. Final class I studied was again one I wouldn’t have chosen but passed it convincingly. I also had my dissertation, which many of you will have already read my struggles with (or you can read all about it here). I got a first for that! I actually had to stop myself from crying when it came through. It was so hard but I got there in the end and I did very well indeed!
It was a tough four years with many ups and downs. There were several times where I was tempted to throw the towel in or throw the laptop out of the window! It was a dream for me to even be back in education which became a reality! I have doubted myself throughout my studies wondering whether or not I’d done enough in exams and essays. I never thought I’d get a first for my dissertation and I never thought I’d be desperate to go back to study more! I really am feeling quite low about having to leave education for at least a year to work and raise money to go back for a postgraduate degree. I’m so proud of myself for my achievements!
Sometimes dreams seem to be beyond our reach, but if you don’t try you’ll never know what you could achieve in reality.
Posted on July 13, 2014, in Education, Personal Experience and tagged College, Dreams, Dyslexia, Further Education, Graduation, Higher Education, Reality, Self Esteem, University. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.