I did my undergraduate degree as a healthy person. I went to 9 am lectures after a night out. I stood up for 6 hours a day doing lab work. I sat two-hour exams. As a Spoonie, I can’t do any of those things. For my postgraduate degree, I purposely chose a course that was assessed by coursework only, as my memory is not what it used to be. As for attendance, I only have to go in for half a day per week for lectures/ seminars etc.
I was doing a Master’s course at a different University when I first got sick. I had to wait so long for an effective treatment, that I eventually lost my place. Consequently, I was somewhat apprehensive about starting a new course. A few months before the start of my course, I signed up with the disability office at my new University. I had to provide a doctor’s note as evidence of my illness which cost me the princely sum of £25. I met with my disability adviser soon after and we set up my personal learning plan which will be sent to all my tutors at the start of my course. After this meeting, I felt more confident about heading back to University as a person with a chronic illness.
I quickly realised that I was going to have to adapt my usual way of studying to incorporate my health needs. I have to attend hospital for a whole day every two weeks for treatment and I have to complete one hour of physiotherapy exercises every day. This means that I will have to do a considerable amount of planning in order to keep up with everyone else. Instead of having a ridged weekly timetable, I’m going to set myself daily tasks that I will complete that day. This means that if I need to have a lie in or an afternoon nap, I can and it won’t mess up my whole day. Due to my fluctuating symptoms, I have learned to be flexible with my schedule and to set myself attainable goals for each day.
You shouldn’t have to choose between maintaining your health and keeping your grades up. Don’t be shy about your accommodations, they are designed to help you achieve your full academic potential. If you need an extra week to complete an assignment after a flare up, then ask for it! Don’t settle for a poor grade if you know that you’re capable of achieving more.
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Are you a student with a chronic illness? I’m currently taking contributions for my ‘Spoonie Student’ segment. Please fill out this google form if you’re interested in submitting an article.