Hello! I’m Amandine, a 25-year-old French woman and I’m a student here, in Villeneuve-d’Ascq (Northern France). I haven’t finished my studies yet, as I’ve been studying at my own pace and I want to keep studying once I’m done with my bachelor’s degree. I hoped it would happen in 2020, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic all my plans were ruined (I haven’t received any medical care for months for my chronic health issues because of the lockdown and my health got worse, way too worse to be able to study and take my exams, even from home) and unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until 2021 to graduate and carry on with my studies (I want to get a master’s degree and then, one of my biggest dreams, a PhD).
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I really love what I’m studying: the (beautiful) Dutch language and everything that’s related to the Netherlands and Belgium (especially Flanders). Their literature, culture and history are very interesting, and I’m so glad I chose to study them! I really want to become a teacher at university and teach what I love there.
Completing my Bachelor’s at my own pace
I started studying in 2013, and at the time, I had no idea how ill and disabled I was. Somehow, I managed to validate the first two years of my bachelor’s degree, but in 2015, I realized I wasn’t okay at all and asked the administration of my university if I could take two years instead of one to validate the last year of my bachelor’s degree. They accepted my request, and I was able to validate half of the subjects of the third and last year of my bachelor’s degree. I was about to go back to university to validate the other half when my health got worse.
So worse that I ended at the hospital, and then at a clinic. I stayed there for 6 months. It was (and still is) difficult to accept, but I was finally diagnosed with several mental chronic illnesses (depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, phobic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder). I spent the next three years unable to study and most of my time at this psychiatric clinic.
Support from my teachers
But my teachers never forgot me and we kept in touch even though I was totally unable to study. And I’m very grateful they were there for me (and they still are!) Without them, I probably would have stopped studying. They definitely are one of the reasons why I’m still a student. They never stopped believing in me, they just keep supporting me, doing their best to help me and make things easier for me, and it gives me enough strength to keep going.
I’m also very grateful there is a great general practitioner working at my university. He also tries to make things easier for me. He always believes me when I talk about me, my personal life and chronic health issues. I’m so glad he doesn’t gaslight me and listens to me.
Studying at my own pace
My university’s administration is also really great. It is possible for a student with disabilities to get adjustments. I need a lot of them and I know things would be much harder if I hadn’t these adjustments. For example, I don’t have to go to class if I’m not well enough and I can leave the classes early and even be late. I have extra time during the exams and to prepare oral presentations. I have 10 extra days to give my homework to my teachers.
If the exams take place in an amphitheatre, I can ask to go to a small room instead because it’s too difficult for me to be in such a big space with so many other students. The university also pays a student in my class to give me their notes, it’s to make sure I get all the information I need about the lessons.
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Finally, there is this amazing social worker at university, who also helps me so much. She’s kind and compassionate, she’s helped me countless times since I’m a student here. Last year, she helped me fill this very important (and complicated) file, I needed the French government to officially recognize me as a disabled person. I needed it to get some benefits I just couldn’t live without anymore (like getting this minimum wage for people who are officially recognized as disabled).
They do make my life a bit easier and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to keep getting the scholarship I’ve been getting for years from the government anymore (a scholarship I’ve always really needed because my parents don’t help me and I’m too ill to work), just because I already used all the credits I could get for my bachelor’s degree (being disabled allows me to get three extra credits).
I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve received from my university, my teachers and also my GP and social worker. Without them, I definitely wouldn’t be a student anymore, they really do help me a lot. And I’m sure that thanks to them, I’ll finally graduate, get my bachelor’s degree and then my master’s degree, and hopefully, a PhD!
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They all believe in my and it gives me the strength to continue even when my chronic health issues and disabilities make things very complicated, and thanks to them, I feel like I’m worth it, that I make the right choice every day by deciding to keep studying at my own pace and trying to follow my dreams.
Accepting studying at my own pace
It’ll take time, and it’s always hard to accept the fact that I’m so slow, that there are so many healthy students who have already graduated and are working, but one day, it’ll be my turn!