Juan in full dressage outfit, riding horse Dave at the RDA championships

Juan completed his studies at RNC in 2015.

The Past year at RNC

Since November 2013, I’ve been studying across in Hereford at the Royal National College for the Blind. I’m re-sitting my A-Levels in Psychology, Sociology and English Literature, and have loved every minute of it – bar the homesickness of course.


I sat my AS Levels originally in 2010, however two weeks before my exams I lost vision in my right eye, and already had depleted vision in the left, thus leading to incredibly disappointing results.


I began my studies at RNC in November, starting half a term late due to funding issues, but as soon as I arrived it was all go. I caught up with all the work I’d missed by January and was well on my way to being level with my peers again. Being at a specialist College for the Blind as well gave me an opportunity as a young man to develop friends and peers my own age, in a similar situation.

Throughout November, I was given access to and trained in using the assistive software up there and began to beetle my way through the textbooks. Within my classes we enjoyed heated sociological debates and discussions on what parts of psychology we were particularly interested in, and what we thought worked and what didn’t.


Studying English

I’d studied Sociology and Psychology before, however hadn’t touched English Literature. This was my biggest worry, as we were studying WWI poetry, prose and drama – apt for the year. I had never really done much poetry analysis before, so was unsure about what to expect and how well I’d perform in it.

Over the next few months, I was taught how to think analytically about poems by many different authors such as Grenfell, Sassoon and Hughes and whether the rhyming structure portrayed a sense of doom and gloom, whether the poem gave a sense of life beyond the war or whether the poem was focused more on the destruction of nature during the war.

I had two coursework pieces to do, one of which included a comparison of R.C. Sherrif’s 1928 play Journey’s End with the final season of Blackadder. This piece was a real triumph for me as I adore Blackadder Goes Forth and the chance to use it as a coursework piece was a dream – my final mark for the overall coursework was an A.  I’ve always been told that I was never any good at writing essays, and even my teacher in GCSE English voiced this opinion, so to be able to come out with an A in my English coursework after six months of practice is an accolade to both myself and my teacher.


Studying Psychology

During our Psychology debates we discussed the formation of attachments, in regards to babies and how we grow up. We also learnt the biological model of stress and the fight or flight response, and how this relates to modern life and the working environment. My favourite part of the course is about Social Psychology and how people conform and follow the crowd in certain situations because they want to be liked by everyone.

One of the most famous studies we looked at was in 1963 in America by a man called Milgram. He was investigating why German soldiers followed orders they knew to be wrong in WWII. His experiment consisted of a ‘learner’, who would be strapped to a chair and electrocuted when he answered wrongly. The ‘teacher’ was the participant off the street who would be asking the questions, and performing the electrocution in the case of a wrong answer.

The ‘learner’ was in fact an actor and was not being electrocuted, however the ‘teacher’ fully believed he was. All of the ‘teachers’ applied the fatal shock which would have killed the ‘learner’ if they were real. The reason they did this was because a man in a white coat told them to – this man apparently had authority over them and they felt they had to obey him.


Studying Sociology

Within Sociology, we explored the different structures of the family throughout the industrial revolution to modern times, how it has changed society, how society has changed it and asked the question “Is childhood a social construct of modern times?” We also covered the Education system in England since 1880, when it became compulsory, and how different perspectives on life explain the role that it plays in society.


Horse riding

Whilst at the College, I continued on with my horse riding – something that is very passionate to me – and began doing more work in the gym to improve my quality of life.

When I began with the local Riding for the Disabled group in Hereford, a volunteer from the College assisted me in getting up there, and since then we’ve formed a brilliant friendship. I quite often of a weekend walk down to his house from the College so that we can take my gorgeous guide dog Wilma for a walk and he often helps me in the gym. His main aim in life is to get more weight on me as he doesn’t like me being half his weight and half his age.


Tank driving

The College have provided me with many opportunities over the last few months to try so many things that are new. In March I went tank driving and accompanied the French class to Lyon. The tank driving was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I drove a 16 tonne Armoured Personnel Carrier with the assistance of an actual tank expert giving me directions. I had full control over the tank, he was simply there for navigation.

Being able to drive a tank, with all the responsibility, was a dream come true. From the age of 13, I was told I couldn’t drive, so to sit behind the steering levers of a tank was just… Wow…


A trip to France

As for Lyon – that was great. We visited the College’s sister college in France, a name which I can’t spell but do know it’s acronym is CSVRP. We visited the local cathedral whilst we were there, sampled traditional Lyonnais food and I even managed to try some escargot at one of the local restaurants. My review – very garlicky, a bit chewy and not very exciting or interesting really, but still very nice.


Going back home after being at the RNC

Since I’ve been back home, everyone has remarked on how healthy I am looking and that I’ve been putting on more weight. I’ve also been brighter and more motivated to try new things and do my best to really succeed in my dreams.


Life after RNC

After College, I aim to go to university to study Psychology as an undergraduate, minoring in Counselling Studies. My long-term aim will be to come back to the Island as a counselling therapist to set up a clinic with my sister – who has recently finished her degree in Speech & Language Therapy.


Advice for Prospective students

The concrete benches outside Orchard are a brilliant place to meet up, even if you’re not sure who’s out there it’s always fun to go and have a natter. Also, take part in anything and everything, you don’t know what you might like – Goalball, dancing, programming etc etc – it’s all at the College.


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