Alicia’s Blog: Reflections on my first year at college
If you asked me a year ago to write a blog about my first year at college, I would have probably thought that there couldn’t be that much to write about, how wrong I am.
Sorry, I should introduce myself. I am Alicia, I live in Penrith, but during term time I attend the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford. Some of you may have heard of RNC, but for those of you that don’t know it’s a residential college in Hereford that specialises in visual impairments, it’s just like a main stream college, however every student here is registered with a visual impairment.
I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to attend the college, I feel that it has boosted my confidence in myself and has made me feel normal for the first time in a long time.
So a bit about me, as I said I live in Penrith, I am a 19 year old female that has aspirations of one day becoming an occupational therapist. I am registered severely sight impaired (blind), the brackets matter. Now I am guessing that you are imagining a person that uses a cane (white stick) or has a guide dog and wears dark glasses, but I consider myself to not look like the stereotypical blind person, dark glasses and a cane. I manage to get about independently, I look like your average young adult, if you saw me in the street you wouldn’t know I was blind, as I don’t use a cane or wear dark glasses, well only sunglasses at the minute, but I don’t look out of place as everyone is wearing them.
So what has my first year been like, well to sum it up its been life changing. Going from mainstream school to a specialist college was a shock to the system, I had never been round so many blind people and never experienced so many different levels of sight at once. But I have realised that at college you aren’t judged for the level of sight you have but more on you as a person, so your likes and dislikes, also your accent. Unfortunately there aren’t many northerners at college so not many people understand the accent or the phrases I come out with, but all in all at college we are all in the same boat, which makes it feel more relaxed and less like you’re the odd one out.
I decided to study A levels whilst at college, I have just sat all my AS exams and now A2 work starts. I chose to study Psychology and Sociology and Health and Social Care, but alongside these mainstream subjects I am also learning Braille, how to use computers with assistive technology, how to cook for myself (may sound easy but when you struggle to see colour changes it can make cooking chicken difficult at times), mobility, job skills and how to develop and transfer skills into later life.
This may sound like a lot, three A levels and life skills, but honestly it’s the same amount as a sighted person does, only difference is that I require things in large print and use zoom technology on computers. I mean I even have time to join the college cricket team. If you told me a year ago I would be playing cricket for the college I would have told you that you are mental, I would never have thought that sport could be that accessible.
I played cricket for the first time this year in the RNC team, unfortunately we lost, but it was such a great experience and I hope to carry it on next year. I am also a bar rep, no its not encouraging the drinking of alcohol, we run events at the student bar to raise money for equipment for the bar. Through doing our events we have raised enough money to be able to put outdoor heaters up, so sitting outside in winter won’t be as cold now.
I can honestly say hand on heart that without coming to RNC I don’t think I would be the person writing this blog for you. I have made some amazing friends that I am sure I will keep in contact with for life. I have learnt so many skills of how to live independently (better not let my mam know I can live independently), I have also learnt how to travel on trains independently (well with assistive travel to make sure I get on the right train). A year ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go to Carlisle on the train by myself, never mind a three hour journey with one change. But also I have learnt that being registered severely sight impaired (blind) isn’t that bad, it just makes me more unique.
All of this hasn’t come easy though, there have been some challenges on the way. I think one of the biggest challenges was adjusting to being away from home, but academically it was hard to get used to new terminology and study again after a year out of education. I also found learning Braille hard at first, it’s almost like learning a new language but with your fingers, not as complicated as it sounds. But throughout these challenges I had the support from teachers and the residential team. They treat us like adults, which is a great thing, and they always reassure you that you aren’t the first student to experience this.
Thank you for reading my blog, I hope you have enjoyed a brief insight into my first year at RNC.