I’m in my third year at the University of Derby, but many people have just settled into their first week here. For me, it has been the most wonderful experience – although I did hit issues along this three-year journey, I had the support of my family, my lecturers and my friends.
Derby does a special event every year for new students called Get Ahead. It is an event where students with different disabilities go to University a few days earlier than the rest of the students. This has many benefits which are: getting to know fellow students in your course who also have disabilities, making friends, get to know the university campus (a scary thing for 2 days tops), explore the town and enrol before the big rush. It gives students a chance to settle down and make sure they have all the required support before the campus is crowded with students.
At first, it’s scary, you feel like you’re a little school kid, clutching onto your backpack among adults who know what they are doing. The truth is, most of them are in the same position as you, and no-one has an incline on what they are doing for those first few weeks or months. It’s not just the campus that is scary. It’s the independence you must master, there will be no one to make sure you have clean clothes, that the milk isn’t off or that you are eating healthy. This is up to you and it starts the second you move into halls.
I’m very close to my family, so for me, moving away from home, even though it was an hour away, was a massive task. I got homesick a lot and I still do but Get Ahead made the whole thing easier. For the whole two days of the event, you’ll be kept on your toes with hardly any time to think. A perfect distraction from home sickness, there was only once when they fell behind and the homesickness began to seep in, which is when we were meeting our mentors. Once everything was back on track and we began making friends or joined in the late night activities, the homesickness was kept at bay. I still missed my dad but the activities kept my interest so I could focus
There was another great thing about Get Ahead, you got the halls to yourself for three nights. No need to share the kitchen or shower with anybody else unless they were on Get Ahead too (which was the case for me, and now we’re friends).
It already felt like we had been there for weeks, not days, but Saturday also came with the blink of an eye and new people were moving in. My flatmate on Get Ahead and I gained two more flatmates and the place was hardly ever as peaceful again. More on that soon.