University Halls are no more!

After spending 9 months living in university halls while completing my first year I cannot believe how fast it has gone! I honestly can't! I remember moving in like yesterday and how a group of strangers became friends. Like many things, when you have a disability these type of experiences will be slightly different to others- but that doesn't mean I have not learned a lot.

University halls mean independence for a lot of people, it is often the first time we leave home, moving away from family and friends we have grown up with, for me this was no different. Yet my independence wouldn't have been safe without the correct support being put into place. From the start of this academic year, I have employed two PA's to support me with daily tasks and within lectures. This experience has been a learning curve for everyone involved. When you are not used to being with someone for 12 hours a day it can take some time to get used to, even if you know they are there for your own safety. I cannot thank them enough, without them my first year at university in halls would not have been logistically possible, and I may have had health and safety on my back! It allowed me to get involved with other aspects of university life when I could and has just generally helped me so much this year. From going to the cinema to waiting in A&E, it is fair to say that I have kept them on their toes- anything can happen in a 12-hour shift!

My main worry about halls were the people. Yes, I understand you're not going to be best friends with everyone you meet, I didn't expect that to happen- but how would they react when I had a seizure? Despite the most common response being to panic initially, I was just worried, and probably spent far too long thinking about it in the lead up to moving away from home. However, I can assure you that after 9 months of living with these guys it has just become the norm. Including the time it happened in the middle of the kitchen. I have really appreciated their support, with them picking me off the floor numerous times after the PA shifts- something they did not need to do. Or even the time I came round and they had put frozen peas on my head, don't ask!

As a flat, we were pretty loud and sociable, constantly in the living room, normally with the music channel on. Half of the flat liked to go out clubbing, although this isn't my thing it was always funny to sit with them all before they went out, 9 times out of 10 this included a beautiful rendition of Mamma Mia just before they left- how we never got a noise complaint I will never know! On nights when people stayed in 'Just Dance' on the Wii or watching a film were our personal favorites. We also had a pool table downstairs and I am fairly certain it is our flat that has contributed the most 50p's to it, even after all this practice I am still terrible!

Living with friends and people your own age is a new experience in itself, being able to be with them 100% of the time sounds perfect. However, this can be difficult. I am so used to not letting on that I am in pain most of the time, especially when I am with friends, even more so if they aren't really close friends. This is possible most of the time if you only see friends at school or at the weekend, you can get through the day and when you get home the guard can come down. However, when you live with friends this isn't as easy, in fact it is impossible to do. You cannot be okay all of the time, they are going to see you when you are at your worst, this year I have learned that this isn't a bad thing. My flat have seen me when I have just come out of hospital and moving around wasn't my strongest. Yet they have seen the progress over the year and their comments on how well I was doing have meant a lot. People seeing you when you are at your worst is never nice, but they have also seen me at my best, and at the end of the day that is life. It has been hard to get used to this change but it has to be a good change. Being in pain in front of others isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.

During the last few weeks before we moved out, lectures started to finish and we all started to pack up our rooms. How had it all gone so fast? Many of us moved back home to complete our placements before summer starts, relutantly leaving each other. At the moment I have just started a work placement at my old high school, working in the SEN (Special Educational Needs) department and have really enjoyed the first week of it. I don't think any of us actually wanted to go, we had got so used to living with each other, making fun of each other at every opportunity.

Next year we are splitting off into different houses, but I am sure Flat 3 will continue to see each other, maybe even have the odd game of pool!

Goodbye university halls...

~ Chloe x

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