By Holly Scott Gardner, Student, Coventry University
Becoming a student is a really exciting time. Not only do you get to study something you are genuinely interested in, you also have the chance to get involved with activities on campus and in the community. From sport to music, fundraising and campaigning there is something for everyone.
I can say without a doubt that being an active member of the university community has benefited me greatly as an individual. In one year I have grown so much as a person and I'm so excited to see where I will be upon graduation. Here are just some of the ways participating in activities can benefit you as a disabled student.
You will meet a lot of people.
Fresher’s week, September 2015; I had only been in Coventry a week and barely knew anyone. I was walking to one of my lectures, navigating my way through the sports and societies fair when I realised the usual way to my building was blocked. I didn't know an alternative route so I approached a girl and asked her for directions.
She turned out to be a member of the ice skating society and whilst she walked with me to my building she encouraged me to join. It sounded like fun and so a few days later I signed myself up. Throughout the next year I would discover I was very bad at skating, go on quite a few nights out and meet a lot of very friendly people. It was clearly a decision well made!
You have the chance to make a difference
It may sound like a cliché but university gives you many opportunities to make a difference to the lives of other students. This academic year I will be representing disabled students as a member of the Student Council. I have a real chance to influence decisions the Students’ Union makes, ensuring they consider the needs of disabled people when implementing policies and planning events.
I am so passionate about empowering disabled people and amplifying our voices, to have the chance to directly do this on my campus is something I really welcome.
Your CV will thank you
I went into university with a CV showing good grades and a smattering of work experience. After just a year at university, I am already having to make decisions about what I actually want to include on it as I have so many things to choose from! It's a hard truth that the number of blind people who are unemployed is increasing, and I am doing everything I can to not be a part of that statistic. Volunteering, sport and interest groups bring me a lot of happiness, but they will also, hopefully, contribute to me having finding a job once I graduate.
If you find you don't like one activity there's another ten to try!
There are so many things to try on campus and you are only limited by what you are willing to take on. As I enter my second year, I'm planning on starting a completely new volunteering placement and maybe trying a new sport or society. The amount of choice you have can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but soon enough you'll get to grips with the ones that sound most interesting.
Being a disabled student doesn't have to stop you doing the things you want to. We are so often treated like our needs don't matter, as if accessibility is some huge chore for everyone else. I really believe that university campuses are the places where we can start shifting societal attitudes. They are one of the few places where a disabled person is elected to lead the disability movement, where our voices have a platform and where we are encouraged to be visible.
Taking part in activities on campus is expected, people were never surprised that I would join a society. It was a refreshing change.