Gabrielle: Asking for A Bit More

Before I even spoke about an exchange, I sent a covert email to the University of Edinburgh disability services. It was from one of my many ‘spam’ addresses, which I use to log into dodgy WIFI or give as I sign up for membership shopping schemes so I can have those good discounts.

I inquired about their disability policies. And the email was sent from an unnamed prospective exchange student (me) who wanted to know what exams would be like for students with learning difficulties.

The night before, I had spent hours digging through their website only to find general information, nothing specific to dyslexic students enrolled in Arts programs. I needed details!

Because as much as I wanted to go on an exchange, I knew different countries and different universities can have very different attitudes and resources towards learning difficulties. I’ve spent my whole degree writing essays but give me a pen and paper instead of a laptop with spell-check and you might as well slice my grade in half. This held me back. I almost didn’t apply—because I honestly didn’t know if I would have the help I needed. I tried to enrol in all internally assessed papers and ended up with just one exam to organise for (a true triumph). For the record, Edinburgh Uni is as accommodating as Auckland Uni for learning difficulties.

Upon arrival I arranged a meeting, under a traceable email this time. They were incredibly helpful. Edinburgh does not provide amanuensis unless absolutely necessary, instead, I had my exam in a computer lab.

I can’t attest for other more extensive disability accommodations, and I’m lucky to require minimal adjustments. But I still feel the anxiety of encountering new people, of going through this process again, dredging up those old Educational Phycology reports. It’s always hard to be the one asking for a bit more than everyone else.

And yes, it will require more effort, more organisation, more stress. It may even influence which uni you apply too. But if you need adjustments of any kind: send those emails, ask those questions, do the leg work. I’m glad I got over myself and just did it. It worked out. I’m privileged in many respects. To even be able to go to on an exchange in the first place. To only require exam adjustments. But I guess I’m ending this blog on something of a small encouragement.

If you need financial assistance, academic assistance, or anything of that ilk – don’t rule yourself out of an exchange. Go apply, bring your case forward, see what can be done. Trust me when I say it’s worth the awkward conversations and extra paperwork.

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