So, how was the first year of University?!

As promised, I said I'd do a blog round up of my first year of University. You all said how funny you found my round up back in September following my first week, and as so many of you are starting University this September, I may as well use this blog for what I intended it for (to help all of you!) and hopefully put your mind at ease! And, also, a big shout out to Reece who has Cerebral Palsy (no surprises there!) and he is starting at Hallam in September (depending on grades, but he has nothing to worry about!) and is doing Sport Development with Coaching just like me. I and Reece are going to the World Games together and he was asking me all sorts the other day about things we need to take in August etc. - we were joking that come September, I'll be like a mother hen to him organising his every move!

So, lets start from the beginning. On my first ever day, I asked my parents to drop me off as I can be the biggest wimp in the world! We arrived on the campus and I gave the very strict instruction of "don't you dare get out of the car!" - haha! I had found people on my course on Facebook throughout the summer and I had spoken quite a bit to one girl in particular. We had agreed to meet outside the main building so we didn't have to walk in alone. She texted me to say she had arrived on campus and she was walking up too the main building, and at this point I could see her. So, I was sat in the car like *Omg, I'm going to have to get out and go now!*. I said to my Mum & Dad, "Right, it is now or never, see you tonight!" and I went to open my car door - the flipping childlock was on! So, despite my strict instruction of "don't get out the car", the engine had to be turned off and my Mum had to get out, come round and get me out! My Dad then saw this as an open invitation to wind his window down and say "as if your going to University!" and gave a massive smirk - no, no and no again! Everyone was just stood there watching and I was like this is where the ground kindly swallows me up!

When I got picked up later that day, I was on a different campus. We were on the city campus, which is bang opposite the train station. Whilst my Mum and Dad had decided to spend the afternoon in John Lewis (whatever floats their boat!), my sister had finished school and had come over on the 10 minute train journey with one of my best friends. When I came out of University, they decided to take the mick out of me as much as possible and started applauding and cheering like I'd just won gold at the Paralympics - very funny you two, not! If I did that to my sister, I swear my Mum would be like, "cut it out now!".

We would obviously be here all day if I went through everything, so I will pick out some of the funniest moments. I've mentioned this one before, but I'll tell you again about my 'flamingo incident'! The campus that I am on is quite old and therefore has lots of steps dotted about. In my second or third week, I had a seminar in the log cabins at the very top of the campus. Now, to get to these log cabins, you have to go up a couple of deep concrete steps, and they don't have a handrail, only a wall ... fantastic! I had no choice other than to attempt these steps, and I thought surely if I lead with my right leg as I always do, my left leg will follow - mind over matter and all of that! The issue was that my left leg didn't follow, it kind of floated in mid air and I stood there like some sort of flamingo! It was one of those situations where you start to panic a bit as you don't actually know how you're going to get yourself out of it. There was only one option and that was to take a leap of faith and to my amazement, I landed perfectly upright on the level I needed to be on - somebody clearly was on my side that day! Note to the timetabling person next year - please don't put me in Willow Court (the log cabins)... much love!

So obviously I was with a whole new bunch of people when I started University, and some of the people had never come across Cerebral Palsy before, which of course sparked interest and questions. Everyone on my course, and especially in my seminar group, have been great. However, my personal favourite question/comment has to be "What is Cerebral Palsy? ... in fact, my cousin had it ... but she died" - okayyyyy then! Someone also asked me "How did you get Cerebral Palsy?" - in a split second I thought, how funny if I replied "I caught it!" and just watched them run away! I debated in my head what to tell them, and I thought, sod it - we all like a good real life survival story don't we?! So I told them how I didn't breathe for about 15 minutes and they were like "noooo!". Well, yes, haha! This was then followed by all sorts of random, deep questions like "How are you even here?!", "What about your other organs?!" and "You must have been brain dead!" - 10/10, aren't you a bright spark, that's why I have Cerebral Palsy!

In one seminar, we were learning about inclusive coaching and my tutor said "There are 3 people in here that are disabled, it's your job to identify them" ... all eyes to me then, I was like a piece of meat in a lion's cage, haha! And then he said "But, it's not Ellie!" and they were all like "whaaat? Who the hell are these 3 people?!" hahaha!

Within the first few weeks of me starting University, the BBC took an interest in me following The Sponsored Wobble, which I organised as the first ever fundraiser for CP Teens UK back in October. My landline rung and it was BBC Radio Sheffield (still don't know how they got my number!) inviting me (me?!) onto the popular Rony Robinson show. I think excitement took over fear and I accepted. Afterwards, I realised that I was timetabled to be in a practical session at University and only the week before we were told that it wasn't acceptable to miss sessions other than for geniune illness or a geniune issue. So I decided to bite the bullet and send an email asking if it would be okay to miss that one session - I took the view that if it was a 'no' at least I wouldn't have to get stressed about being live on the radio! But it was a most definite 'yes', so off I trotted to the radio's studio, and of course, got stressed about it! I am so glad I did it though as it was a great experience and a massive confidence booster.

A few weeks later, I turned up to University with a BBC film crew. All of the students were told beforehand that the BBC were coming that day, but they were still like "what on earth is going on?!" - the most embarrassing day of my life, that is what is going on! Fortunately, most of the filming was done before the other students got there about my Athletics and CP Teens UK, but they wanted to capture a little bit of University too. We were all filmed sat around a whiteboard listening (or pretending to!), and after we had finished listening, the camera man went "oh sorry, can we do that all again - I forgot to press my button!", everyone was like "urgh!".

Of course, I have done the 'typical', 'I am a student and I cannot be bothered' things. I have never been a fan of reading, and unfortunately for me with a University degree, you do have to kind of read! I always started with good intentions and then come page 2, I was like "Oh, life is too short!". I passed all my modules with 2:1's and 1st's, so it clearly didn't affect me much!

I've also done my fair share of drinking. I hate it when people assume 'I can't drink because I have Cerebral Palsy'! Er, excuse me, I can't walk in a straight line anyway and I slur my words, so what difference would the odd bottle or 2 make to my physical state?! I'm just a typical student, I like alcohol, sleep, food ... and Athletics, which I suppose is a bit less standard!

I made most of my 9 am lectures and I felt like some sort of Saint when I did! It really used to annoy me as literally no one turned up to the 9 am lectures, and whilst I don't like to hide behind Cerebral Palsy, it does cause extreme tiredness and this really did take its toll with 9am lectures. Although I don't live far out of the city, for 9 am starts I had to leave at 7.45 am because of traffic. It made me angry that some of the other students didn't have to roll out of bed until 8.30 am (45 mins after I had left!), and they only had to walk up the road, yet they still didn't make it!

My attendance was pretty good, if I do say so myself! However I will admit, one of my modules which was sociology based, if I made half of the lectures and seminars I'd be surprised! I did Sociology at A Level and I hated every single minute of it. So, this module was the worse for me. When I did go, only a handful of students turned up and the tutor only read off the Powerpoint, which could be accessed online anyway. I suddenly had a load of 'Cerebral Palsy related appointments' during this module - I wonder why! But I passed with a 1st and pigs started to fly.

On that note of Cerebral Palsy related appointments - at school, my Mum always used to write letters to school when I needed to be excused for the joys of hospital appointments. Since being at University, it has been down to me to let the relavant people know. In my second week at University, I had an appointment with my Orthopedic Surgeon which could not be missed. I was unsure of who to email, so I emailed every man and his dog! I emailed the tutor involved, the course leader and the student support officer. Looking back, this was some serious overkill - I was such a weird 'fresher'! I think the whole of the department must have known I was in hospital that day!

University has been a serious learning curve for me, but I am so glad that I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I am a much more confident person than I was back in September, and there's no doubt about that. I was dreading going to University even though I really wanted to go - it is meant to be one of the most exciting times of your life, but when you have a disability and you rely on people doing the right thing at the right time for you, it can be daunting. I understand where some of you will be right now, and you are probably thinking "it'll just be easier all round if I don't go" because I most definitely thought this. I urge you to find the confidence (it will be in there somewhere!) to go and give it a go. If you don't go, you'll forever be wondering what it would have been like. And if you do go, but simply don't get on with it, this is perfectly acceptable - university isn't for everyone, regardless of whether or not you have Cerebral Palsy.

Always remember your sense of humour and remember, it'll be okay in the end, and if it isn't then it's not the end!

Please feel free to email your University questions/worries etc. to elliecpteensuk@outlook.com or post them on the CP Teens UK Chat.

Roll on the Summer and the World CP Games! See you in September Sheffield Hallam, and as Disabled Students Rep 2015-16!

Photoshoot for Student Reps 2015-16!

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