As you all know, my ultimate goal is to get back to studying at Cambridge University in October 2019 after having to begrudgingly take three years out due to my ill health. Before I return, I have five exams to sit despite not really being able to pick my folders up since I was forced to intermit, and so this has left me with a hugely vast, seemingly impossible, amount of revision to do. Whilst still facing appointments, procedures and awaiting operations, starting and getting into university work has been so overwhelming, but means so much to me as my place at Cambridge is all I have left.
University have told me that I can have three sets of ‘supervision’s’ between now and my exams in May, but these supervision’s won’t be ‘teaching’ as such as I can’t be seen to have an educational advantage over the other students, but I can bring my own questions for them to be answered. I’m also not allowed to have any work marked. The first two days of supervision’s were yesterday and today, and so I’ve just got back from a couple of days back at Churchill College, Cambridge.
Yesterday, I was full of a real mix of emotions going back, back to a place where I should have completed my undergrad, potentially already graduated from, and a place that I loved so much before my health took me away from it. My overwhelming feeling was nervousness, worried to be seen in a wheelchair when I didn’t have to use one during my first year, worried that I’m no longer good enough to be here, and worried that I don’t know enough of the work and would feel stupid.
When I arrived, the first thing that happened was bumping into Shelley, a member of staff that I was close to when I was at Cambridge and has been extremely supportive to me, and seeing her first was the best thing that could have happened. My concerns were instantly eased by Shelley’s kind words, and being told not to worry because ‘I was home’ really meant a lot to me. This gave me so much more confidence going into the two days that stood before me.
Being back in the college genuinely did feel like I was home; it’s the place I’ve had the greatest sense of belonging, and that was still exactly the same, just this time I was in a wheelchair with a carer. We went into the room we would be staying, and I felt just like I did when I was there, setting my revision up at the desk and settling in.
I then met with my tutor who has been so kind throughout my intermission, and it was so lovely to see her again too. I just felt so welcome and even my tutor commented on seeing me sitting, working at my desk it felt like I’d never been away.
I then had to face my first supervisions in years; I had two on Thursday and one this morning. I was so looking forward to getting back into the work, and I found the supervisions really beneficial when I was there, but being out of practice for so long made me nervous despite them just being my questions rather than how they used to be. However, they didn’t go as badly as I expected at all, and I felt like I got a lot out of them as well as starting to get me back into the routine of uni and doing work. It was also lovely to see the supervisors that I knew from when I was there and it really did feel like I hadn’t been away (apart from the amount of work I need to get back into)!
As determined as I am to get back there in October 2019, there’s still a lot to be done in the meantime and a lot to face. I still have medical appointments, procedures and surgeries in the meantime, and a lot of revision to do to get myself back to where I was at the end of my first year. As well as this, the first year course has changed since I’ve been there, and so whilst that won’t be examinable for me, the second year courses now reflect the changes and so I’ve got to go through the new notes myself and ensure I’m up to speed with that before I go back.
I also have concerns about going back in a wheelchair and needing the help of a carer. I loved my independence when I was there, and not having this in the same way is difficult to come to terms with. I’m also going back not knowing anyone still there, and trying to make friends is so much more difficult whilst having to use the chair as it’s so isolating, and who wants to be friends with someone who has the added worry of having to use a chair etc?! There are also places in the college that I won’t be able to access when I have to use my chair such as the bar on days I’m unable to walk short distances… I know my priorities! However, I’m trying to adopt the way of thinking that all of that is out of my control, and one thing I can do is get back there, immerse myself in university life as much as possible whilst concentrating on my degree as, after the past three hellish years with my health, that is what I want to do more than anything in the world.
I’m so glad I went back for the last couple of days as, in addition to reaffirming my burning desire to be back there, it’s also inspired me to get my revision done and chase my dream. ‘There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking’.