In the academic year 2021/2022, Erasmus Magazine followed five students with a functional impairment. You can read their stories here. Linda was a first year, Letthe is a master student, and the others are in between. In short: they have quite a lot of study experience. They are keen to share that wisdom with new students. Here are the five tips:


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Studying with a functional impairment

What is it like to study with a disability? Often there are extra challenges, and many…

  1. Arrange everything in time

“It can take a while before your requests are sorted”, says Kyra. Due to a genetic disorder, she’s in a wheelchair and speaks from experience. Like the other students, she has provisions like extra time in exams. Kyra has problems getting around the campus. She often sends e-mails to the university about it. Adjustments are slow, if they happen at all. “I’ve never experienced the ideal situation”, she says. “The university is a very bureaucratic environment.” A lot can be done, say the students. Support for assignments, having the PowerPoint for the lecture sent to them – it’s all possible, but you need to request it in time. Lethhe is hearing impaired and knows how early you need to start. She often mails months in advance about things like subtitles for videos. “Don’t let them tell you things”, says Letthe. “You know what you need and don’t accept anyone telling you it’s not possible or too expensive. A lot can be done.”

Kyra has another piece of advice: “Be realistic. Studying with a functional impairment is not easy, but life outside the university isn’t always easy either. One university can do more for you than another, so explore the options. In some universities, a letter from the dean gets you priority on the waiting list for a room. There are not many rooms that are accessible for wheelchair users and not every university offers this.”

2. Ask for help

“There are study advisors and other people who are willing to help you,” says Hazem with ADHD. “Sometimes you need to be prepared to ask for help.” He knows what it’s like to worry about the prejudices relating to ADHD, but he also knows that some extra help can be very useful. “Because expecting the same of people with ADHD as of everyone else is like expecting a fish to be able to climb a tree.”

Audrey has autism. Whatever you do, she advises you to visit the Studying with a Functional Impairment department. They helped her a lot. “Through them, I was given a peer coach in my first year. She showed me what issues I might encounter and how to resolve them. And I can always text her if I need help. I also did a course about how best to learn, how best to read a text, that kind of thing. I can get overstimulated by needing to absorb too much information in a short space of time. Without that help, I would have been really confused.”

3. Work and breaks

“Make sure that the university has priority”, is the tip from visually impaired Linda who got no fails throughout her first study year. “If you keep up with the work, you won’t need to cram everything into the days before the examinations. I see lots of people texting the group app at half past three in the morning. They’ve been up all night studying.” A break is a break, says Audrey. “But use it and don’t do a bit of half-hearted studying at the same time,” says Audrey. “You’ll study better afterwards. You only perform optimally if you first look after yourself.”

4. Don’t give up

“Finding your way at the university is a process, and processes have their ups and downs. You really will find your place here”, says Hazem. Don’t be afraid to learn, it’ll be fine. “At the start of every study, every year, every course, you have a lot to learn”, adds Letthe. “Trust the process if you’re worried that you’ll never understand it. That learning curve will come.”

“You’ll get there”, says Linda. “Remember that.”

5. Have fun and explore your boundaries

A good balance between studying and relaxation is essential, say all the students. “The university isn’t a prison camp”, Linda. “You need relaxation in the form of parties, for example.” So be sure to join the activities of study associations or student societies, is a tip from Kyra. “That not only makes studying more fun and enjoyable, it also makes it easier to keep up.”

Have fun, is Hazem’s message. “Studying is fun”, he emphasises. “Don’t worry about prejudices or whether you can do it. Enjoy this time too!” Try new things, even you feel a bit nervous about it, says Audrey. “Those new experiences can do you good. If it worries you, do it with someone you trust.”


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