When I first started school at Seton Hall, I felt an odd mix of emotions. First came the excitement of starting a new chapter of my life and exploring all the new opportunities college could bring. However, I also had a sense of fear.
I was born with a neurological condition called cerebral palsy. From what I learned, it can manifest itself in a number of different ways. In my case, a weakened sense of balance and limited range of motion in my legs forced me to use a walker to walk. As far back as I can remember, people’s stares and general ignorance were a part of my reality. I had no reason to think college would be any different.
On top of being a commuter and worrying about distance from my peers, I worried they would voluntarily distance themselves from me out of fear or discomfort. Luckily, the SHU community proved me wrong almost immediately.
The main reason I chose Seton Hall over other schools, as cliché as it may sound, was the community vibe I felt while touring campus. At other schools, I found that the students would n’t even look at me when I passed them. However, on SHU’s campus I was often greeted with a smile. That made all the difference to me.
These friendly faces conveyed a feeling of acceptance I had yet to experience on a college campus.
My personal aide, Kendall Rodgers, expressed a similar sentiment regarding the people she met at the University.
“When I started to meet the faculty and students, I could not be more impressed,” Rodgers said. “Everyone was so friendly and always willing to help. I wish that I could call Seton Hall my alma mater.”
At the beginning of my freshman year, I connected with an excellent network of friends through Disability Support Services. I was able to meet upperclassmen with disabilities whom had the courage to dream big, such as going to law school or getting involved in social work. In many ways, talking with these students reinforced the idea that my disability is not a hindrance to my future.
This is not to say that collegiate life has come easy, as I am sure it does not for many people. Because of my disability, I often move slower when it comes to fine motor functions such as writing or typing.
While this could have been disastrous for me, I receive certain accommodations so I can keep pace with my classes. For example, my aide is able to help me with note taking. An equally important factor is how my professors have been understanding of my needs in the classroom.
Even though I occasionally encounter a handicap button that does not work or a crack in the sidewalk that trips me up, these everyday inconveniences are helped by the fact that I have an amazing support group around me. From my friends on campus, to my aide and friend Kendall, these people have helped me find a home at the Hall.
Julie Trien can be reached at email@example.com.