Wow, it’s been a week since I officially completed my first year at Boston University. Finals week was so stressful and emotionally draining that I’ve spent the past week recovering by sleeping, binge watching Private Practice on Netflix, and catching up with family.
Freshman year was one hell of a year, full of ups and downs.
Academically, I did awesome. I took a mix of business and communication courses that were interesting and exciting. I’m still torn about whether or not to continue as a film and TV major-something I’ve been debating for a while- and pursue a career in business. However, I really enjoyed the communication courses; I’ve found that I really love the freedom for creativity, the laid back atmosphere in COM, and the creative minds that surround me. I love the idea of using a creative piece of work to influence someone in one way or another.
Socially? Ehhh… I wish it had been better. I made a few good friends, but I haven’t quite found my niche. BU is a huge school with over 30,000 undergraduates, so I’m not too surprised I’m still struggling to find my group of friends. I will admit, though, it’s intimidating when you see thousands of students everyday and almost every one of them appears to have a friend or be with a group of friends, and you feel like you’re the one constantly walking everywhere alone. I will also admit that it sucks when you’re in the dining hall alone and you see a great group of friends carrying on a conversation ever so swiftly, laughing, and of course, you want to be in that position, but then you realize you’re deaf, and you will always have to play that “catch up” game and ask people to repeat themselves. I’m not helpless, I get that, but I also need to stop letting my fear of how others will react to me being deaf get in the way —I had some really shitty experiences in high school with shitty people who treated me like I was a burden. I know I’m rambling, but I like to be honest with you guys about how I feel, because I’m trying to educate you and I hope I have opened your eyes in some way.
I’ve been taking advantage of the endless amount of opportunities BU has to offer. I joined two shows at BUTV10 (BU’s own local television station), became an executive staffer for the Social Affairs Committee for BU’s Student Body Government, joined an intramural Volleyball team, and checked out the Finance and Investment Club. As a Film and TV major, I’d definitely like to immerse myself more in BUTV since I had to drop those clubs due to overloading on classes during spring semester.
Despite the whirlwind year, I can say, without a doubt, that I have grown much more confident as an individual and leader. I feel more confident within my own skin, unafraid to speak my mind. I feel more relaxed in place where I won’t always understand what’s going on. Looking back at years past, I barely recognize the person I was just last year. In school, especially high and middle school, I barely talked (not as much as I desperately wanted to), appeared shy or insecure, and felt constantly misunderstood.
Upon entering college, I didn’t want to be that person I was last year. I didn’t want people to write me off as shy—because I wasn’t. I knew I had things to offer, whether it be opinions or simple intellect. I didn’t want to be that average student, who partially contributed. Because I wasn’t that person.
I’m very open about my deafness, but I go about living my life like any other “normal” person and I sometimes forget that people can see my processors. Many have questions, but don’t know how to approach the subject…isn’t that funny? “The subject” as if it’s something serious, but to me, it’s not and I wish people wouldn’t act hesitant around me or create a sense of tension where there doesn’t need to be any.
In grade school, I wasn’t always the loudest person. In fact, I wasn’t even me. I put on this persona of a seemingly shy, overly cautious person. I wanted to do good in school, but I didn’t feel that sense of comfort where I was free to make mistakes, to be myself, and to occasionally misunderstand people without being judged as dumb or stupid. I can’t even tell you the number of times I was written off as shy or insecure. I don’t even think half of the people claiming that I was “shy” even had a decent conversation with me, or if the teachers even called on me during class. The sad thing is: I could physically sense their hesitance to approach or talk to me, which made me feel even more uncomfortable about being myself in school.
By being myself, I mean the curious, talkative, relaxed, leader I am. Outside the confines of school, I felt that freedom to make mistakes, get over it, and live. Every time I left school, I felt this sudden rush of relaxation. I was at ease once again, and could be myself, laugh, and not worry about missing something that COUNTED for a grade.
I hated living that double life. I don’t even think there was a time where I was genuinely, truly myself in school. In high school, participation became mandatory that I was even more focused on following along, making sure that I got the information, but I knew I wasn’t myself. I knew that I should be participating more, but every time I wanted to, the conversation seemed to shift, the topic changed, and other students raised their hands faster than me or screamed out their own opinions and answers before I could. I wanted to talk, offer my own thoughts/opinions, but the sad thing is, I was constantly playing the “catch up” game. UGH. I hated that…still do. I frequently vented my frustrations about mandatory participation to my parents. Are you kidding me? I don’t need any more pressure to talk…I’m TRYING. And I don’t have that confidence I want so badly to be myself in school.
Additionally, I was constantly watched, critiqued, and judged by my teachers, other students, and aides about how I was doing in the class, participation-wise. They would pass quick notes amongst each other and say “Alanna is not participating enough, I would like her to talk” and then one of the aides would relay the message to me and encourage me to talk. Like you don’t think I know that? You don’t think I want to talk? I do. But forgive me for trying to follow along, forgive me for trying to soak in all the information, forgive me for trying to do well in school. It’s funny though, none of those teachers who passed along those notes confronted me, or even tried to have a one-on-one conversation with me. To make matters worse, I could physically feel their hesitance to call on me during class. How do you think that affects me? Let me tell you, it hurts when you sense that hesitance or discomfort around you, and it only made me feel even more uncomfortable in school. (Let it be noted that I’ve accepted that there will always be people who will act hesitant around me…I’m over it.) Growing up, and feeling like someone’s uneasy around you, especially if it’s an adult, is absolutely detrimental on a person’s confidence.
I don’t mean to be negative, but these things HAVE to be said. When someone has a disability, teachers shouldn’t be hesitant around them. Luckily, I had some teachers who weren’t hesitant towards me, but I wish those teachers who seemed nervous around me had a decent one-on-one conversation with me. They would see that I wasn’t that “shy” loser-ish person I appeared to be. When teachers treat me or any other student with a disability as an equal, they indirectly teach OTHER students that there’s nothing to be afraid of, nothing to be hesitant about, and certainly, nothing to be uncomfortable about. I wish my teachers got to know me outside of the class and realize that I was struggling to participate, struggling to find that sense of comfort to be myself.
At BU, My professors took me seriously. They called on me during discussions, sometimes even during lectures. Most of them didn’t write me off as shy, they called on me like they would on any other student. They treated me as an equal. I remember feeling so afraid that I would be written off as shy by my professors or that I would slip into the person I once was. I hated that “shy” girl in high school, middle school, and part of elementary school. And this is the most important thing, their equal treatment of me helped me grow and want to contribute more to the class.
I want to encourage all teachers who see a student not participating as much as they should be to talk to them. Just try to have a conversation with them…maybe they don’t feel that sense of comfort in school either, maybe they’re struggling, maybe they’re intimidated by the teacher’s teaching style…who knows? But, what I do know is, a simple conversation can make all the difference.
I’m a work in progress, but I’m looking forward to three more adventurous years at BU!