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Studying: extensive preparation or simply doing?

The challenges that lie in studying as a person with a visual impairment
A woman leaning backwards on her chair with a book her head. There is a lot of work in front of her in terms of books and files, she seems totally done.

#blog by Kristina Misiunaite

"Third time's a charm!", I thought after my last blog. It felt a bit like that when I was awarded my third university degree. Not to get all high and mighty, because a double bachelor sounds like a lot. The fact that there was also some overlap between the two programs probably makes it a little less tough. In terms of content, it was certainly no less interesting for me to have taken the extra courses. I can't deny that two academic berets next to each other made for a nice selfie. Nevertheless, that is only a festive expression of the achievement of promising future papers. Such diplomas are admission tickets to your dreams and they hopefully give you great opportunities. Above all, they are the next step in an endless process. After all, you continuously learn throughout your life. Where studying is perhaps a separate branch of sport, which can sometimes be quite challenging. Let me tell you a little more about that.

Life-changing choice

Long before my graduation year, I visited open days at various universities to get a feel for all kinds of studies. My broad interests and boundless curiosity made it anything but easy to decide. Fortunately I still had some time.

With such changeable legislation, I thought that a lot had to be digital. Which, luckily for me, would make it immediately accessible with my laptop and braille display. In addition to hoping to combine my interest in economics and love of language and writing, this was the basis of my choice of study. This is a personal challenge for everyone, and involves a great deal of thought. After all, good preparation is often half the battle, and if things sometimes take more time, it's better to get there early to make sure everything is as organised as possible.

For example, after passing my final exams, I traveled to the faculty several times during the summer months - still without a student ov, unfortunately! - to explore the surroundings and the building. Fortunately, I was spared the hustle and bustle of packed lecture halls and hordes of students in the hallways, so I could practice 'on dry land', so to speak. When, less than a week before the start of the academic year, work on and around the bus stations made the learned routes (temporarily) unusable, some improvisation was required...

Find inspirers

"Surely I can't be the only one", I often thought. Indeed, browsing through the almanac - of the predecessor of what is now the major eye foundation in the Netherlands - proved otherwise. By talking to someone who is already working in the field, you instantly remember what you are doing it for. It helps enormously to be able to keep such a source of inspiration in mind and it's always nice to be able to tap into a 'source of help' for the most practical approach.

Study as a coat rack. That turned out to be not only wise advice, but also a golden tip. By 'hanging' all concepts in the right place in the big picture, you build an orderly structure within which you can find and understand everything better. It was immediately pointed out to me that learning everything by heart is really 'not done', even, or perhaps especially, during an oral examination. With the endless deluge of information it seemed, especially at the beginning, almost unimaginable how I could understand it all correctly! Fortunately, the prediction came true that this gradually becomes easier and easier. It is unbelievable that you hardly realise this yourself, because your coat rack is constantly being expanded. Really reading everything seems almost impossible, but it gives you a head start. Looking something up quickly does take longer than for those who can read with their eyes. Fortunately, there are the lectures as a thread, which help you to set up your coat rack in the right way. Handy for recording education. Not only to listen back what went a little too fast, but also to be able to ask more focused questions, referring to the explanations given.

Just as good an inspiration is someone who studies at the same faculty and therefore has already made the 'practical paths' a bit passable. That saves a lot of (un)searching and explaining what you need.

The Step Up Study Event

Saturday afternoon, February 13, 2021, a group of enthusiastic young people hosted the Step Up Study Event. Summarised in two words it was: unforgettable online! For and by young people with a visual or motor disability, to get the information you REALLY need. The interactive workshops were therefore mainly set up as a 'fire of questions' and fortunately it rained useful tips and solutions. Many were stressed by the seven topics offered in two rounds: from student life to energy balance. From study choices to the job search. From study skills and digital accessibility, to tactile drawings....

A Ziezo-exhibition-like concept especially for young people was not going to work physically. Therefore, SUSE approached over a hundred organisations and with the question of what useful things they have to offer young people/students. All their answers can be found on the website, which is still being updated.

It is well worth an online visit! Soon you will also find the most useful tips per workshop here. Would you like to think about or contribute to a next edition? Then definitely let us hear from you!

Student and association member

Lecture hall, train, textbook. I am very glad that I was able to break through this triangle before it really started to become a vicious circle. It's good to protect yourself from the seemingly endless study material, because you get so absorbed in it. Fortunately, this came my way during my freshman year, so that was a good start. So amazing to meet new people at a study and/or student association, to have countless fun memories and to make friendships for life! Such cliche's, you might think. Yet nothing is less true. For example, everyone who says that being a student involves more than being enrolled at university is certainly right, in my opinion.

If you know someone at every faculty, it reduces the threshold to take a 'trip' to try new electives that are not necessarily part of your major. When time and energy permit it of course.

Dare to ask

Often enough I have taken the plunge and asked professors for a digital version of the book they have written. Fortunately, this was usually successful. With prescribed literature that appears at the last minute before the start of a course, you want to be able to access it quickly, while waiting for the digital version to be produced.

The desire to participate as 'normally' as possible means that I am inclined to think that I create a lot of extra work for professors, staff or students. Unjustly, as it often turns out. Extra explanations for images that are (unconsciously) pointed at, sometimes without a description, can be appreciated by my sighted fellow students. Repetition never hurts, after all. If you are able to explain it to someone else, it is the ultimate test of your own understanding. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to ask the right questions.

Do not limit yourself to 'human' help lines as a source of information. With inexhaustible patience, my smart speakers try to make calculations and find answers via search words when asked. It saved me a lot of (search) time when Google Home was able to tell me what was in those tricky legal provisions that I needed during my open book exam...

Then there are the questions you are asked as a student, during exams and work groups. Complicated cases that are clarified visually via structure drawings have to make way for a case sketch in words: chronologically and in abbreviations. Such things are less suitable as tangible pictures. What is? See my previous blog.

It is nice to be able to focus completely on the question or assignment. For example, by using a reading aid that can look up information from the case or legal text when requested. Instead of using up all my time to find a specific line in the text, I can better use this for some serious thinking work.

Work smart(er) and stay up-to-date!

It's almost enviable sometimes, this multitasking: looking at the slides, listening to the lecture and responding to the chat. But do you really get everything right? You can never have too many efficient tricks and these, too, differ greatly from person to person. Headings in files to keep an overview and quickly find what you're looking for, using multiple files or even different devices and reading formats next to each other, are all tricks that have significantly improved my way of working.

Does a new book of laws every year seem like an 'expensive hobby'? Keeping up with technological developments as much as possible will benefit you greatly, no matter what you study. Know the software you use inside and out! You'll be amazed at all the extra features, new ones can bring.

Hopefully all this will help you get a bit more out of studying and make your time as a student the best time of your life!


Wednesday, 3 March 2021