Young man in wheelchair wearing red jacket smiling outside in backyard
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My Journey to University

In grade 10, I travelled from my hometown of Dundas, Ontario, Canada to Ottawa to visit the university I hoped to one day attend. I still remember how much I looked forward to moving there and starting a life that would truly be my own. I wanted, and still want, to enter politics. I feel that I can have a positive impact on the world through policy making, so in 2021 I began my studies in Political Science with a focus in International Relations.

I live with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) so entering university as a person with accessibility needs comes with a lot of important things to consider. For example, one might need to consider, is their potential school wheelchair-accessible? Disappointingly, there are still schools in Canada in which buildings do not have ramps. Beyond that, there are many other important considerations, such as whether there are care services provided by the institution to assist with activities of daily living. Ultimately, when it came to choosing the right school, it was most important for me to find an accessible school that provided accessibility services and had a good Political Science program.

In my eyes, post-secondary experiences, whether it be college, university or the workforce, contain much more flavour than that of a textbook or brochure. While high school is a runway, life afterwards is more of an open sky. During my university experience so far, I’ve learned so much about my values and hopes in life. I’ve learned to (mostly) live on my own, which brings to mind the wise words of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben: “with great power comes great responsibility”. It is so valuable to learn to be self-sufficient while away at university, and fortunately this was easy for me to learn. For example, I never had to buy milk before going away to school! What a learning curve that was.

During my first year of university, everyone seemed to be in a state of transition. With new responsibilities came new habits and friends. I encourage students to join clubs in their school, as that can be a good way to meet individuals with similar interests. I had the opportunity to participate in a club within the Political Science department, and it was interesting to see the aspirations of those in my program. On the contrary, a great thing about university is that there are so many different people from different backgrounds, which can be very formative and helpful in challenging your own perspective. I encourage you to seek out what you are interested in. While it can be nerve-wracking to make the first move socially, it’s important to know that the person you start a conversation with is probably looking for friends too. For example, I met some university friends when I asked two guys to help me use an elevator, and then we started talking. The rest is history!

In my early experience, I’ve found that university can be an exciting new start for those who want it. Whether you’re planning on going to university soon or you are thinking of creating a big change in your life, I hope you create the best experience possible for yourself. Ultimately, we reap what we sow, and I hope that the seeds I planted in my first year will someday become a beautiful garden of life.