Last Thursday the moment was finally there: after 7 years, I officially graduated as a master in Applied Economic Sciences. I went to the proclamation with my mom, dad and two sisters. It was quite funny to go together with my mom and dad on a ‘family trip’ because they have been divorced for almost 15 years. But no worries, they are on good speaking terms. We even went out to eat pizza together afterwards!
The proclamation itself wasn’t like you see in the movies, with a great show and the famous graduation-hats – which you should throw in the air at the end of the ceremony. The only thing they did was call out our names. (A bit boring if you ask me…) But luckily there was a reception afterwards, with fancy appetizers and a lot of free cava!
Because I wanted to catch this special moment on camera, I asked my dad to take some shots. Overall conclusion: dad is not a very talented photographer. 😂 By chance my mom could take at least one acceptable picture.
Reflecting on 7 years of studying
Seven years ago, I started my journey at the University of Antwerp. As an 18-year-old, I never thought it would take me so long before graduating and never ever expected that I would graduate while sitting a in wheelchair. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we plan.
If I look back at my time in college, my first year was definitely my favourite year. Everything was new: I had new courses, met a lot of new people, made new friends and had the opportunity to experience what it means to be completely free. (Thank God for that 🙏).
Unfortunately, after my accident a few things changed. Studentlife in a wheelchair wasn’t the same. Every morning Taxi Hendriks dropped me off at school and picked me up in the evening to go back home. Planning something spontaneously wasn’t easy anymore. I had to constantly keep the time schedule of the taxi in mind. Going out during the weekdays wasn’t an option anymore either, instead I had to do exercises with my physiotherapist in the evening. You could see it as dancing in a different way 😉.
What I did truly enjoy was the lunch time with my friends or the many ‘coffee dates’ in the Vandoag Ist – where I always ordered a chocolate milk with whipped cream and M&M’s (so yummy 👌👌👌).
Also studying itself changed. I could no longer write by myself, turning a page wasn’t self-evident anymore and I had to rely on others to make exercises. Not having the choice to study when I want and how I want, was pretty frustrating. So, it took me a while to adapt to my new study method. To make it more feasible, I didn’t do full academic programs but chose to spread it over a longer period.
Because I missed a year while recovering from my accident, I wasn’t always in the same classes as friends anymore. If I was, they would help me, and if not, they brought me to the door of the class. Of course, I couldn’t take notes myself anymore, so it gave me a free pass to shamelessly ask notes from other students. Thank you for the help and notes everyone! A disadvantage was that I was distracted more easily and even fell asleep sometimes. Hopefully I did not snore 😆.
During the last two years it was sometimes hard to stay motivated. I have often thought of quitting my studies. For me, school wasn’t fun anymore. Most of my friends were already graduated and I felt a bit lonely sometimes. Because of my wheelchair it wasn’t easy to make new friends. Sometimes I was too insecure to speak to someone or the classroom wasn’t adapted enough so I was forced to sit next to the auditorium – which made it more difficult for other students to approach me. There were even days on which I came home and realised I didn’t have any conversation with anyone that day…Okay, now I sound like the most pathetic person on earth! 🙈 But it was reality, I don’t want to pretend it was better than it was.
In my master year it became a little bit better because I hired a new assistant that came with me to most classes and had some group assignments with funny team members. I also had to write a master thesis in my last year, which I didn’t look forward to. Luckily, I had my assistant, because I could never have finished it without help. After a year and summer (because I’m a procrastinator) of frustration and stress it appeared that I did a pretty great job. I had to defend my thesis at the end of August and afterwards my promotor invited a guy from the department social media to do a short interview. The faculty wanted to do something special because it doesn’t happen every year that someone graduates in a wheelchair. The idea was to film my reaction while getting feedback, but we had to do a second shot. So, in the video I pretend I’m surprised but in reality, I already knew the result. You can check out my acting skills in the video bellow ⬇⬇⬇
Briefly: it wasn’t a walk in the park, but I made it. I am so happy I persevered and didn’t quit. Now I can call myself a Master in the Applied Economic Sciences, isn’t that cool? Maybe I can be a bit proud of myself after all. On top of that, my diploma is an extra confirmation for the world that there is nothing wrong with my brain 😊.
Bye UA, hello future!!! I am totally ready for the next chapter in life. Maybe a job? Or a project? Anyone? You know where to find me.