Taking on college with a disability, part two

Ali and Joe.

Ali and Joe.

Alicia Krage’s guest post last week about her decision to transfer from her local community college to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb got a lot of positive attention. She’s back today with a post about moving from home to a dorm and settling in to university life.

by Alicia Krage

My move in day was August 17. My parents, along with one of my sisters, helped me move into my dorm room at Northern Illinois University (NIU).

I had requested a single room with my own private bathroom, and I got one. It is a decent size, and I’m happy to have so much space.

The move took several hours, as did running through a few routes — from the lobby to the elevators, from the elevators to the dining hall. After all that, I was exhausted.

It wasn’t until my parents and sister left that it finally started to sink in: I was on my own. Instead of being nervous, I was unbelievably excited.

My boyfriend Jo is blind, too, and he’s been studying at NIU for two years now. Having Joe here is a big help. After my family left, he offered to run through some routes with me, despite knowing my family had helped me earlier. I declined.

But then he thought up a different task: How will I know the difference between my room key and bathroom key? My mother had already put a sticker on my room key to tell the difference, but Joe helped me figure out another method just in case the sticker we used might fall off –which it did a few days later.

He showed me the teeth on my room key and then my bathroom key and pointed out that the teeth were more curved on the bathroom key. That is how you can tell the difference. I was impressed! This method works perfectly.

Getting to classes isn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Most of my classes are in one building on campus, but that building is big. It can be intimidating — and confusing.

I’ll often stop others in the hall to ask for assistance, and over and over again my fellow students cheerfully say, “Of course!”

Now I often run into people who have already offered me their arm and led me down the hall somewhere or another once before. We might not be friends, but I’m glad I’m a familiar face on campus.

The dining hall is also wonderful. I was already familiar with their accommodations and procedure from my frequent trips to visit Joe the past two years. The dining hall is a short walk from the elevator (which beeps for every floor). Someone is always at the front counter where your card is swiped, and they often greet me by name (again…I’m glad I’m a familiar face).

A worker swipes my card, then uses a walkie-talkie to request assistance from a student worker. The student worker then leads me down the ramp and into the food court, where they ask me where I want to go.

There’s Traditional, which has a different menu every day, Pizza and Pasta, The Grill (which has the same thing every day), among other options. They fill my tray and seat me directly by the ramp. That way I can easily exit when I’m finished.

I’m sitting in my dorm room typing this, and it’s amazing to look back on all of this and realize that it’s only been a little over a month since I moved in. I’ve had the most amazing start here, and I’m so happy knowing there’s so much ahead of me – so many new experiences, challenges, and many more wonderful people to meet.


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  1. Susan Shaw Says:

    Be prepared to go clothes shopping, as they will pack on 25-50 pounds onto you the first few months.