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TX: 24.12.03 CHRISTMAS STUDENT DIARIES




PRESENTER: LIZ BARCLAY

BARCLAY
Back in October we heard from Ruth, Ciaran and Sarah - three disabled students who were starting university for the first time. They wrote us a diary of their experiences. Ruth Douglas is reading medicine at LeedsUniversity and has severe asthma and a rare genetic disorder called Nail Patella Syndrome, which affects the joints. Ciaran Gilligan is at Manchester Metropolitan University studying English and creative writing, he's a wheelchair user. And Sarah Butler is studying physiotherapy at Birmingham University and is visually impaired.

So what have they been up to in the final weeks of term before the start of the Christmas vacation? A mixture of parties and exams it seems.

DOUGLAS
8th December 2003
Well here I am sat in the back of a lecture theatre, I guess I should probably be taking notes but it is such a boring lecture. The first exam of the course is on Thursday and I'm expecting to fail, seeing as 70 per cent of people failed it last year, I will be lucky to pass it. Revision's been a fairly difficult process for me, I find a good way of revising is to actually write things out and I can't really do that, it's not an option because I can't write for very long without it becoming quite painful and typing really just doesn't work in the same way, it just doesn't seem to drum it into your head. So yeah revision's been fairly difficult.

GILLIGAN
Sunday 15th December
As I sit here I'm listening to a radio talk show, everyone is discussing a burning question - is it or is it not Saddam, some say it's a clone, some say it's a double? I say there are more pressing matters at hand, like will I or will I not get all my essays in before Thursday? I've been at university now since September 21st and the work has well and truly kicked in.

BUTLER
Monday 8th December
Today was my first exam and I was absolutely petrified. Suddenly the reality of my lack of academic commitment over the last few months was hitting me rather hard. Luckily it all went rather well. I may not have got an A but I think I did enough to pass, which at this stage is the main thing. It also made me realise just how fantastic the physio school have been about supporting me with my studies.

GILLIGAN
My LEA equipment arrived - I've got a printer and a scanner and an infrared keyboard - and the most useful out of the lot I would say is the printer because it means I don't have to go all the way to the library to print off stuff and I can just do my essays in my room.

DOUGLAS
Ah such a lovely thing happened tonight - my choir was singing at a big carol concert, it was about an hour before the start of the concert and when I got a call on my mobile it was a friend who was helping organise and set up for the carol concert and she was ringing me because the lighting company wanted to use a smoke machine and she didn't want to let them use it if it was going to set my asthma off. The concert went absolutely brilliantly - there was about 7 or 800 people there, the room looked beautiful - paper chains everywhere, fairy lights everywhere - we had such a good time. Took my inhaler on to the stage just in case, wasn't a hundred per cent certain that the smoke wasn't going to trigger an attack but it didn't and everyone loved the choir and we had such a good time singing, it was amazing.

GILLIGAN
Today I went to a fancy dress party dressed as Christopher Reeve. It all started a week before when a bunch of us were sat in the pub, someone piped up - let's have a party next week and make it fancy dress. Mumbling more to myself than anyone I suddenly came up with the idea out loud of going along as the aforementioned ex-Superman. Mainly because thanks to his not so great horse-riding I'd have 70 per cent of the costume that I need already. Only a few people heard my genius idea and those that did practically wet themselves. But a week later I am sat in a kitchen wearing blue tracksuit trousers, a Superman T-shirt, [indistinct words], and here's the crucial Chris Reeve's element - a neck brace. It was funny watching so many drunken people trying not to look at the neck brace or whatever in case it was real, they didn't know whether to laugh or not. Some people just thought I'd come as Superman and then I had to go and explain the subtle difference between coming as Superman and coming as Christopher Reeve, to which some people again just laughed hysterically and some people just looked shocked and didn't know what to say and went quiet. But I thought it was a great idea and very funny and I had a good laugh.

BUTLER
Today is our Christmas ball, held at the Botanic Gardens in Birmingham. Spent most of the afternoon getting ready with the girls before the lads came round for drinks. Can't help but smile as I watch everyone bustle around me, all the anxieties about making friends and fitting in are just a distant memory. There was one moment at the ball when I nearly fell down a flight of stairs in my huge ball dress and one of my friends luckily just caught me and stopped me going head first down. But it was quite funny, at one point, I have to say, my initial thought wasn't oh goodness I've fallen down the stairs, it was what if I've ripped my dress! And it was just great because they just picked me up and we just laughed about it and there was no awkwardness at all and everyone's so used to me doing random things like that, that we just get on with it, it's fantastic. Now that I'm at the end of my first term of university I'm relieved to come home so I can sleep, I don't think I've been to bed before 1 o'clock since September, so I plan to spend the Christmas holidays doing a load of sleep. But I'm also - I'm actually also really missing everybody, I've only been at home for a week and already I can't wait to see my friends from uni again. So kind of looking forward to going back.

GILLIGAN
I've spoke to the disability coordinator and she said that - have a look at getting some software packages and stuff for me to speed my typing up, so that should be good if they can get that sorted next year.

DOUGLAS
Well amazingly I actually passed the exam that I was convinced I was going to fail. Admittedly I didn't get a particularly good pass mark, I just scrapped a pass, but that doesn't matter, I was very, very, very pleased to pass.

BARCLAY
Ruth, Ciaran and Sarah. And we'll join them again in 2004 to find out how the second term goes.



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