We asked some of our students with a diagnosis to share what they felt was positive about their experience in UCC, as well as things they may have found challenging.
Feedback from our students is helping us make changes to make the university a better place for autistic students to study and socialize, and our campus a more ‘sensory-friendly’ environment.
Of course everyone will have their own different experience – but it can be helpful to know that other people have had the same concerns and challenges as you. It can also be useful to see how people overcame those challenges in a positive way.
What did students with autism find positive about their experiences studying in UCC?
having the opportunity to explore their interests
discovering new interests
new friends, meeting new people and socialising, having flatmates
being on the UCC FM (the university radio station)
all the extra curricular activities (things to do outside of your academic studies)
writing for the Express (UCC’s student paper)
having understanding classmates and staff members
the support from the DSS
support in managing health challenges that affect my college work
academic staff being very supportive and encouraging
[the] wide variety of spaces
One student told us the best thing about being at university in UCC was:
Finding something I’m really good at and realising I’m not an idiot. Accessing supports that don’t exist in the non-college world and really benefiting from them (like OT in first year [and] free counselling.
Another student told us:
I’ve been able to train myself to become more confident by forcing myself to speak to new people. This has led to me being more outgoing. All of the lecturers are friendly and receptive and willing to answer questions, no matter how simple they may seem. The DSS also is very supportive. There’s a fantastic atmosphere on campus.
How could this affect me?
Students also experienced some challenges, such as:
- adapting to the new environment
- finding a space to get time out
- making friends and socialising in group settings
- managing workload and deadlines
- understanding assignment questions
- not really knowing where to go when overwhelmed
- socializing, crowds, eye contact
- bigger classes [than in school]
- the noisy environment
A student explained how the campus environment affected them:
Just been on campus with this giant herd of twenty thousand chattering humans all moving in different directions is incredibly draining and stressful. Changing lanes – getting really focused on a subject for an hour and then, whoosh, a different lecture, different room, different subject, different everything. Trying to switch from one subject to the next with this big upheaval in between is super hard.
What to do next?
Take some time to look through this toolkit - sometime just having more information makes things so much easier to cope with.
If you think that you may experience some of the same challenges that our students have identified – don’t worry. There are lots of things you can do to make your experience easier and there are also different supports we can offer you.
It won’t always be easy – and this is the same for all students whether they have a diagnosis of autism or not. By acknowledging that you will experience challenges at times, you will be better prepared to face them. You will also further develop your coping and problem solving skills (which future employers will appreciate!)