Monthly Archives: August 2012

A new Chapter

It was a Monday afternoon in February. I wasn’t feeling great. Not because I was ill, but because that same morning, I had received my exam results from my very first semester at the university. They were bad. Very bad. I had failed 3 out of 4 subjects. “How was this even possible?” I kept asking myself repeatedly. ”I am usually among the top students getting high marks and returning with grade books which made my parents proud.” But, now, I had failed.

As I turned on my phone to check whether I had any messages, I heard a voicemail message from my dad. He was swearing in that terrifying way only he can do and I knew I was in trouble. My exam results had somehow been sent to Norway and now I was dead.

I felt sick for the rest of that day. I spent it either crying, or curled up under my duvet with stomach pain. My life was over. I had to leave the UK, forget university and, and, what? What was I supposed to do? I certainly wasn’t smart enough for university. How stupid I was for thinking that I having gotten good grades all my life meant I could cope well academically abroad. I had proved everyone who had little or no faith in me right. I decided to go back home and give up university.

I did go back home, but I waited seven years. I finished my bachelor, though today I’m not sure how. My failures of the first semester was due to me not having the learning material, a problem I kept facing all through the rest of my degree. But I managed to get some good friends who helped me along. Journalism students in the year above me who spent a lot of time teaching me how to write an essay, giving me inputs from their own great minds and works, helping me before exams. I could not have done it without them and I thank their efforts for me being able to proudly graduate in 2007, after which I went on to work for the BBC.

Not only did I go back home, but I’m now back in a university, something I swore I’d never do after that bachelor I somehow felt and to a degree still feel I didn’t deserve. But here I am. In Oslo my home town, I’ve just started a masters degree. This is big for me and those who have experienced being nervous about everything academic all through their degree, may just appreciate how big.

I still feel as if I’m dreaming and I’m still a little concerned as to whether I’ll do well, but all in all, I have a lot more faith in myself now. For one thing, I’m older. I am doing media studies, a subject I have both prior academic and working knowledge about. I have received computer equipment and e-books which has allowed me to start reading straight away and knowing where I failed before, I have spoken to lecturers to make them aware of the small, but important academic adjustments I need in order for me to be able to study as efficiently as my classmates.

The culture differences between the UK and Norway is also a very important factor here. In the UK, making everything accessible tends to be much more down to the schools and so how smooth your studies are going has a lot to do with how experienced or willing your university is to help.

In the socialist welfare society of Norway, there are other institutions working with the universities to make sure everything is going smoothly. For example, the school provides the syllabus, but the library for the blind produces it. For reading and secretarial help, as well as computer equipment, that’s obtained through the government.

I’m not saying it will all be a smooth game, but I think the combination of my maturity and access to literature and other help not solely depending on the school will make this experience a hell of a lot better.

And who knows, maybe the teenage girl who thought her life was over because she failed loads of exams will one day be a scholar? Besides being a novelist and journalist of course.

Debunking Blindness Myths

Blindness, like so many other things, has myths attached to it, most of which blind people find utterly ridiculous.

Some you may have heard before and some might be new. And heavens forbid, if you’ve never met a blind person, you may even believe in some of them. However, after having read this, you’ll be laughing along with the rest of us.

Blind people hear better than sighted people.

I would forgive you for believing this, but it’s not true. Our hearing is effectively the same as the hearing of a sighted person, it’s just more developed. We are also believed to have a better sense of touch, smell and taste. Again, this has more to do with the development of the senses. I would go so far as to say that sighted people miss out on many sensory experiences because the sight takes over everything

Blind people have perceptions towards the supernatural and are often psychic.

If that was true, or if the spirit world could be proven to exist, the unemployment rate among the blind would be a hell of a lot lower as they could be put on the psychic lines and chat rooms to give people readings. More psychics would arguably mean cheaper readings, so everyone would do it. I admit this chain of thoughts are rather simplified, but I’m just trying to make a point. I have heard of one or two blind psychics, but I’ve heard of more sighted ones.

Blind people can know colours by touch.

I really wonder how that one came about. I was told as a little girl by sighted grown-ups that I should be able to feel the difference between warm and cold colours and felt frustrated when I couldn’t. It may have been the case for a few extrordinary people, but it’s not common at all. Blind artists would typically put different kinds of grain in different pots of colour in order to paint better. The Turkish artist Esref Armagan, who is blind, uses this technique and they say his paintings are good.

Blind people are musical.

If you heard a couple of my friends sing in the shower, it wouldn’t take you long to get convinced that not every blindy is a musical genius. Having said that, a large proportion of blind people I know, myself included have musical talents.

Blind people read Braille.

I certainly wish this was the case, but sadly, only a minority seem to read it these days. Talking screen reading software has taken over where Braille was king, something which often results in worse spelling for some blind people as they have a tendency to spell phonetically. I use talking software as well, but in combination with Braille as I think it’s vital I stay a good Braille reader. I think that people who lose their sight should learn Braille too. Even the grown-ups. Not being able to read it would be like not being able to read print. I can understand the motivation for this group is lower, but basic Braille skills are a good thing to have as it is our version of print. And would anyone swap print for audio?

Blind people live in a dark world.

Most blind people can see some light. This is not useful vision and they still need dogs or canes to move around. Blind people who can’t see light, don’t see black, because in order to see black, you would arguably need sight as black reflects every colour.

Blind people are good lovers.

Sensitive fingers, a great sense of touch. But is it true? Rather than me telling you, why not find out for yourself? :;) I reckon that’d be a lot more fun!