College and muscular dystrophy: Getting started

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This post is part 2 in my week-long series on my college experience. If you missed part 1, “Picking a College,” then please check that out too.

Once I finally made my decision to go to Stanford I felt an immediate release of stress from having my future in my hands. From then on, the transition process was fairly guided and included everything from filling out a roommate questionnaire to specifying exactly what my needs would be for my residence. My only regret during this time is that I sent in this ridiculous senior picture of me in a brown leather jacket and my hair looking like an Elvis Halloween wig. Of course it ended up in the freshman picture book for all to see.

During the post-decision process we asked several specific questions. I didn’t have too many, but my mom naturally wanted to know everything from where I’d be sleeping to what I’d be eating to where I’d be washing my underwear. There were a few unknowns because we weren’t sure what the dorms were like or where there would be parking for my car. We also needed to setup the logistics for getting the golf cart. Since I’d never visited the school I didn’t really know how things were setup.

Fortunately everything turned out well and didn’t require too much effort. I wasn’t the first student with physical challenges to ever attend the school. These days I am sure this is true for most, if not all colleges. There have been people there before who needed extra attention. We relied on the housing office to put me where I needed to be. We got the number of the place that rented golf carts and arranged to pick mine up shortly after I arrived. My parents were going to drive my car out so they could have a vacation and also help me get setup. So I flew out about a week after they left on the 40-hour drive out to California.

By the time I got there, my parents had my room setup and had already met many of the students and their parents. My roommate was nowhere to be found, but his stuff was in the room already. He had clearly flown out with just a suitcase because his side of the room looked like it had just been looted. Or maybe it just looked like that because I had this mountain of things that’d been crammed into the back of my Jimmy – TV, cello, fridge, stereo, computer, etc, etc.

The same day I arrived, I picked up my golf cart and learned how to chain it up, put water in the batteries, and charge it at night. My parents and I went for a quick drive around the campus, but by then, like any kid, I could not wait to get rid of them. There were so many fun orientation activities on the schedule and it seemed like none of us really wanted our parents hanging around! Fortunately they didn’t plan on staying too long and it was soon time for me to take them to the airport and get back to the business of starting school.

There were a ton of tasks to do before classes started — buying books, picking up financial aid checks, setting up my phone, setting up a bank account, picking my classes, and any other number of small things.  The golf cart came in handy! I also met a lot of people by carting them around with me whenever I needed to go somewhere.

I was also lucky because my entire dorm was freshman so we were all in the same boat. My room was on the first floor, which was co-ed. Even the bathroom was co-ed — the sinks and mirrors were shared but we did have separate showering areas.

Before classes started we did get to have some fun. Of course there were all the “getting to know you” activities and games within our dorm like the San Francisco scavenger hunt where my entire team of eight people crammed into my GMC Jimmy and drove around the city collecting ridiculous clues from various places. Then there was the UCLA-Stanford football game where I sunburned the entire left half of my face and then had eight more people clinging to my golf cart for the ride back to the dorms from the stadium. Naturally there were parties and other things going on too. Then of course we had to get to the reality of having to go to classes.

But overall the process of getting setup at college was new and exciting. Everyone was in the same boat and we were all paddling frantically trying to get our bearings, helping each other out, and having a good time. By the time the next year rolled around, it was all old hat.

In my next post I’ll talk about some of the challenges I experienced when attending college and how those challenged helped me in future situations.

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