Going back to university is stressful by itself, but going back with a chronic illness makes it 10 times harder! My first year of university was kind of a dry run. More of a “figuring out what I want to pursue” year, but it also gave me a year to find out how to deal with the usual stressors of university plus the added stress of dealing with a chronic illness.
Below are my top ten tips/tricks to help make the transition to university with a chronic illness as easy as possible!
- Get in touch with your Accessibility Office on campus as soon as possible. They can require medical notes/assessment forms that can sometimes take months depending on the doctor. The Academic Accessibility office has been a lifesaver for me!!
- Meet up with your specialists in July or August. It gives you time to make sure all of your treatment plans are going smoothly, or try new things before the school year begins! It allows me to get a good grasp on things and try to get a good start health wise in September
- Organize your study space: Having a clean and organized study space allows you to keep on top of everything and not let any assignments or notes get lost!
- Figure out how you like to take your notes! Some people like using pen and paper, others use their computers, or some don’t take notes at all. Due to the nature on my condition, I find concentration difficult, so taking notes on my computer allows me to get everything down, but still listen to the professor. I was taught touch-typing as a young child, so I can pay attention to the prof, but still type.
- Use E-Books if possible! I bought an iPad mini ($320) for my first year of university so I could purchase electronic books, which are considerably cheaper, and much lighter (iPad is super light!!) There is pros and cons to this option. The cons are, you are staring at a screen the entire time you are reading, and for some classes that could be multiple hours, but it all depends on your condition and your preferences!
- Get a backpack that can support your textbooks/computers/notebooks/lunch/ect, and spend a good amount of money on it (if possible). I bought a cheaper backpack my first year of university, thinking I would be wasting money, but I soon realized that the numerous textbooks that I couldn’t get on my iPad and my laptop, my lunch and everything else I needed was really heavy! And it started to make my back pain, and strain the muscles in my back. This year I’ve invested in a good backpack- North face Router! It’s really big, as I can’t get my books on my iPad this year, and it has great back support! This backpack is regularly around $159.99, which is a lot, but you can get a really good quality backpack for $50-$100 that will last you your entire program!
- Start any assignments/projects as soon as you can! Where I live, all the universities give out the course syllabus at the beginning on the year, which tells you when each assignment is due, and when each test/exam is! It is such a great help for spoonies as I have weeks where I have a surplus of spoons, so if I can get a start on an assignment due in a month, why not! Because who knows where my health will be in a months time.
- Adjust your course load accordingly. I started my first semester with 3/5 courses, and for me it’s the perfect fit! My second semester I had to go down to 2/5 due to my health, but thanks to my accessibility office I got the course removed from my records with no penalty!
- Take time for yourself. Don’t overbook your schedule and end up crashing and burning. I’ve done it and its not worth it
- Have fun! University is such a great time to meet new people and learn new things!