New to DMU- From Attendee to organiser
On the 7th of September, De Montfort University is hosting a 3 day event for new students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger’s). The residential is now in its 3rd year and I have been lucky enough to be part of all three.
As an attendee, I was just a Fresher who thought Fresher’s week was all about drinking and catching things that weren’t Pokémon. Then last year I returned to talk to the students about my experiences (if you want 20 tired students to pay attention to you, tell them a drunk story. It works every time). This year I’m organising the residential, so it’s fair to say I have seen from all angles.
So why does DMU have this event? Well everyone knows that starting University can be a very exciting experience, however for somebody on the spectrum it opens up an additional can of worms. Let’s take an average nightclub during Fresher’s week, whilst neurotypicals (those not on the spectrum) find the experience of partying hard awesome, us Aspies find it far too cramped, far too loud and want to leave as fast as possible (unless you head to Helsinki, you can dance without the groping).
People with Aspergers are also more vulnerable to dropping out of University if the correct support isn’t in place. According to an article in the Guardian, 3.5% of students with a social communication disorder or an autistic spectrum disorder did not complete their course which is actually a quite scary statistic.
However, DMU received the highest student happiness rating in 2014-2015 for disabled students and there are plenty of reasons for this. As soon as you declare a disability on your UCAS form, you are contacted by the wonderful Disability Advice and Support Team (DAS) who will assist with everything from DSA allocations to allowing you 5-10 minutes away from the chaos of Fresher’s Week.
Of course the DAS team are also responsible for organising New to DMU which is where I come in. I’m responsible for organising all of the speakers and activities for the residential (i.e. sending out lots and lots of emails). This year we have the DAS team talking about the support that they offer as well as the Careers Team discussing about placements and Frontrunners. We are also having the DSU exec. Team popping over to talk about their awesome support as well as sports teams and societies to introduce themselves to give new students a taste of the social life here at DMU.
If any DMU sports teams and societies wish to find out more information on how to partake please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For students who maybe cooking for the first time, we’ve been invited to visit Doorstep Desserts store (thank you gentlemen) and some of us will be visiting Megazone to partake in some games of laser-tag thus helping students to settle into life here at DMU.
I’m not even halfway through yet and this placement has allowed me to develop a lot of skills which will look very good for any potential employer that looks at my CV. Furthermore, this placement has allowed me to become a qualified mental health first aider and has set me up with plenty of links in the local area. Plus, it also allows me to earn an extra wage during the summer (which my bank account is thanking me for).
My advice for anyone considering a Frontrunner placement at DMU is do it. They give you guidance throughout the process and not only will you gain extra money but you will also gain a host of desirable skills that will last after graduation and beyond!
Hope to see many of you at the New to DMU event on the 7th of September.
Keep an eye out on my Twitter for events going live during September and hope to see you all at Freshers.
By Kelly Davies