By Yamila García
I have the tendency to think in extremes. “Black and white thinking,” as they call it. That is why when I don’t like something, I typically don’t like anything related to it and it blocks me completely. I totally lose interest and find it impossible to focus on it. It has happened to me several times, with people, activities, classes, etc… The last time it happened was during a recent semester and it was really challenging to pass the class. It was a class that I liked. It was a subject that I would typically enjoy. But I didn’t get to adapt to my professor and from there everything went uphill (it was a really hard climb). Not being able to adapt to my professor sometimes means that I am not able to follow my professor, adapt to their class format, or focus on the class for different reasons. It is never a quick transition, from one moment to the next, but more progressive, until I cross the door of the blockade, and there is no turning back.
When this semester started, I felt that I was on my way to that door in one of my classes. I couldn’t understand my professor and my first few weeks of learning were blank (just like my first quiz). I panicked of course but always proactively. I contacted my professor. I explained that I was not understanding and we talked about what I needed to understand. In the next class, I was very surprised to see that my professor had humbly taken my comments to make his class more understandable to me. I’m a fan of my professor now. Yes, “black and white” thinking again. It felt so good to be heard! Look how easy it is to close that door and make the semester something less overwhelming for people like me. I know I was not the only one in that class with the same difficulties.
I just want to say thank you to all the professors who listen to their students and allow themselves to grow from criticism because those are the ones that become unforgettable for us students. Not only do they teach us academic concepts but they also teach us by example, showing that we can always learn from everyone. Thank you for listening and not letting us through that door. You can’t even imagine the relief your flexibility gives us.
By Yamila García
A new semester has started and at each beginning, I always tell myself: “You are going to feel overwhelmed. You are going to think that it is impossible and that you cannot adapt to so many changes together. But this has happened many times before and it was never true.” The beginnings are not easy, because, in reality, they are changes. But we need them to move forward and achieve our goals and dreams.
As a neurodivergent person, I perceive routine changes as catastrophes that turn my world upside down. It’s been three weeks since the semester started and I finally feel like I’m coming out of the adjustment so I can start learning. My starting point is this. Three weeks later than many of my classmates is when I can finally sit in a class, listen and really understand what my professors explain. Previously, it was just noise, other distractions, and discomfort. I even turned in the first quiz of a class blank. None of the previous weeks were to learn the most important concepts of the class, as everyone else does. For me, those weeks were just to get used to the new buildings, the new chairs, the new voices of the teachers, and the recurring noises and the lights of the classroom. I know that my adaptation process requires these adjustments and that it takes me a few weeks, and I know that many of us, neurodivergent or not, go through the first weeks of school as if we were embarking on a journey without a map or GPS.
At the beginning of every semester, I think about how simple it would be to help us shorten this adaptation time. What would particularly help me would be to have in advance the complete syllabus of all the classes with the schedule of exams and assignments, knowing what apps or websites we are going to use, videos of the professors introducing themselves, early access to Husky CT, and any extra tools that we’ll use during the semester. It’s not that I don’t want to make an effort to adapt. The issue is that adapting takes so much energy that it doesn’t allow me to learn while I adapt. We have accommodations during the semester. Why don’t we have them before we start? Why assume that we all have the same starting point? There are many more “new” things each semester that present a challenge for those of us who struggle with changes and new routines. However, once we manage to adapt we can run like everyone else. We are all going to get through this semester and whatever comes after. We just have to be patient with ourselves, accept the time it takes to adapt and understand that our time to speed up comes a little later. Happy Fall semester everyone! The worst is over!