What I Learned From My Time at College

Guest writer Gabi Jassie describes her life at college and how she overcame the challenges of having familial dysautonomia on her path to success.


Growing up my whole life with a disability, there were many limitations that were put on me at an early age.  For example, at first, many did not believe I would live until the age of 5.  Next, people did not think I could get good grades and graduate with a Regents Diploma. Finally, people did not believe that I would be able to graduate from a four year college and should focus on getting a two-year degree, instead.  Out of all the decisions I have made in my twenty-five years, deciding to go to college and graduate with my Bachelor’s in Sociology is still one of the best.  I have learned so much throughout my time as a college student and have grown so much as a person.

College taught me what I want, and how hard I am willing to fight in order to get it.

First, college has helped me to grow as a person. For example, I was a shy, antisocial, “yes person,” unable to tell someone no or disagree with anyone.  I wanted to always please others and put their needs ahead of mine. With college I am now an outspoken, positive, independent, creative woman. I  realized that having a lot of people help me with my disability, I am in the right mindset and capability to help others with disabilities to become independent. I found myself in college, realizing who I am and who I want to be as a person. I learned about my interests, my personality, my strengths and the qualities I admire both in others and in myself.  College also taught me what I want, and how hard I am willing to fight in order to get it. I have never worked harder, stressed more, or accomplished more than I did while I have been at college, and this work ethic I will bring with me into the real world and into the workforce when I find a job.  The competition in college helped to breed in me a healthy competition with myself to always strive to do better.  Even when I was doing my best, I could still stand to do better and improve.

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The author, Gabi Jassie, who describes her experience of college life with the rare neurological disorder, familial dysautonomia. “I was taught to be independent by parents, and I carried this attitude with me into college when I set my mind to work on my projects and classes.”

Second, college has also helped me to overcome my disability, especially in social situations.  I am no longer shy when it comes to group work. I speak up about what I want and participate in group projects.  I learned that I was respected for my opinions, not judged for my disability. At the beginning of college I was insecure about my disability and did not want the “normal students” to see me drink by my stomach. However, now that I have grown up, experienced college and became an advocate for myself, I am not insecure about my disability and taking drinks through my stomach.  I  am part of the disability community and having a disability is often seen as a stigma in society.  I went to college to prove to society and others that I can do it, but I also wanted to ensure that I have a good life and can support myself. I was taught to be independent by parents, and I carried this attitude with me into college when I set my mind to work on my projects and classes.  This has helped me succeed despite my disability.  I graduated with a higher GPA than I thought was possible, and I proved to myself and others that I am capable of succeeding.  College has taught me that I must advocate for myself, because I do have a disability, but it does not mean that I am incapable of doing what must be done.  It taught me to fight for my rights to an education that I deserve and not accept anything less.  I no longer shy away from group work or asking questions of my professors when I need help or do not understand an assignment.

College taught me that I must advocate for myself, because I do have a disability, but it does not mean that I am incapable of doing what must be done. – Gabi Jassie

As a senior and soon to be graduate of undergraduate college at Hunter College, I have different stories of my experiences with the disability office and professor encounters. With the help of the disability office (also known as accessibility office or access center) I have been able to be independent in my studies.  The office has always been helpful and accommodating to me when I have needed assistance. When I first started attending Hunter College, there was a rule, one that is still currently in place, that a testing form must be signed by the professor and handed to the access center two weeks in advance of an exam. This must be done in order for me, or any other student with a disability, to receive approved testing services.  For the most part, professors at Hunter have been very accommodating when it comes to my testing and class time modifications.   I did however, have one instance early on in my educational career in which a professor was resistant to providing me the necessary paperwork to access my accommodations.  I felt frustrated that he was oppositional to allowing me the tools I needed to be successful in his class.  Luckily, other than this professor, all of my professors have been great and I have had no issues with the access center or professors.

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All in all, I truly have appreciated my time at Hunter College.  It has made me appreciate the importance of education and the importance of fighting for my education.  Moving forward, I plan to work to help others with disabilities experience the same opportunities I was able to have and benefit from. These experiences at college have shaped my life and impacted me positively, and I will always be grateful for my time as a student.

After years of living with this disability, I have decided that I want to devote my life to helping those with disabilities and to become an advocate for them, giving voice to those who need it most. This is a subject which is not only close to my heart, but also hits home in a very real way. I hope that everyone takes this information and can use these skills to help them.

– Gabi Jassie


Have a story you want to share? We welcome guest writers that want to share their experiences with others that encourage those living with rare autonomic disorders like familial dysautonomia and multiple system atrophy. Contact us at: norcll01@nyumc.org to pitch your idea.