Hi all, my name is Alisha! I am 19 years old and currently in my second year of my undergraduate degree. Being a sophomore in university as I think back to what the last year and a half has entailed there are an endless number of things that I wish I had told before I had embarked on one of the biggest changes in my life. Entering into my freshmen year I was probably one of the most terrified 17-year-olds ever…not really, but it sure felt like it. Growing up in a very small town in Eastern Canada I was about to be hit with the shock of a lifetime. As a child and for the majority of my high school years’ albinism was just one little aspect of who I was, it was no big deal. Everyone knew me, knew my unique habits, and I never had to explain my condition to my friends because they just knew. It was easy and simple, and boy was that about to change.
In my senior year of high school like most seniors, I was looking into career options and what I wanted to do with my life. For me there was little question, I wanted to go into the health profession in some kind of capacity. Science/medicine became the area of choice. As I began applying to universities and speaking with accommodations at each of those universities I began to wonder how I was ever going to pull this “dream” of mine off. Each person I spoke with became more and more hesitant to accept me into their program, despite having more than acceptable grades, because of what they referred to as “the limitations that you’ve been faced with.” They suggested perhaps I look at an arts degree, which would be “better for you.” Pieces of me broke and I started to wonder if all the little things that I had been told were really true. Was I limited like they thought, or was I capable like I knew I was? In a moment like this when so much is unknown, I doubted myself and allowed other people, who did not know me, define what I could do because of the context they gave two statements; “I am visually impaired,” and “I have Oculocutaneous Albinism.” They made the not so big a deal thing a big deal. After looking at many universities, I finally found the university I knew would work for me and I was ACCEPTED! In that life defining moment I decided to ignore the limitations that others decided to placed on me and fight for what I knew I could do. I knew it would be a little harder, and I would have to figure out different ways to make this experience work for me, but I also knew it would be worth it in the end. I have always been told I have big dreams but why shouldn’t I. I have dreams, aspirations, and goals, and looking back I wouldn’t change the challenges I faced to find the university for me.
Now, as a sophomore, I am doing better academically, and in all aspects of university life than I ever would have dreamed. A few days ago I had the honour of receiving a scholarship for academic excellence and maintaining a 4.00GPA. Yeah, bet those other universities would not have seen that one coming… So, from the sophomore who had a rough start finding her “place” in the university hub, looking back, those experiences taught me how to advocate for myself for the first time in my life (instead of my vision teacher or parent), they taught me how to communicate what I needed when I needed it in order to succeed and not sit back passively and hope someone notices, and they taught me how to take the limitations others did and will continue to place on me in stride, and only give them the power to further motivate me. Let other people’s opinions and stereotypes of who you are be one of your biggest accomplishments, the accomplishment of flat out ignoring them! Do not let others define you, or limit you. Perhaps I took the harder approach to figuring this simple fact out, but, I am capable, and so are you. Fight for what you want, and DO NOT EVER let someone else define who you are and who you can be. If anything let it be your driving force to get to your dreams, and in my case finding the university that worked with me, and not against me!