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Testimonials from students with disabilities

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Ross Anderson - Bachelor of Psychology (Hons)

I have just finished a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours. I originally wanted to be an architect and I used to draw, but when I was in high school I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is a degenerative eye condition. I decided instead that it would be a pretty good idea if there was a psychologist or counsellor who worked with vision impaired and blind people who themselves had a vision impairment because they'd be able to better empathise.

A lot of uni work is assignments which mean using electronic journals. Right at the beginning Disability Services and I had a conversation about available adaptive software and once we set up a laptop with this software, journal articles weren't so much of a problem. There have been challenges figuring out how to get textbooks and acquiring resources but Disability Services have reformatted some texts and obtained electronic copies of books from publishers. I've had scribes in exams and I've also had note takers for lab work.

Finishing my honours and finally getting my marks was probably this year's highlight. Although I also did a project on technology that was being developed internationally, and one of the leading American researchers, in the kind of technology that I was researching came to Monash. I was invited to have lunch with him, and that was pretty great - as an honours student you don't expect to be meeting leading researchers.

Outside of uni, I do a bit of karate and kick-boxing with some mates - I like to try and keep fit. I used to be part of a band and I write music - I've been playing the guitar since I was about eight and I like to dabble in other instruments, like drums. I like reading but obviously that's more difficult with vision impairment. E-books are great, but you can't get every book you want. I also used to love drawing, but obviously that went out the window. I can still draw, but large parts of the scenery end up missing.

The best advice I could give is to be confident about whatever your condition is and don't hide it - if you try to hide something it's only going to make it worse. I find one of the easiest ways to do it is to use humour. I also tried not to shy away from the whole uni experience; I've been to many uni balls, and to the pub near uni - The Nott, regularly.

I would advise students to learn to be resilient, you're going to have to face things that other people don't have to face and you shouldn't let it wear you down. There is always assistance out there. The worst thing you can do is let it beat you. Nothing succeeds like a mindless determination never to give up. You can be as brilliant as you want, but if you're not resilient, you're not going to get anywhere.

Self-advocacy is also important, but from time to time you may need to get Disability Services involved to help with this.

Friends and family are another key. I've got some really good mates and a wonderful partner, they've been indispensable. In first year when I was struggling I had a mate who was also struggling with transitional issues so we would get together and talk about it, or just have a couple of drinks - the stuff that seems trivial, but I think it's the stuff that keeps you going.

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Vandana Chand - Bachelor of Arts (Global)

My interests have always been in the arts and the humanities. Human nature, culture, society, psychology, physiology, the natural and urban environment and the interconnectedness and synchronicity between these elements fascinates and inspires me. Following high school, and prior to commencing my journey at Monash, I completed a Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing & Editing, a Certificate IV in Liberal Arts and a Certificate II in Printing & Graphic Arts (Desktop Publishing).

I commenced the Bachelor of Arts (Global) at Monash in Semester 2 of 2008; undertaking International Development Studies & Anthropology as a double major, and Asian Civilisations as a minor. As I furthered my studies, ceaselessly yearning for more knowledge, I also worked and volunteered my time excessively in many different industries. From hospitality and warehouse work, to children’s publishing and reporting and editing online content for a State Government Department. I volunteered my time at soup kitchens; I taught English to newly arrived migrants, I participated in environmental clean ups, as well as undertaking a community development internship to name a few. Throughout this time, my desire to make a difference and meaningfully contribute my life deepened and went from an inert personality trait to an irrepressible and driving ambition.

During the course of my undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to participate in the study abroad program and spent a semester at both Monash Sunway (Malaysia) and Monash South Africa. These exchanges and subsequent travels throughout South East Asia and Southern Africa were not only the biggest highlights of my time at Monash, but also of my life.

Graduating from my BA in 2011, I enrolled into the Master of Sustainability and completed my first semester in 2012 before taking a 6 month hiatus in which I undertook a Community Development Internship in Mozambique. The organisation aimed to support women's economic empowerment through rural fieldwork and education, and aid in the development of community-based initiatives focused on sustainable agricultural practices. This internship, as well as the exchanges abroad, fundamentally changed my life.

Returning to Melbourne in February 2013, I transferred into the Master of Tourism before transferring again, and finally, into the Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. I realised, or perhaps decided whilst travelling throughout Southern Africa for a second time, that tourism, when used as a tool for the development and protection of marginalised communities and the environment, was the best discipline for me to follow as it allowed me to combine my passions in poverty reduction, community development, cultural preservation, environmental protection and human rights into a single field.

Over the two years of this Masters degree, I was fortunate enough to have participated in various field trips across Victoria, a cultural study tour to Fiji, a research internship in Fiji and a quantitative research assignment in Vietnam.

Throughout this time, I was faced with countless personal and professional challenges which impacted my ability to stay on top of my commitments and in particular, maintain my GPA in postgraduate studies. This is where the services I received from Disability Services were invaluable.

Having dealt with dysthymia, insomnia, reactive depression and anxiety for many years, I initially contacted Disability Services in the last semester of my BA to gain support in liaising with my lecturers and tutors. It was early into postgraduate studies when faced with a series of traumatic incidences that I applied to be registered officially with Disability Services as I was struggling in meeting deadlines. Disability Services offered me the personal and administrative support that I needed to ensure I was able to hand in my assignments through restructured and personalised deadlines. Not only did this help alleviate much of the stress and anxiety I experienced at the time, but without their support, I would not have been able to not only pass my units, but graduate from my Masters Degree with a High Distinction average.

For the last year and a half of my Masters, I volunteered to join the Disability Services Peer Mentoring program as a mentor. As an avid volunteer throughout my life, I welcomed the idea of being able to contribute my free time at uni, however a bigger part of me wanted to give something back to Disability Services to show the gratitude I had for all the support I was given.

As I had lived in, and absolutely adored Africa, I was matched with a Masters of Education student from Zambia, who without a doubt, has been one of the most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Once a week throughout semester, we met up for coffee and spoke about university life and our courses; our backgrounds, our families and future goals. It was quite soon on however that our conversations diverged into deeper realms of politics, nationality, culture, society, religion, spirituality, philosophy and metaphysicality. We spoke about the world; the people, the structure of the planet, of ourselves within the world and our places within the universe. Technically I was there to mentor him, but in the end, I think he mentored me far more and through this mutual exchange of ideas and thoughts, we formed a wonderful friendship.

There are no simple words to describe my time at Monash and the experiences I've had. This higher learning chapter of my life has covered the majority of my twenties and has not only shaped me into the person I am today, but the person I am yet to become. The biggest and most cherished highlights of my time at Monash have been the multiple exchanges and research trips abroad. Not only was the real-world learning important for my personal and professional growth, the lifelong friendships and connections that I have been able to forge on those trips cannot be quantified. The support I have received, and continue to receive from my lecturers has also been invaluable. They are no longer my superiors but colleagues, and are always an email away when I need guidance.

My advice to anyone who may feel the daunting and sometimes overwhelming pressure that comes from balancing student life with real life is to speak to someone at Disability Services. No matter how seemingly trivial ones issues, or how dowdy one's mood (as I discovered), I guarantee that you will always be greeted with kindness, humility and grace from everyone at the office. It was this specific attribute of Disability Services and the warmth I received, which always left me feeling coalesced in times of isolated stress and anxiety. As I now go onto pursue my dream of working in the sustainable development and management of tourism/ecotourism sector in a developing country, I nurture my greatest passion in life which is full personal, cultural and environmental immersion through travel. Be it overseas in a foreign land, in a coffee shop or bar in my own city, or listening to the musings of my own mind,

I attempt, always, to live my life by my most loved quote: 'Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever'. - Mahatma Gandhi

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Daniel Dalton - Bachelor of Computer Science

I'm studying a Bachelor of Computer Science. I've had a passion for computer programming since high school and this degree seemed like the obvious direction for me to take because it met what I wanted. I got the score that I needed to get into the degree and started straight after I finished high school.

I haven't faced too many issues during my course - the main one being the visual nature of some of the lecture materials and having to find ways around that. This has usually involved talking to the lecturers who often offered alternative arrangements, such as writing a description rather than producing a diagram or getting a tactile diagram produced if the diagram was fairly critical for understanding the content. I will also quite often get a tutor to explain a diagram or slide.

I registered with Disability Services at the beginning of my first year, which was three years ago now. I have a Disability Adviser who I can chat to about any issues I may have. The support that I was provided has been working through the issues with diagrams and also getting course materials in the format that I needed them, such as organising to have textbooks available electronically.

I think the services have been really good – if there's ever been an issue, it's been sorted out quickly. Disability Services has always been very supportive and I think it's been a great help through my degree.

My experience at Monash has been good, really smooth. My teachers have been great, with some really great ones that go out of their way to do that bit extra. Outside of studies I like to keep active. I play Goal Ball, which is a sport for the blind. I also enjoy skiing in winter and cycling.

I would advise other students who might need Disability Services to make sure they're on top of it and across everything early in their studies. This way if any issues come up, you can jump on them as early as possible so you don't get to the end of the semester and realise you need something.

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Ashley Emralino - Master of Laws (Juris Doctor)

I am currently studying a Juris Doctor at the Monash Law Chambers but fresh out of high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I first began at Monash College doing the Diploma of Arts studying Journalism, Communications and Psychology. After a year, I transitioned to the Arts (Global) degree. I realised I wanted to go down a completely different path to journalism, so I focused on International Relations and Politics. Law complements this perfectly.

At the start of my undergraduate degree I didn't face any struggles at all. It wasn't until my second year that I started to have some health problems. That shook up everything – I was really confused and had no idea what was going on. Neither did the doctors. I struggled a bit in deciding whether I should continue studying or take a bit of time off. That's when I came across Disability Services and decided to register.

I've been registered with the unit for about 2 years now. The main service I've been provided with is having a Disability Adviser to support me in dealing with issues surrounding time constraints and assessments. The law faculty can be quite strict on class attendance, and with due dates and recording lectures. With the support of Disability Services I've been able to work out alternative means. They also introduced me to the resting rooms in the library, which are available to everyone registered.

Registering with Disability Services reassures you that you are being supported regarding your specific circumstance. Faculties understood my situation better when coming from a Disability Adviser, rather than dealing with the matter on my own and feeling emotional about it. I think that once you register with the unit it gives your tutors and lecturers a bit of a nudge to make a connection with you instead of just referring you onto the faculty. It's proven really helpful for me and I've managed to do everything in my studies as I planned. I'm still with Disability Services now.

My experience at Monash has been amazing. In between my undergraduate degree and my masters I went to a different university, but decided to come back to Monash. It's the best decision I've made regarding my education. I like how Monash encourages students to use the services available. I think it makes the university feel more like a community. Being with Disability Services has also given me the opportunity to meet other students and be a part of another community. I also think the course I got into was really right for me and I've gotten to meet people that I have a lot in common with.

Outside of studies I really like to travel and am an avid sports fan. I follow the tennis, NBA and Formula One religiously. I try to stay as active as I can to ease my condition but on the days I feel sluggish, I turn into a gamer. When I'm with my friends we continue our search to find Melbourne's best burger and best hot chocolate.

I would encourage other students who might need Disability Services to just go in and see someone. I think it's really hard to approach people, especially if you're confused about what's going on or you're embarrassed. But you don't have to register, just have a chat and see what it's about. I guarantee you'll feel a little bit better and more confident about your situation -about what to do next. The Disability Services are a great safety net. No matter how significant, registering will change your life.

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Ping Fang - Bachelor of Commerce

I'm studying Commerce and Economics and I chose this because numbers were pretty much the only things I was interested in high school. Monash has a good reputation and is pretty close to home. I didn't really want to go anywhere else.

In year 12 I had a spine operation, and that knocked me out for a while so I didn't actually do my exams. I received a derived ATAR score which came from my previous class assessment, the General Achievement Test (GAT) and my mid-year Accounting exam.

When I was in year 12 I applied and was accepted to do Enhancement Studies (now Monash Extension) in Economics, and I did pretty well. I took micro and macroeconomics at Caulfield. I've always liked to get a head start in things because I know if I don't it'll be harder to get ahead later on.

I wouldn't say it's been a smooth ride, but well, I'm in third year now. The hardest bit - I guess it's the same for any uni student really - was coping without all the supports you have in high school. But you become a bit more independent so it's good. For the most part I'd say I've overcome this, come exam time I still get freaked out...but I think everybody does.

I've been using the Disability Services all the way through, even in my Enhancement Studies. I've had note takers and extra time for my exams. The note takers definitely benefited me because I can't really take notes myself. And without the extra time in my exams, since I write quite slowly, I don't think I would have done as well.

My experience at Monash has been good, it's interesting, you're always learning. I've made a few Commerce friends and many of my high school friends are studying here.

I'm looking forward to graduating. I took it easier with my subject load this semester. In first year and second year I got by pretty easily but then when I started four third year subjects, after one semester I realised I couldn't do all of that.

Aside from uni, I love my football, and almost any other sport - even if I can't play it, I love to watch it.

For all future students I think you should definitely give it a shot, because you never know what institutions can do to help you out. If you don't ask you don't know. I know some people can cope and be independent; others will always need a helping hand at school, uni or even out in the workforce. Sometimes it's a bit hard to ask for help, and sometimes you don't feel like you want help, but at the end of the day, without Disability Services, I probably wouldn't be in third year now.

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Peter Gibilisco - Masters in Sociology

My life has evolved through many highs and lows. One significant low came at the age of 14, when I was diagnosed with the onset of Friedreich’s Ataxia. Friedreich’s Ataxia is a progressive disease affecting neuro-muscular coordination, which has left me confined to a wheelchair and with slurred speech, to name a few inherent challenges. Despite this I have completed and succeeded in a double degree in Arts and Accounting, and a Masters in Sociology at Monash University, a PhD in Sociology at the University of Melbourne, and was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne. My first book ‘Politics,Disability and Social Inclusion was published in October 2010, and I am in the process of releasing my second book.

Arts and Accounting at Monash allowed me to focus on the relationship between political economy and social policy. Sociology allowed me to gain the belief and confidence to achieve my goals. Instead of subjecting me to the negative thoughts and stereotypes of those who would argue that people with disabilities are not able play a meaningful role in society, and will be dependent on others for the most mundane functions, these damning thoughts are quickly made to appear ridiculous and illogical by sociological theory and practice. Sociology helped me put my life in perspective.

Monash University prides itself on being the workplace of the academically gifted and studious. All students felt the pressure to earn higher than average marks. My experience at Monash was challenging, but rewarding.

The digital revolution was a major barrier during my studies. Registering with the Monash Disability Services allowed me to seek assistance with the problems created by the digital revolution. Their services such as Academic support work were able to give me a suitable solution. People with disabilities need a collective and empathetic approach so as not to add to the social exclusion they already feel. They need to be regarded as more than just the stereotype of people with lesser abilities. I feel like I received this from Disability Services.

Many intelligent people who know of me, but have no idea of my determination, are caught in an intellectual 'Catch 22' situation. That is, how can a person with such a severe progressive disability achieve so much? Their taken-for-granted view of life, of success, of achievement, is somehow challenged because disability is equated with a lack of ability to achieve! How then are "normal" people ever going to achieve insight that this just isn't so? It just doesn't have to be! In some ways it reminds me that my own views on achievement had to be changed too!

The most important message for fellow students with a disability studying at Monash is to make the best use of all resources available to you, and to maintain regular contact with Disability Services. There is an increase in the numbers of people with severe disabilities entering mainstream education but the growth in participation rates in education has not been matched by an increase in employment. It is important to remember that where there is a will, there is a way. So, never stop trying.

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Peta Hooke - Bachelor of Business and Commerce

I'm studying a Bachelor of Business and Commerce with a major in tourism and management. My ATAR score was not as I expected so I first enrolled in the Diploma of Tertiary Studies (DoTS) at Monash which is a one year pathway program into the University.

I found the transition to university pretty easy as I was completely over high school. I wasn't good at the rigid routine, particularly getting up early every morning! The workload did surprise me; you have to be quite driven and disciplined. Because I have cerebral palsy it takes me longer to do things, uni has certainly taught me about time management and adjusting my social life to study hard.

Disability Services has been great at organising things like notetakers for my classes and scribes for my exams. They took me on a tour around the campus before I actually enrolled to make sure everything was physically accessible. I can easily access every room which is one of the main reasons I chose to enrol at Monash Berwick.

As far as making friends goes, I've mainly met people through my classes. It's been great. As I'm majoring in tourism I found a lot of people with the same interests and a similar passion for travel. I'm proud to say that this wheelchair has travelled a fair bit. It has been a challenge but that makes me want to travel even more!

Travel is a big thing in my life and it is what got me interested in studying tourism, particularly the lack of accessibility in certain hotels and attractions around the world. My ultimate job would be in management of a hotel chain and making sure they meet accessibility and rating standards. Destination branding also interests me. Professionally I'm extremely determined.

My advice to other students is that if you don't know what you want to do when you leave school that's okay. If you don't get the VCE results you're hoping for it's not the be all and end all, there's always another way. Study something like DoTS.

I've loved my time at Monash, I really have. I've almost finished but it's definitely something I would do all over again.

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Bridie Hudson - Master of Laws (Juris Doctor)

Previously I studied a Bachelor of Science and an Honours degree in Psychology at another university. Now, I'm studying a Juris Doctor (Master of Law) at Monash Law Chambers. I chose to study law because, after my undergraduate studies, I worked in advocacy and community sectors and through this I developed an interest in the legal system and policy. Ultimately, my career goal is to practice as a lawyer upon completion of my studies. I'm also interested in social policy and hope to incorporate that into my career pathway.

During my studies, the most ongoing challenge that I've faced is that my disability affect my typing spend, which means that I have to dedicate more time to my studies relative to my non-disabled peers. I have accepted this as a reality and allocated time to my studies accordingly. In doing so, I've been able to achieve high academic results across the majority of my studies. It has also been helpful to reflect on my study methods to focus on the readings and course materials that are most relevant to assessment tasks in an effort to use my time most efficiently. Throughout my studies I've used note-takers for my lectures. I've also received additional time to complete assignments and exams, which enables me to demonstrate my knowledge on set tasks notwithstanding the fact they may disability affect my typing speed.

I've enjoyed studying at Monash. I've found the academic and administrative staff to be accommodating. I find the content of my course intellectually stimulating. On an extracurricular level, I've been involved in the Progressive Law Network (PLN), a network or law students and legal professionals working to promote social justice through the law. I was involved in organising the PLN annual conference last year. Through this, I have met like-minded students and formed valuable friendships.

My main hobby outside of university is playing board games. I enjoy strategy games like Settlers of Catan, PowerGrid and Agricola. I found a board grams group through a website called Meetup and we play games together at a local pub once a fortnight. Apart from playing games, I also enjoy catching up with friends and cooking different types of cuisines.

The most useful thing that I have found with respect to my career development was to take up volunteer and professional development opportunities that are related to my intended vocational pathway. For example, last year I was accepted into an internship at the Department of Human Services. The internship was advertised through Disability Services and offered as part of the Step Into Program, which is a national program offering internships specifically to tertiary students with a disability. I found that this facilitated my career development, in providing me with experience in the public service sector, as well as furthering my experience in project management and policy development. Immediately following my internship, I secured a position at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission where I now work part-time as a Policy and Project Officer. This is highly relevant to my ultimate career goal to practise as a lawyer upon completion of my studies and hence I anticipate will facilitat this goal.

In terms of what I have found helpful while at university, I've found it useful to negotiate disability supports as early on in the academic year as possible. Even if you have a disability or condition that is periodic, it is often useful to register and explain your situation to Disability Services ahead of time rather than waiting until issues arise. This makes it easier to set out workable solutions earlier on to minimise disruptions and the impact of your disability on your studies. Ultimately, this enables you to demonstrate your academic skills and to achieve the best results that you can.

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Caroline Lane - Bachelor of Business

I began studying a double degree in Arts/Business and did this for two years. My main reason for doing arts was so that I could study German, however once I stopped German, I moved to a single degree. Now I'm studying a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Management and International Business. I've always been interested in business and felt that management would be a good field to get into.

The main challenges I've faced during my studies have been the abundance of lecture slides, notes and handouts. The heavy coursework load with management has meant lots of theory and reading numerous articles. That has been difficult, but I've had note takers to help, as well as the use of my magnifier and iPad. It's also tricky seeing friends out and at uni because I can't recognise them, but the campus is fairly small so that is very helpful. Being situated right near the train station is also great as travelling to and from uni is very easy.

I've been registered with Disability Services since I started studying in 2013. The services I was offered included note takers, PDF version of my textbooks, alternative arrangements for assessments and special exam requirements such as extra time, rest breaks, the use of a scribe and access to a computer. I think that being registered with Disability Services has greatly benefited my studies - the note takers help write all my notes out and without the extra time for exams I wouldn't be able to complete them.

My experience at Monash has been really good so far. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and have made friends that are always willing to help. The teachers have also been more than willing to help and often ask what else they can do. The two main highlights of my studies was receiving a Deans Excellence award in the second semester of my first year and being offered a scholarship to take part in a four week intensive German program in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Outside of University I have a casual job, but in my spare time, I enjoy seeing my friends and relaxing.

I would advise students who might need Disability Services to accept all the help you're given. When I was younger I would always refuse help because I just wanted to be normal. But people are always there to help, so you should take advantage of it.

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Jonny Lee - Bachelor of Business

When I finished VCE I received an ATAR score which got me into the Berwick campus, and at the time I wanted to do Tourism and Management. So, I got into Monash Berwick in 2011, but I forwent that and enrolled in another university and started another Tourism degree. I did that for a year and I decided "hang on a minute; this is not right for me".

I then decided to apply to Monash Caulfield and in 2012 and was accepted into the Bachelor of Business; I was elated! That was one of my happiest moments. I came to Monash also because I wanted to be reunited with my friends, the people with whom I went to high school.

There have been some difficulties with some subjects, like economics because it is highly conceptual, and law was difficult because it requires a different way of thinking and a different way of articulating the responses to a question.

I have been registered with the Disability Services for one year now. I am in my second year of study, so basically, I am nearly half way. I've been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, my condition means that I am a person with anxiety and I struggle... I tend to focus on one part of a question and I struggle to move on to the next section of the question. So what Disability Services has done, they were very equitable, thankfully. I have extra time in my exams, so that caters to my needs.

My statistics lecturer was very equitable; he was willing to spend extra time with me. And with his help, I got 93 in the subject.

I have made new friends at Monash. I joined the Christian Union. I met this girl in Chinese class, and she invited me to join, that was a gateway to making a lot of friends and you get to see so many people from different facets of life. I also play the violin, and I play a lot of classical music, mainly Romantic music, Debussy, Tchaikovsky and virtuosic violin showpieces.

I advise people to take opportunities as they are given to you, use the services that are available to your advantage. I also advise future students who intend to come to Monash to study - never give up. You may find an avenue with perseverance. And, you know, create networks. Networks are important because they can guide you through your studies, at whatever institution that you are studying.

I find, that given Monash is one of the Group of Eight universities, one of the leading research-intensive universities in Australia, being at Monash has enlightened me, I feel enlightened. I feel that I'm devouring knowledge, and you know, I feel that that Monash's motto rings true as far as my studies are concerned, Ancora Imparo, which means I am still learning. Because no one knows everything, there's always more to learn

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VJ Lee - Bachelor of Business

I am studying a Bachelor of Business, which I chose because it's a flexible course that gives me options for many different career paths and I have a strong desire to take up any challenging task. When I finish my degree I'm looking forward to making a difference in the business world.

I worked extremely hard to overcome difficulties so that I could do well in my VCE, get a suitable ATAR, and eventually realise this ambition to be accepted into Business at Monash.

I have bilateral profound deafness, which means that I have a high degree of hearing loss, and I definitely found it hard attending lectures and tutorials. Having no hearing, I end up depending on lip-reading a lot in order to get by, and sometimes the study environment is not always conducive to lip-reading because of things like poor lighting, distances from lecturers/tutors and even lecturers talking too fast.

I've been using Disability Services since my first year at Monash - mainly the notetaking service for lectures and tutorials which has helped me to get a better understanding of what is going on in class.

I have the notes taken by the notetakers, but I still have to work really hard on my own to read and study my textbooks for each subject, download PowerPoint slides from each lecture and make my own summary notes of each subject.

My first year at uni was probably the hardest, as adapting to a new environment meant facing some new challenges. I didn't know anyone then and I had to get used to the lectures and tutorials, but things definitely improved by the time second year came around, and I've found my feet at Monash. I've made some new friends in tutorials and while working on group projects, so from there on I've been able to extend my network of friends.

Some of my highlights at Monash were a result of getting involved in the clubs and societies, and attending the Caulfield Arts Society's events.

When I'm not at uni, I like to keep busy and pursue interests such as improving my photography skills and going out with friends.

I would advise any student either coming to Monash, or already at Monash, that if they feel like they might need some extra help, to contact Disability Services, and ask about how their services might benefit your learning. However, I would add that ultimately success is the result of your own hard work and determination.

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Belvin Mwale - Master of Education

At Monash University I studied a Master of Education. I chose Monash University to improve my qualifications so that I can contribute to Zambia's national agenda of development and economic prosperity. I'm a trained teacher, teaching high school mathematics. I have a Diploma in Education (Math), an Advanced Diploma in Math Education and a Bachelor degree in Education (Math and Geography), all obtained in Zambia.

During my studies I faced some difficulties with the abundance of work to be done online, which meant a lot of reading and writing on the computer. This put a lot of strain on my eyes as I have low vision. I got a lot of support from my course mates who were at hand to assist. I also had to make a lot of print outs so I could use hard copies. The lecturers were also very helpful as they were willing to give me extensions on due dates if needed.

Upon arriving at Monash University, I was assigned to a Mentor who has been extremely helpful in making my stay very comfortable. She helped me navigate, not only the campus, but also Melbourne city. I've been with my mentor since March 2014. Being partnered with a mentor by Disability Services has helped me to feel at home and acclimatise quickly and with ease. This allowed me to settle and get down to my academic work with a relaxed mind. This has enabled me to achieve much. Throughout my period of study, I have enjoyed Disability Services.

My stay at Monash University has been a very fulfilling experience. It was difficult at the start, learning in a culturally diverse community, meeting students and lecturers of all races but in time I got acquainted to the environment. As part of the Monash International Graduate Students, Learning Hub I was able to make a number of friends from various countries. During my last semester, I was privileged to be appointed Student Leader of the Learning Hub together with two other colleagues. The Faculty of Education also organised field trips to selected places for us to view the beauty of Melbourne. I took advantage of these heavily subsidised trips to explore wonderful sites and make new friends.

Outside of university I liked bicycle riding, reading books about Australian culture and also just visiting new places. In addition, I kept engaged in Christian gatherings through a local Church, attending services every Sunday, and participated in Cafe Conversations (helping international students improve their English) and Bible studies.

Many students with disabilities are not willing to disclose their status and hide their disabilities for fear that they may be stigmatised or discriminated against. I would advise all students who might require disability services to be open with Disability Services so they can determine what they can do to help. They should be assured that they will not be discriminated against in any way. The University has a policy that ensures that nobody is discriminated against on account of their disability and that all information supplied to Disability Services is highly confidential. There is no need to suffer quietly when you can receive support to make your stay comfortable.

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Fred Ochieng - Master of Education

I studied Special and Inclusive Education as my Masters major. I chose this area because of my experiences as a person living with vision impairment and as a curriculum developer who has been working in the education sector in my country, Kenya. I have a desire to make a difference in the education of children with visual impairments.

I wanted to undertake further studies since I completed my undergraduate degree at Kenyatta University in Nairobi in 1996. However, I was not able to pursue my wish then because of financial challenges. In 2009 I was awarded a scholarship by the International Fellowship Programme of the Ford Foundation. They had recognised my involvement in the disability-rights movement in Kenya and across the African continent as well as the contribution I had made in my place of work. All I needed to do was choose a university. I finally settled on Monash because of its reputation and very clear provisions for supporting students with disabilities.

Disability Services organised for a note taker to attend classes with me and initiated a volunteer service where other students assisted me with things like navigating the campus and helping me go shopping. They also loaned me a laptop loaded with adaptive software while I organised to get one of my own. I was linked with Guide Dogs Victoria, which is an organisation that provides orientation and mobility support for people who are blind or vision impaired. I think it is very important that prospective international students be in communication with Disability Services as early as possible if they are planning to come to Monash. This will ensure appropriate services are in place when they commence their studies.

Outside of Monash I linked up with a wider community of people with vision impairments. I had my first ever experience of driving a car, an experience I hadn't imagined I could ever have even in my wildest of dreams! This was at the Sandown Racecourse where a local charity organises such an event every year.

I really want to make a significant contribution in the area of inclusive education so my desire now is to establish myself as an authority in the field by pursuing doctoral studies.

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James Ong - PhD Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

I'm doing a PhD through the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences in the Hudson Institute of Medical Research (near the Monash Medical Centre, Clayton). I chose to do my PhD because I'd like to become a medical researcher, researching a disease that significantly impacts people such as influenza and malaria. I also felt that a PhD would best utilise my academic abilities and gifts, where I'm challenged and stimulated to work hard on something I'm passionate about. Lastly, I chose a PhD at Monash University to take advantage of the professional development opportunities, preparing me for any future endeavours. My PhD followed an honours year as part of a Bachelor of Science (Science Scholar Program), majoring in physiology and immunology and with minors in mathematics and biochemistry - also at Monash University.

The biggest challenge I've faced in my degree was the increase in workload as I transitioned form high school to first year university. The coursework was taught at a more rapid pace than I'd expected and I didn't know how to effectively manage my time to balance assignments and have time to relax. However, I was able to reflect on why I had chosen to do the degree in the first place and become more focused and devoted to studying in a university environment. As a result I was able to achieve high marks throughout my degree.

I've been with Monash Disability Services for five years. The services I was offered include rest breaks and the use of a computer during exams. The rest breaks gave me a fall-back in case I felt overwhelmed during exams and using a computer alleviated the problem of having unclear handwriting in my responses. My experience at Monash University has been amazing. Monash University is a stimulating environment to study and I learned quite a lot from the units that I studied and the resources that I accessed. There are a lot of opportunities in Monash that I took and these have also contributed to my personal growth. My lecturers and other students knew me well because I asked a lot of questions during the lecture. I got along well with my lecturers and had great relationships with them. I also made some very close friends throughout my degree as we were studying the same units. In particular, I have one group of friends that I worked together with during my second year of university, where we supported each other in the units that we were studying. I still catch up with them often to share what we are doing in the present.

The extracurricular activities I was involved in were definitely the highlight of my studies. I did the Ancora Imparo Student Leadership Program in my second year which was very stimulating and exposed me to various aspects of leadership. I also formed networks with students from other faculties that I still get in contact with. Another highlight for me was the impetus of community involvement in Monash University, where I've been able to do some volunteer tutoring under Embrace Education and Access Monash, tutoring disadvantaged students in secondary schools within my local community.

I would advise students who may require Disability Services to not be afraid to register. The staff are really kind and want you to do well. They offer a lot of services that you can take advantage of to study well in university, despite any disabilities that you have. Using the services allows you to complete your studies to the best of your ability without worrying about any disadvantage that you may face.

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Mark Russi - Bachelor of Occupational Therapy

I finished year 12 in 2003, and didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I worked during my gap' year (turned out to be a rather long gap year!). When I was at school, I knew I wanted a decent job and that I would probably go to university, in IT or graphics or something along those lines. Then I had my car accident in 2004 and was in hospital and rehab until March 2006. This was the catalyst for my interest in studying occupational therapy. I had never given any thought to an Allied Health or Health Science type of degree. I began studying at Monash in 2008.

After the accident, I saw how Allied Health workers are involved in helping people to increase their independence and how they enable people to do the things they want. During this time is when I met Mike, who was my case manager. He is also a paraplegic but has travelled the world and led an active fulfilling life post-injury. This was incredibly motivational and inspirational. Having a mentor in a similar situation has been great and offered a lot of hope for the future. Becoming an occupational therapist would position me perfectly to offer this to other people following injury.

My time in rehab really showed me how important occupational therapists are in assisting someone who has been injured to get their life back on track - especially in ways that I hadn't thought about before, such as modifying the home environment and the use of adaptive equipment. Over time I have learnt the importance of helping people take the next step in their recovery and to get back into work or education roles. This may end up being the direction I end of going, helping people to identify and move into education or employment roles and helping them to successfully complete these.

Originally I was accepted into Health Science/Social Work, which was a way of getting my foot in the door at Monash. After completing one year of Health Science, I applied to transfer into the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (OT). The first year of OT was completed part time over two years, which allowed me to ease into it and avoid the busy first year workload.

I met with the Disability Services at the start of my time at Monash, and organised a neuropsychological assessment. Disability Services organised my exams so that I have a bit of extra time. Aside from that, though, I've pretty much been mainstreamed with everyone else in all of my other assessments. Having a little extra time for exams has been a big help and has allowed me to actually finish them in a reasonable amount of time.

My experience at Monash has been quite positive, other students and teachers are generally understanding of my situation which has helped make uni life a little easier. Students studying to become occupational therapists are usually open-minded and empathetic to people who have an impairment or disability, which helps create a more supportive learning environment and helped me to integrate into student life.

I've had very good relationships with my teachers. I usually introduce myself and have a bit of chat with the unit coordinators at the start of the semester to let them know about my current situation and any assistance I may require.

I need to stay relatively fit in my situation, and so go to the gym regularly. Maintaining fitness is important for a number of reasons including lifting my chair in and out of the car and the endurance required for placements. Studying at university is pretty full-on, so life has been pretty busy for the past few years. Social and leisure activities are also important and Monash has held a fair few parties and events that I have attended.

My advice to other Monash students who might need support from Disability Services would be to go and speak with them to find out about what they can do for you. Monash staff have always been willing to put in the extra effort to make your time a bit easier.

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Jennifer Severs - Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Medical Science

I studied a double degree in Biomedical Science and Science, and I did a double major in genetics and physiology, with a minor in geography. I didn't really know what I wanted to do after year 12, and then I went to the Monash Open Day halfway through year 12 and saw a talk on Biomedicine; I saw that this could lead to a path in audiology, which is what I want to do.

I didn't have many problems settling into uni life because I participated in a mentor program which was facilitated by my faculty. The only difficulty and challenge I had was the communication barrier and trying to understand lecturers and tutors.

I registered with the Disability Services at the very start and they assisted with arrangement support services for my classes. The support included notetakers and alternative exam arrangements with extra writing time.

I definitely benefited from these services and would have been totally lost without them. Especially the note takers, because I don't hear everything a lecturer says. I struggled just to lip read them the entire time, let alone absorb what was going on, so the note takers helped hugely.

My time at Monash has been an awesome experience; I've had a lot of fun here and it's a bit sad to be finishing. I enjoyed the course and it was all very professionally taught. The social life was really good too and I made heaps of friends.

The highlights of my time here have been doing a couple of eye-opening subjects like Neurobiology and Sensation and Movement, which really consolidated what I wanted to do career-wise. Also, finding people in the biomedical field as passionate as I am was definitely a highlight.

Outside of studies I like playing tennis as well as going to movies and hanging out with friends.

I would advise other students who might need Disability Services to get onto it ASAP. As soon as you know you've been accepted into a course, call them up. Tell them about your condition, and they will tell you what kind of services they can offer you. You're here to try to excel, and be the best you can be and they will try to help you be that.

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Ellie Short - Bachelor of Arts

I'm studying a Bachelor of Arts with a major in criminology. I looked at several universities and I felt that Monash had a very good reputation and a really good variety of subject areas. I hadn't really considered criminology as a career path before as we hadn't done it in high school and then I discovered it and thought wow, here's something I could do and maybe make a difference.

In high school I was discouraged from undertaking VCE because of the problems I was experiencing. I decided to try anyway and who would have known, I got into Monash and I'm doing well. I think it's really important to try, and if you don't get the thing that you want the most you'll get something else and that might even work out better.

I found the transition from school pretty easy because I liked independent research and study. There were a lot of preparatory classes, like how to go to a lecture and what to expect in a tutorial. And there are just so many social activities here! There are clubs and groups and it's very inviting. I joined everything! It's a great way to make friends and even if you decide you don't want to do that activity later on it gets you involved in the community.

I think the hardest thing about being a student with a mental health condition is having difficulties and people not being able to see them. There are however a lot of services you can use, such as those provided by Disability Services. The main support I have had is alternative exam arrangements as I find it difficult to work in a large setting. I get a little bit of extra time because it takes me a bit longer to process things.

I have also developed good relationships with my teachers. In first year I approached all of them and explained my situation. Most of them were amazing, and suggested I keep in touch with them about my progress and any difficulties I might be experiencing. I think it's important to investigate all the resources that are available; even if you don't use them you'll know they are there.

I was awarded the Department of Justice Disability Scholarship. At the award ceremony I spoke about what it meant to me. Apart from it being an amazing financial support, it's just a really great recognition that people with disabilities are valuable and worthy and even though I have these challenges I'm doing just as well as my colleagues.

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Shaz Sturk - Bachelor of Arts

I'm studying a Bachelor of Arts, with a double major in Human Rights Theory and Sociology. I'm also thinking about doing a Law minor.

I am from Gippsland and when I completed my year 12 studies I decided to come to Monash. My journey has been quite challenging in the sense that I've had a lot of surgery. I had to do my VCE over three years and wait until I was better before I could attend uni. What sparked my interest in tertiary education was probably completing a Certificate II in Community Services - it was then I felt I could do something else with my life. And when my Monash offer came out I thought 'yay this is great!' - and I love it.

I have faced some challenges. I moved into Monash Residential Services, and live at Deakin Hall. That was really challenging, as I was previously dependent on my grandparents for a lot of support so it was a big step for me to decide that I wanted to be independent. Finding the finances to do so was hard because I'm also from a low socio-economic group, so getting the funding for my wheelchair and my personal care alarm was rather challenging. I've some financial support along the way and I have very supportive family. I'm also the first in my family to go to uni so my family sometimes find it difficult to understand academics, and what it means to be at uni.

I've made some really nice friends at Deakin Hall, and they've been so supportive in helping me with the basic tasks that sometimes I can't do - especially when I'm sick or fatigued. Talking to lecturers has been really good, and they've been really supportive about navigating my health around uni. The counselling service and some seminars on how to cope with stress have also been really great.

Prior to deciding to come to Monash I made an appointment with the Disability Services to be shown around the campus. I use a range of services and resources such notetakers in class, resting rooms and the Adaptive Technology Rooms - which are really cool. I receive assistance from the Disability and Lending Services Assistant; she's really friendly and she helps me out when some of the shelves are pretty high and narrow. I also have alternative arrangements for assessments which give me extra time and use of a computer in exams which helps me not to stress so much. Just knowing that the Disability Services is there is a really good thing.

My experience at Monash has been very challenging, but I don't regret it. I love how open the university community is and that a lot of the people around are very helpful and supportive. Being engaged in the university community has given me a lot of confidence to pursue other things. I never really knew anyone who came from an academic background so I am being academically mentored and it's great having such support systems in place. My mind's just exploding with how much I've been able to learn and how much I've been able to cope with.

Probably just coming here has been my number one highlight. Since then I've been accepted into the Ancora Imparo student leadership program as well as being part of the Faculty of Arts Peers Ambassadors Leaders program.

I do like to party and dance a lot. Apart from that I'm always looking for opportunities to enhance my knowledge around human rights and to assist in other people's learning. I like music and a lot of reality TV shows. I also write a blog, Beautiful Contemplations, about my journey to make sense of the world as a young woman with a physical disability and mental illness.

I would advise any prospective students to contact the DLU and be really upfront with all your lecturers. There’s no need to be embarrassed about your condition at all – it may be a part of you, but it doesn’t define you. Just strive for your dreams - that’s my main advice.

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