When I started at Oriel I had recently been diagnosed with Focal Cortical Dysplasia resulting in Epilepsy; I also suffer from Dyspraxia and have some challenging personal circumstances. I was nervous when I began at Oxford as I was suffering from seizures and I had only recently received an epilepsy diagnosis – it was unclear how the situation would evolve during the year. I was also worried my personal circumstances would deteriorate.
As it was, throughout the year I suffered from seizures and at several points I experienced medication-related side effects causing poor concentration, low mood, poor focus and anxiety. I also needed a lot of more general emotional support. I received fantastic help from the college, the Disability Team, and my department.
At Oriel I was supported by a range of people. I received wellbeing support regularly from the College Nurse and also spoke to the Senior Dean, Chaplain and my College Advisor, all of whom were extremely supportive and understanding. Such support extended down to the accommodation caretaker and cleaner, who were both aware I had Epilepsy and kept in regular contact. The academic support staff were fantastic at helping me re-negotiate deadlines based upon my changing health; they were always helpful and easy to contact.
While it was daunting making first contact, I soon realised that Oriel had a huge amount of help available: emotional, academic and financial. I particularly benefited from mental health support and adjusted deadlines, they made a huge difference to me. Without them I could not have completed the MSc within the year (which was necessary to take up my PhD place).
I will forever be grateful for the holistic support I received at Oriel; it was exemplary. Not having been an Oxford undergraduate, I was slightly apprehensive about being a disabled student at such a traditional institution. However, these fears were unfounded, the support was better than I have received elsewhere.
I would encourage anyone who suffers from any disability to keep in regular contact with the college, and to not be afraid to ask for and make use of the available support – there are many possible points of contact. It is important to think about which college will best be able to support you when applying – due to the decentralised nature of Oxford, provisions can vary. I would certainly recommend Oriel.