My experience with student support

student from St Marys College

I’m a third year student at St. Mary’s College with autism, and I wanted to share my experience with the student support services at Durham.

A lot of change

My autism has meant that I can get easily overwhelmed and panic when lots of things are going on around me – especially when big changes happen. Whilst I was definitely looking forward to starting university life, I was scared about how I might react. A new place, with new people, a new room to live in, new teaching styles, and my usual support network would be hundreds of miles away.

College support

After accepting my offer to join the university, I was put in touch with some members of the student support network. The student support services isn’t in a single location, but spread throughout the university; in your college, your academic department, and, of course, specialist teams covering the whole university. My first contact was with a member of my college through email, who arranged for a room that met my needs best. The room had more privacy so I could relax better, making it less likely for me to get overwhelmed.

Academic support

When I arrived in freshers week, I received two invitations: one to meet one of the lead support staff at my college for a chat, so that they could get to know me and my needs, and the other invitation was for a video call with a member of the department team where they could discuss any academic support I might want. I was grateful for these, as it made me aware how to access help if I needed it, and made sure I had a support structure. As a result my first year went quite smoothly, and I had a great time.

Accessing support

While at Durham I have only needed to access support again once more, which was towards the end of second year. I had been having a very stressful time with some issues to do with friends, which was keeping me up at night, and had prevented me from getting work done. On top of this, I was living out, which meant a lot of my time was taken up by cooking, cleaning, shopping, and walking much further to lectures, as well as being separated from many of my friends who I had previously been able to go to for help.

I sent an email to a member of the disability support team and they soon replied, where they offered a video chat, where we discussed what they could offer to help. They also managed to prioritise my application to live in the next year, so that I could be with friends again, and also so I could focus on my academic work much better.

Whenever I have needed it, help has been offered. And to the people who have helped me, thank you for making a massive difference for me!

More investment

In April 2022 the university announced an increase in funding of around £1.3 million towards student support services.  A new student support portal will be launched soon to make getting help even easier.

If you have any wellbeing concerns you can speak to your college student support team. Academic concerns can be helped by talking to your academic department’s student support staff. There are lots more specialist services available too, including mental wellbeing support.

Find out more at the Student Support Hub

student from St Marys College

Hi - I'm a third year student at St Mary's College and wanted to share my experience with student support at Durham.

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