I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of eight years old and struggled academically throughout my education, but came to study at the University of Birmingham after reading for a degree in Drama and English literature at Queen Mary University of London. I obtained a 2:1 degree for my BA and decided to study for an MPhil in Playwriting studies. I chose Birmingham because it was close to my family and it offered a course in my area of interest, which was playwriting.
My experiences at both institutions were incredibly different and diverse. Both were challenging and engaging but going to Queen Mary University proved to be the toughest test because it meant I was living 200 miles away from home. Until the age of 18, my mother had always looked after me. In London, I had to be independent and learn to do general household things like cooking, food shopping and paying the electricity, gas and internet bills. Also I had to learn to deal with social anxiety at university and time management skills. The social anxiety was particularly difficult to conquer but after finding a good group of friends things became easier to deal with. Although I had friends back home in Birmingham, London University was very lonely at times especially at the start.
By the time I finished my undergraduate degree I didn’t want to leave London, but Birmingham offered the best course in terms of advancing my career in Playwriting. My first impressions of the University of Birmingham were that it was a very friendly place to study and that the disability team were well organised. Before I started my new course I received an email from the team at 3 Elms Road welcoming me to the University which was a very positive thing. I was relieved that I knew where to go to get support if I needed it. Specialist mentoring support was offered and I was extremely thankful and grateful for it. It gave me stability and helped place structure to my learning; meeting my mentor once a week at a given time was extremely useful.
Another comforting thing was the great number of societies that the University had. Societies help students to make new friends and find people who share common interests. I became part of the University of Birmingham Battle Re-enactment society and my life was never the same again. The Battle Re-enactment society re-enact historical battles from the 8th-12th century and travel the country doing shows for the public. I felt a strong connection with the society and made great friendships during my time at Birmingham. If I hadn’t met them my time at University would have been very different.
If I were to give some general advice to new students I would say firstly, when you find something difficult do not run away from it. When you are afraid of something, keep doing it until it doesn’t scare you anymore. Never give up and keep going until you get where you want to be. Passing on my experiences is important to me. At the moment I am trying to publish a book about my experiences with Autism and the educational system. The book looks at education from Nursery school right up until graduation day. It explores Autism from the perspectives of parents, teachers and carers.
If you would like more information please email Madeleine.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Madeleine Levy, MPhil Playwriting