Transcript: ‘There’s no right way to be a student’

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This is a full transcript of 'There's no right way to be a student' as first broadcast on 2 October. Presented by Pippa Stacey.

PIPPA -The current COVID-19 situation guidelines are constantly evolving across the UK, all of which can of course have a huge impact on university students. This podcast was recorded at the end of September 2020, and has advice that can still be useful, both during lockdown, and hopefully, once we can all socialise, a little more as well.


PIPPA -I think the thing that I wish I'd had someone to say to me, back when I was a student, is that there's no typical picture of what a student life looks like.

MATT -Yes.

PIPPA -There's no right way to be a student. And you should never feel guilty about asking for the things you need, because at the end of the day all it's doing is putting you on a level playing field with everybody else.

MATT -Exactly, yeah.


MATT -'Come Dine with Me' and 'The Chase' are like the two cult student programmes, and no one really realises that.

PIPPA -Yes. There's something about Bradley Walsh, especially when you know you've got a dissertation to write, there's something about Bradley Walsh that just draws you in.

MATT -I know, I know. [laughter]


PIPPA -Hello, and welcome to Cabin Fever from BBC Ouch. Well, it's that time of year again when summer ends and term starts back up, and for many people that means university. Lots of people credit uni as the best days of their life, what with all the newfound freedom, new friends, but it can be incredibly daunting, and that was before lockdown and the pandemic came into the equation. There can often be an extra layer of anxiety for disabled students. So to cut through all that well intentioned but ultimately meaningless advice that's already out there we're here to chat about what really goes on.

[jingle: Ouch]

PIPPA -I'm Pippa Stacey, a graduate from the University of York. During my first year of uni I was your typical student, studying and partying hard, but by the same time the following year I was struggling to stand up on my own, and I was finally diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly known as ME. It was a huge learning curve, but I can still sit here and say that I loved my time at university. My experience has actually led me to write a book called, 'University and Chronic Illness: A Survival Guide', full of all the things I wish I'd had someone to tell me back then.

So, joining me today we have Matthew Prudem, who's just graduated from Durham University, and is about to start a masters degree at none other than the University of Oxford. Very fancy. And we also have Tom here from New College, Worcester, who will be starting university this year.

Matt, we know that you've already completed your undergraduate degree and you're about to start your masters. So do you want to tell us a bit about you and your experience at uni so far?

MATT -Yeah, so my experience really has been very positive regarding being a student with a disability. I'm a natural extrovert, I'm not someone who gets too shy. I absolutely love chatting to people and that's just the way I am. So obviously I didn't go about, you know, having a big, like, disability flag when I moved in. It's not an important part of my personality, but obviously it is an important part of who I am. So I think I did explain to the people that I was living next to, so my neighbours in halls, because obviously my condition is something that happens during sleep so it's important that they know what to do in case something drastic does happen.

PIPPA -Yeah, from a safety perspective as well. And just while we're on that topic, do you want to explain a bit about your condition for people who might not know?

MATT -Yeah, so I kind of got a two for one offer. I developed mental coordination disorder, so that's otherwise known as DCD, very similar to dyspraxia but it is different in some aspects. And I also have Rolandic epilepsy so that's an epilepsy that happens during the sleep wake cycle, so it's not your usual… You know, people think about epilepsy and they think oh, it's just the photosensitive epilepsy, the one that's activated by flashing lights, that's not what my epilepsy is triggered by.

PIPPA - Tom, I want to know how you're feeling about becoming a fresher. What are you feeling most nervous about?

TOM -Just the differences between having all the work adapted for me here and then having to get it done myself when I'm there.

PIPPA -Yeah, that makes complete sense, having to adjust to a change when you've, I suppose, found habits, and the ways of doing things that worked for you in the past, having to start that process again. I imagine that can be really daunting.

TOM -Yes.

PIPPA -Do you want to tell us a bit about your own disability and your background?

TOM -Yes, so my disability, I'd say I'm visually impaired. I think I'm short sighted, so I obviously go to a visually impaired college. All from school life up to the age of about 16 I was in a mainstream school, so I got to experience mainstream as well as specialist education. I've got visual impairment but I've also got something called talipes, so it's like a club foot. So like you, Matt, I've got two in one.

PIPPA -Two in one offer. We are lucky aren't we? [laughs] And how do you kind of feel, Tom, about that initial aspect of introducing yourself to new people? Is that something that you've thought about ahead of starting uni?

TOM -Well, all through my life I've always been quite a chatty person. If I'm stood in a queue in a shop I'll talk to people. If I walk past someone I ask how they are. I'm always talking to people, so I'm not worried on that aspect of conversing with people and making myself known to them.

PIPPA -Something I found really interesting in my own experience is when you're dealing with meeting new people when you have an invisible condition that can feel like something that's really difficult, where you actually have a decision to make about whether or not you want to disclose to other people. And that's something I personally struggled with after I acquired my own condition at university, like making the decision as to whether… When, I suppose is the real question, when you wanted to tell people about your condition. And it's as you said, Matt, there are, like, sometimes implications with your safety and there are things that people need to know. But I think as you've said there, being open is a really powerful thing, as long as you're comfortable disclosing, just being honest about having that conversation I think is really valuable.

In a similar vein I suppose, once you've met your new friends and you've gone through the move in process another thing that people can be concerned about is homesickness. So, Matt, is this something that you experienced?

MATT -Yeah, it's not something that I personally experienced, but I didn't go home, physically home, for the entirety of my first term. Thinking about that now, because when these bubbles, and you're not supposed to have any physical contact with people outside your bubble or your household, I think that sense of homesickness, that sense of not even being have your parents come up and give you a hug, that homesickness is going to get extenuated.

PIPPA -It's a very topical issue at the moment obviously with COVID and the fact that students are having to at least think about forming these bubbles. And to have the option of going home removed, I think for me it would be a worry that that kind of safety blanket had been taken away. And I think that knowing in the back of my mind that if I did suddenly become really ill I did have the option to go home, I think that in itself was a big comfort. So I'm sure that's something on the minds of a lot of students starting uni this year. Tom, you're from Worcester aren't you, so how are you kind of feeling about the homesickness situation and moving away?

TOM -Oh, actually obviously New College, Worcester is a residential college, so I'm not from Worcester originally, I'm from Southampton so I'm already two hours away. So since the age of 16, maybe 15, I've always been away from home. Even then, when I was living at home at mainstream I was always out, I was always staying in different places. So I've always been away from the home environment but still linked to it in a sense.

PIPPA -Yeah, that makes sense. So in a way you're almost like equipped for this area of student life, you've had practice at it, it's not something that particularly phases you I suppose?

TOM -Exactly.

PIPPA -Yes, that's good. At least having experience like that, because I think it will be a tricky thing for a lot of people to adjust to. I suppose a related area as well is the accommodation you're moving into. I personally think that can be a really big factor in how comfortable you are and how well you settle into university.

TOM -Yes.

PIPPA -So, Matt, do you want to tell us a bit about your accommodation and how you found that during your undergraduate degree?

MATT -Yes, so I was really lucky that Durham was absolutely fantastic for me. And it was a long process to get the right accommodation, so we were speaking to the accommodation office at Chad's about everything from fire doors to bed size and fluorescent lighting. But, you know, they did put a lot of hard work into getting me the right accommodation, and I really appreciate it when people go to that length of effort.

PIPPA -I think in an ideal world obviously things would be as accessible as possible but we all know that university accommodation, disabled students were an afterthought unfortunately.

TOM - Yeah, I was also really lucky that at Durham most of the first year accommodation is all based in colleges, so you all have porters, so if anything did happen and I did need to get emergency contact then I had the porters who I could quickly ring and they would be able to come to my aid. My condition as well, being something to do with the sleep wake cycle, so what we really want to reduce is any disruption that occurs during the sleep wake cycle. So when I arrived I think it was a necessity, if you like, getting on well with my neighbours, because I needed to rely on them to reduce the noise during the evening and, like, during the night and stuff.

And even things like saying, "There is going to be some noise tonight, just so you know, we're going to try and keep it down but we can't guarantee it," just in case they were coming back late from a night out or something. Then if I was planning to have a quiet night in I wouldn't be, like, annoyed if I was going to get disturbed at, like, 11 o'clock. So I would be able to plan would I need to put my earplugs in, would I need to get to sleep a bit earlier just so I wouldn't get disturbed? Because of course people do want to be accommodating for you but they don't want to completely not have any late nights or any noise whatever, and you just have to kind of reach that kind of compromise.

PIPPA -Yeah, absolutely. I suppose having that balance is the crucial thing, and I know our lived experiences of disability are obviously very different, but I have some experience with noise sensitivity as well and I know that can be a really difficult thing to try and explain to other people in a way that they understand it.

MATT -Yeah. They give you almost more respect for being very forthcoming and saying, you know, "This is what I need," and obviously they'd rather you be upfront about it than rather just be trying to weave your way to that solution without actually being open about it.

PIPPA -Yes, I completely agree. Like actually explaining to people so they can kind of almost put themselves a bit more in your shoes more easily.

MATT -Being more open and honest about it I think definitely has worked for me.

PIPPA -If I've got this right, Matt, is it that you were in catered accommodation last time?

MATT -Yes. So I was quite lucky that I could stay in catered accommodation for the entirety of my degree. Not only is it, you know, of course like the disability thing, but also it did save me quite a bit of time and gave me a bit more time to go and do sport or take part in activities, or just stay that bit longer in the library.

PIPPA -Yeah, I can imagine. It's like one less thing off your mind isn't it? Yeah.

MATT -Yeah.

PIPPA -I suppose there are pros and cons to both catered and self-catered accommodation, so if anybody else listening to this happens to have multiple allergies you'll know the joys of being in that situation. [laughs] So of course there are all these logistical things to figure out when you're starting uni with a disability, but the important thing to remember is that there's so much to look forward to as well. It can seem a bit of a pain to get all of these things ironed out but there's also the social life side of things, the societies. So, Tom, have you begun to think about social life and any societies that you'd like to join? Any thoughts in that area?

TOM -I'm quite big into fitness and sports, so definitely, as long as it's catered around sports then I'll be happy with it.

PIPPA -Amazing, yeah. And the other really good thing about societies as well is they can enable you to meet new people. Obviously there might be slight limitations this year, what with the global situation, but yeah, there are so many societies on offer. The one that always sticks out in my mind from university was the Taylor Swift Appreciation Society, which was very popular at the time. Matt, did you join any societies during your own time at uni?

MATT -Yeah, so I was in a band. I also played for my college ultimate frisbee team as well. That was probably one of the best decisions I made at uni, was getting involved with ultimate frisbee because I just had a fantastic time playing that.

PIPPA - Were you ever in a situation where you felt that you needed to discuss any assistance or adjustments? Is that something that was part of your experience?

MATT -Well, I think when I started playing frisbee I was, like, okay I've got DCD so maybe it's going to take me a few weeks to get the hang of it. So the DCD means that throwing and catching isn't a thing that is really easy, and then I came to uni and one of the most popular sports was ultimate frisbee. So I got involved in that, explained to the coach, you know, "Things are going to take me a bit more time to pick up on," but what was really, really great about ultimate frisbee is that it kept my DCD in check. It's a very fast paced sport, it really kept my… almost like kept my condition under check and meant that as I was playing it more I became more and more coordinated and in synch with the team.

And that really actually just helped my everyday life. And then by the end of third year, yeah, I'd been teaching other people, doing training and stuff like that. So I did say to the coach, you know, "I've got DCD, so it basically may take me a couple of weeks more to get the hang of things, and sorry if I'm a bit slow, but there's nothing I can do about that." And by third year I was playing for the first team and then in third year I was also teaching other people how to play ultimate frisbee, and that's something that I never thought would have been possible.

PIPPA -Ah, that's amazing. That's so cool. You've kind of got me… I mean, this is coming from somebody who's vertically challenged, I mean, I struggle to walk at the best of times, but you've got me wanting to try ultimate frisbee now. What is this? [laughs]

MATT - It's such an inclusive sport as well, like everyone's absolutely lovely.


PIPPA -Unfortunately, Tom then had to leave us as there were some technical issues. And I mean, who hasn't experienced a technical issue in lockdown? But we wish him all the best with starting his new chapter. It's an exceptionally unique time to be a university student, and here at Ouch we'll be reflecting on the ongoing situation in our Cabin Fever series.


PIPPA -So, going back to you, Matt, uni was the best time of my life, and we obviously can't stop now because there's still tons to discuss. And a big thing is that all the nightclubs are still shut at the moment and with the current situation house parties of course aren't going to be advised but when they do resume I want to know how you found larger gatherings during uni, and basically how did you find the social scene?

MATT -So yeah, inevitably at parties you will find some people who don't really understand your condition, so I wouldn't really describe them as friends, but just people that get chatting on one night and then you'll never see them ever again. There have been a few isolated incidents where basically I was asked to fit on demand by someone at a house party, and those moments, it does become a bit awkward. You kind of just have to laugh along and just think, yeah, this person's just making a complete fool of themselves and other people hearing the conversation also think that as well. They have no idea that one seizure could literally, like, kill me. But obviously if I'd said that that would totally kill the atmosphere, and I don't really want to kill the vibe and ruin the whole party by making a big issue out of things. Though when it does get to the point where you have someone shining their iPhone torch in your face shouting drunkenly, "Does this set you off?" completely forgetting that there are different types of epilepsy and you can't be bothered to explain all of that, it is the right moment to just be like, "Hang on, can you like not do that please because…" you know.

PIPPA -It's not ideal really is it? And why are people like this? Oh my goodness.

MATT -I don't know. [laughs]

PIPPA -You do have to question what's going through people's heads when they even have that line of thought. Like, what were they even hoping to achieve?

MATT -I don't think they'd have that line of thought if they hadn't had, like, half a bottle of absinthe. That's why. [laughter]

PIPPA -That's very true.

MATT -Yeah. But also at house parties you will find people who have also rented strobe lights, and that's something that I've experienced, even amongst friends that have had parties, they do want to have strobe lights because it is the very, like, cool thing to do, apparently. My experience is that it was always clear beforehand if there were people that I knew very well, people that I was at least acquainted with on a regular basis, they would tell me beforehand, this would only be in one room in the house. And most people, to be honest, when they got there had, like, 15 minutes in that rave room with their strobe lights and then they'd had enough because there wasn't much to it. It was just really cramped in almost like a utility space room. So there wasn't really much about it. Though it does slightly ruin my night when there is something I can't experience. Like if I haven't been told about it and there's, like, a sign saying 'rave room', I just know okay, I won't go in there, I won't even think about it. It does slightly ruin my night because it's almost like some epilepsy protecting Gandalf just saying, "You shall not pas beyond this threshold." I do want to kind of experience what lies beyond the door but yeah, obviously I really shouldn't because that may be the end of me. [laughs]

PIPPA -Well, it sounds like you handled the situation really well, but that must have been incredibly frustrating. And did that kind of have an impact on your experiences of going out, out and going to clubs and stuff as well?

MATT -Well, my main annoyance at clubs was clubs having strobe lights. It's not really necessary, there's enough lights you can get that don't have the danger of causing a seizure for someone. Even though I say my condition isn't photosensitive I still keep my wits around. But what I did to kind of protect myself from this, there were a couple of clubs I knew, okay, this place has strobes and if I'm in a particular area of the club then I'm going to be quite exposed to the strobe lights. I had a pair of really, like, cheap green sunglasses, so the green was the colour of my college so it kind of looked like that I was one of those ravers that come with their sunglasses and whatnot, but I always had a pair of those in my jeans, just ready to whip them out whenever necessary.

Again, like, some people said, "Oh, you've got sunglasses, can I have them on?" and I was like, "No, I don't want you to take my sunglasses." And sometimes someone would just start reaching for my sunglasses and I would literally be waving my hands at them saying, "No, please don't do that."

PIPPA -Oh, my goodness.

MATT -So sometimes I'd be like, oh I should have brought two pairs just so the person thinks I've started a trend, you know.

PIPPA -Yeah, you were clearly just a trendsetter, that's what was happening here. [laughter]

MATT -Yeah. Maybe I should have brought two pairs and just given one away, but then I realised I would have had to buy a lot of sunglasses over the whole year and then I probably wouldn't have had enough money to do that.

PIPPA -You'd have had people queuing up all around the club for them.

MATT -Yeah.

PIPPA -That's amazing. Yeah, I had kind of a similar thing, and this isn't something I tried myself, so I really struggle with noise sensitivity with clubs and stuff, and I did have friends who did take earplugs out with them, which I thought was a really good idea because they're quite discrete as well. But I did find myself on occasion, and this was one of those moments where I was a student and I actually thought I'd become a pensioner before my time, I had frequent moments where I was thinking, oh could they just not turn it down a little bit? It's so loud, could they just not turn the volume down a bit?

MATT -Yeah, and I think you don't realise then not everyone is fussed about going out, some people just like inviting friends over, you know, they'll get a £4 Tesco bottle of chardonnay, you know, other brands of supermarket are available but, you know, they get a cheap bottle of wine, they get some cheap cheese or some Maltesers or whatever and just invite everyone to have a few drinks and whatever. And that's the level that they're at, some people aren't bothered about going out. And that's completely fine, it's just when you have a disability you really want to be like, oh yeah, I'm a party animal and whatever, even though I have this, just so you can be, like, a massive success story. But yeah, some people would just be like, "Why don't you just come and chill? We're going to put on 'Come Dine with Me', we're going to have a couple of glasses of wine and we're just going to have a nice chat."

PIPPA -It's so funny you say 'Come Dine with Me' actually, because some of my favourite moments from university, and I feel like it's really important to say for anybody listening to this, just the times when I was just chilling with my friends at home, like watching reruns of 'Come Dine with Me', that sort of thing.

MATT - 'Come Dine with Me' and 'The Chase' are like the two cult student programmes, and no one really realises that. And I said, "Why is everyone sat watching 'The Chase' at half five? Surely everyone has, like, more exciting things to do?" But then when you actually start watching 'The Chase' on a regular basis you get really, really committed, and it's… Yeah, it's hard to stop.

PIPPA -You get invested.

MATT -Yeah, you get really invested and it's hard to stop watching it.

PIPPA -There's something about Bradley Walsh, especially when you know you've got a dissertation to write, there's something about Bradley Walsh that just draws you in.

MATT -I know, I know. [laughter]

PIPPA -But yeah, like, there's so much more to university than just going out and getting drunk. I think that's a really important point to make.

MATT -It is, it is. And, like, it is an important part of that, I'm not going to… Yeah, people do enjoy doing that, and I do enjoy doing that, and that's great, but people enjoy doing the sport or getting involved with the music or doing the drama, theatre. Getting involved with the student journalism, or just having chill nights in with your friends, you know, that's as enjoyable, if not more, because you actually remember what happens.

PIPPA -Yeah, 100%. And the other thing to say as well is that obviously things will be different this year, but not every week will be like freshers week, so freshers week can often be the most intense and people are trying to make an impression, like they're going out and getting drunk, they're trying to be like the life of the party all the time. Like, things can and do calm down, so even if that's not your scene please don't feel disheartened because things will change. And a lot of the time people are just waiting for somebody else to be the first one who suggests a night off.

MATT -Exactly, exactly. Like, say when I'd had enough on a night out and then I feel really tired, most of the time you just think oh, no one else is going to want to go home, but there's going to be, like, three or four other people who are exhausted, they've got a lecture tomorrow at 10 am, they don't want to miss it because they've already got three or four lectures to catch up on. There'll be people there who want to go home just as much as you but also are just too nervous to actually admit.


MATT -So if one of you says, "I want to go home," and starts saying, "Oh, I'm going to go home, I'm going to pass, I'm going to get a pizza or a kebab on the way back, does anyone fancy that?" more people will follow you than will actually stay.

PIPPA -Absolutely, and it's very telling.

MATT -Yeah, especially if you've been there since 11 or whatever, you know, some people will just be exhausted. We have enough on during the day and we can't be expected to go to, like, two or three or four am every single night, that's just unrealistic.

PIPPA -Yeah, and that's another really important point to make as well, because pacing I think is really important, especially when you're dealing with issues like fatigue or pain, thinking about how you're going to manage on a longer term basis. And I know when you're in the moment it's so tempting just to carry on pushing yourself and, like, powering on through. But yeah, I think it's really important to be mindful about the longer term picture as well.

MATT -Yeah, I had to really keep a… Yeah, be really important to have my really good sleep pattern, so I do know that I do get seven or eight hours sleep every single night. And some people are like, "How do you manage that as a student?" and I'm like, "Well, I just do." If I go on a night out the next day after I'll still get up at a regular time of, like, 9 am so I can actually feel tired by, like, ten pm to just catch up on sleep. And it's just all a matter of not having too many nights out in a row. I could probably manage two but then the third would be definitely too much.

PIPPA -Pushing it.

MATT -Yeah.

PIPPA - Yeah, definitely. I was like that at the beginning and then there was definitely a point where I came to realise, as much as uni is about the social life and that's one of the biggest appeals about it, there does come a point where you have to kind of think, okay I'm here to study, I need to do what I need to do to get through with it. We've not even talked about studying yet, we've got to get all the important stuff out of the way first. [laughter]

MATT -Yeah.

PIPPA -So tell us about your masters degree, because it sounds really interesting.

MATT -So yeah, I'm going to do a masters in… It's a really, really long title, I don't know why, but it's Greek and or Latin languages and literature. It's just basically like… So, I did my undergrad in classics, so it's just basically classics 2.0.

PIPPA -It sounds like it'll be quite an intense workload. So do you have any tips for managing and keeping organised and keeping on top of things?

MATT -As a disabled student you do get quite a lot of support funded from the government. So you have Disabled Students Allowance from Student Finance England, and I know quite a lot of the people listening to this will either have all their support sorted or will be waiting to hear back from Student Finance England or will be waiting until they get to university to start the process. The earlier you can submit the application to Student Finance England the better, because it does take a bit of time to come through, but then when you get the support you can get specialist software funded for you. So I had lecture recording software and also mind mapping software, which was absolutely fantastic. I didn't use it that much in first year, but then in second year I just thought, you know what, this is absolutely fantastic.

PIPPA -The one I find, the DSA allowance that personally helped me the most was having subsidised taxis to help me get to and from university. And there are so many people who don't know that that's a thing that you can ask for.

MATT -I had no idea. I had no idea that would be a thing. And I'm just wishing, oh I wish I had that, because people who go to Durham are walking up all the hills in Durham and just being like, oh I wish I could just get a cab because I've got my cello on my back and I can't be bothered to walk all the way from the city centre up to Trevs.

PIPPA -That sounds like a workout. Oh my goodness.

MATT - It did take quite a bit of time, but even without the disability that requires a taxi I'm getting like major jealousy vibes right now. [laughter]

PIPPA -I mean, specifically thinking about disability, if you do struggle with mobility and you're having to exert all of your limited energy on actually getting to university you find that by the time you get there, yeah.

MATT -When you get to the lecture you're just like, oh why did I even bother?

PIPPA -Exactly. I'm done for the day now, I might as well turn around and go back home. I'm not going to be any use now. So, yeah.

MATT -Yeah. So what was also really helpful for me was the printing allowance because with my conditions I do find it a lot easier to read things when they're printed out.

PIPPA -Definitely. I was the same, I did the printing the notes thing as well and found that really helpful. And it's like Christmas when the printer comes isn't it? It's the best thing ever. You should never feel guilty about asking for the things you need because at the end of the day all it's doing is putting you on a level playing field with everybody else.

MATT -Exactly, yeah.

PIPPA -I think the thing that I wish I'd had someone to say to me back when I was a student is that there's no typical picture of what student life looks like. There's no right way to be a student, like the media portrays this very stereotypical image that being at university is all about going out and partying hard and doing this and doing that.

MATT -Yeah, like a scene from 'Fresh Meat' basically. That's what everyone thinks university is like.

PIPPA -Another point I think it's really important to touch on is that parents can be apprehensive about their children going away to uni, especially when they have a disability. And I hear that you had a really brilliant tip for letting your parents know that you were still alive and doing okay.

MATT -Yeah. So I was really lucky that I have an Apple watch, and I know that's a bit of a flex, you know, "Oh look at this guy coming on and saying he's got an Apple watch. He's not just flexing to his friends, he's flexing to the entire nation via the BBC podcast," but…

PIPPA -You're just showing off now.

MATT -But what's really useful about it is that I can click on my watch and just send a thumbs up emoji to my mum every single morning and that just means she knows that I'm all right, even if you're not saying like, "Morning XX," just sending a thumbs up just really tells your parents that you're all right, especially if you've been on a night out or you've had a long day or something like that. You know, it is important so your mum doesn't end up calling you in the middle of a lecture and then you realising, crap, I've accidently left my phone not on silent so everyone knows that I've got my mum ringing.

PIPPA -Oh, and everybody turns around and gives you the stare of doom. That's the worst.

MATT -Yeah. Well I've seen some really unfortunate people. You know, someone had a phone call in the middle of the lecture, didn't have it on silent, they had their phone on like the little desk that you get at lecture theatres that you're supposed to balance all your life's belongings on somehow. It rang and then they had to, like, go and take the phone call in front of the entire lecture and I was just absolutely… I was, like, dying laughing, but also just thinking, I'm always keeping my phone on silent just in case my mum rings, because I don't want to even think about having to speak to my mum in front of the whole lecture theatre because that would be not only embarrassing for me but embarrassing for her, because she didn't consent to being in the middle of the lecture.

Your relationship with your parents does change whilst you're at uni, you become less of a child and more of a other adult in the household who's there sometimes and who leaves, like, for ten weeks or 12 weeks and then comes back with a whole load of washing. The relationship does change with your parents and you're an adult, you need to think about not just yourself but also the other person who's two or three hours away and just wants to know if you're all right.

PIPPA -And I think sometimes if you are dealing with limited energy, even just factoring that into your day, like adding it to your to do list almost, even if that sounds a bit harsh, just so you know that you've kind of made… You're holding yourself accountable and you're, like, factoring in that time to catch up. And there's also a lot of value I think, when you're going to uni, especially as someone with a disability you can often find yourself caught up in like the uni bubble, and it can almost seem as though the world fails to exist outside of university.

MATT -I know, yeah.

PIPPA -So even just having that point of contact outside of the university bubble, yeah.

MATT -Yeah, and just knowing the gossip around the house, you know, who's in the good books, who's in the bad books.

PIPPA -Exactly. It reminds you of the bigger picture.

MATT -It does remind you of the bigger picture, and it also allows you to stay in touch, so when you do go back home at Christmas or Easter, if we're allowed to go back home that is, you don't feel like a complete stranger who's missed ten seasons of 'EastEnders'.

PIPPA - Can't have that.

MATT -Yes, you know.


PIPPA - If you're about to start university I hope this has made you even more excited and that you're looking forward to the experience. And to be honest, chatting about it has made me all the more excited for you. If you have any advice for someone starting university, maybe it's a tip for overcoming shyness or for pacing, please do get in touch. You can email us at or you can search BBC Ouch to find us on Facebook or Twitter. You can also find tons of podcasts in our Cabin Fever series. We recently shared one about the challenges of online dating when you have cancer. Probably not one to listen to with your parents if I'm being honest. And there's another all about managing chronic fatigue, with some helpful tips for anyone feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. If you enjoyed this episode make sure you subscribe to the Ouch podcast on BBC Sounds so that you won't miss a single one.