A lifetime of learning
Posted on 13 October 2015 by Maysa Abouzeid
Maysa Abouzeid, 27, has dedicated the past ten years to learning.
She has completed a Bachelor of Arts and is nearly at the end of her Masters in Social Work. Maysa shares her story of what it’s like studying with a visual impairment.
I have been a university student for the last ten years. When I finished high school I decided to complete a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University where I majored in Italian and theatre. I majored in Italian because my mother is Italian and I wanted to improve my communication skills. However, it wasn’t meant to be and so I switched over to Politics.
Having a visual impairment, I needed some support from the university. The Disability Liaison Unit at La Trobe University were able to support me to study by converting my text books into word documents and into Rich Text Format.
While I was completing my Bachelor of Arts, I joined the Student Representative Council and my joy for advocacy grew from there.
I then studied in New York at Ithaca University. I had been to New York with my mother before, but this time I decided to go on my own. I completed a semester of my Bachelor of Arts there and I really developed my self-advocacy skills. The staff at the university were so helpful and they referred me an organisation that helped me with my text books and familiarising myself with the area. La Trobe University also supported me with this and it was great that they could. They also connected me with a peer support program where I was able to get some tips and advice from someone who knew what it was like to live with a visual impairment.
When I returned from New York I studied Social Sciences at La Trobe University. One of the subjects I studied was Welcome to Poverty and it was from there that I decided to study social work.
I then decided to complete my Bachelor of Social Work at RMIT.
My lecturers are really supportive. They provide me with extensions when I am focusing on my health. They are also positive and give me great feedback.
Currently I am completing my first social work placement at Victorian Cooperative on Children's Services for Ethnic Groups (VICSEG Programs for Families, Children & Young People) and New Futures Training.
They run a peer-led mentoring program where support is provided to newly arrived people to Australia who may be isolated, or need education, medical or legal assistance with Centrelink. The program is run by bi-cultural workers who support people from similar backgrounds. It’s challenging work but I am learning so many things.
One of the things I loved at the universities I attended was the cultural diversity. There were so many people with different backgrounds – race, disability, sexuality – and there was no sense of isolation. There was always someone to talk to or help me out of tricky situations.
My tip for people with a disability who want to go to university is that we are all in this together and there’s always someone to help you out.
Maysa is in her mid-twenties and is a funny, confident and smart woman who lives with a visual impairment and is supported by her trusty guide dog. She spends her free time as a stand-up comedienne, performing in one woman shows and hanging out with friends. When she finishes her Masters of Social Work she plans on taking a well-deserved break.
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