How will it go today, I wonder. I turn on my laptop and wait anxiously as it boots up. I go online, and a ton of bricks pushes down on my chest as Teams utters that ‘ding’ that was designed to be unintrusive but sounds more like an imperative, reminding me of those three little words: You’ve Got Class. I take three deep breaths, hoping to break the tension. I click on the scheduled meeting that has already been started by my professor and joined by a few of my peers, and stare at the squared reflection that is looking for affirmation.
For a split second I consider bailing.
When I started my BA in 2016, I was waiting for my first pair of hearing aids. Hearing had always been an issue for me, but I had faked my way through life before acknowledging that it was keeping me from achieving whatever it was I wanted to achieve. Clumsily, I tried to inform my teachers of the fact that I can’t always follow the discussion. At times, I would diligently send the teacher an e-mail before the beginning of classes including ‘a note’ written by my student advisor. Of course, this is an attempt by the university to help me but, in truth, holding out a note to my teacher felt like offering an apology ushered by an authority that wasn’t my own. It reinforced the old adage ‘I don’t want to be a nuisance,’ which resonates in the constant ringing that I do hear.
Through trial and error I learned that some teachers are more understanding than others. While the promise to keep it in mind was regularly made, I’ve found only 1, maybe 2 teachers, to truly take it into account. I know it is an extra challenge for the often already overloaded teaching staff, but, as I am settling into my life as someone with impaired hearing, my frustration accumulates at the laconic attitude I have now almost got used to encounter.
I click “Join now,” and as my class starts, I am relieved to hear the professor bellowing clearly at his screen. The biggest challenge is yet to come, however, because the quality of sound deviates most among my peers. This is to be expected, because good equipment is expensive and so is university. The online template that academia has been forced into has provided hurdles for us all. As we have now entered yet another block of online classes, I can see teachers adapting their lessons and some students even finding solace in the new situation. For some others, this is just not happening. I know UU has moved mountains, but it is losing me as a budding academic. Halfway through my research master I find myself distanced from topics of interest and cast out from the conversation. In anticipation of delay, I take it one class at a time and wish for the day that I can walk into Drift again, with all its offline flaws.
by Saskia Soelaksana