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Tips for Transitioning to Off-Campus Housing when You're Blind/Visually Impaired

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired, Disability Type, Students

By Miso Kwak, Guest Blogger   During college, we learn how to be better students, both through academic courses and extracurricular activities. But college also gives us the unique opportunity to think ahead and practice for life in “the real world.” Whether your goal is to pursue further higher education or to find work, you are more likely to have to live on your own – not just away from home but also out of the traditional college dormitory setting. I encourage everyone to consider living off campus if the opportunity arises during your undergraduate career. Here are some tips for preparing to make that transition.

1. Learn the necessary living skills.

Students on SubwayUnlike living in the dormitory where you most likely have access to college dining hall and maintenance staff, living in an off-campus housing means you are on your own to cook and clean. While you don’t have to be an expert at these tasks, it is helpful to be competent in them. Summer, short-term programs offered to blind young adults or longer blindness skills training could be an excellent way to gain such skills. For whatever reason, if you don’t want to or are unable to attend such programs, ask your family to help you learn these skills. Personally, I attended a summer program at Colorado Center for the Blind before starting college and occasionally asked my mom to show me how to cook, which helped to make that transition easier for me.

2. Get to know the neighborhood in advance.

The idea is similar to getting oriented to your campus as a freshman. If possible, walk around and learn a few routes that may come handy (such as grocery store and nearby bus stop) from the place you will be living. For instance, I asked a friend to show me the route between the main part of the campus and my soon-to-be apartment along with nearby bus stops and street names a few months in advance. Feeling confident about the surroundings relieved my anxiety, which was especially heightened during my first few days in my new apartment.

3. If possible, find roommates you feel comfortable living with.

Unlike being assigned to a random roommate as a freshman entering the college dormitory, you are more likely to have the option to find your own roommates. Take advantage of this situation and reach out to your circle of friends, some of whom may be looking for roommates themselves. Although I felt comfortable with my surroundings, I was apprehensive about a lot of other things leading up to and during the first few months of living on my own. What if I undercook my meat? What if I miss a spot while cleaning? Knowing that my roommate would not be judgemental about such incidents was comforting and relieved my anxiety significantly.

4. Don’t be afraid.

It is okay if you feel that you may not be successful in mastering new responsibilities. It is okay even if you end up burning your pan or getting lost in the new neighborhood (I have done both!). Don’t be afraid to try out new recipes and venture out to discover local shops and restaurants. After all, becoming an adult involves trial and error for everyone, blind or sighted. We should just enjoy the process and grow from our mistakes. Miso Walking with CaneMiso Kwak is a senior at UCLA majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Disability Studies and Education. She works as a student blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and is involved in the Undergraduate Students Association Council as a representative for the Committee on Disability. She is also a longtime member of Learning Ally's College Success Program and serves as the student voice on our 2016-2017 CSP Advisory Panel. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the flute and spending time with family and friends. To find out more about Learning Ally's free College Success Program for blind or visually impaired students, log onto LearningAlly.org/CollegeSuccess