I studied at the University of Leicester for five years, starting in 2009. But the first time I went to Leicester was actually four years previously in July 2005 for a week-long summer school.
Considering this was over 10 years ago my memory of some of it may be a bit fuzzy, so I apologise for that! In fact I went on two summer schools. The second one was in 2006, and was a chemistry one. But I’m just going to write about the first one, because it was more interesting.
So, back in 2005 I was at school in sixth form and trying to work out what I wanted to do when I left school. I was told about a summer school at the University of Leicester that was aimed at sixth form students and was intended to give them an idea of what it was like to study at university. I thought it would be a good experience, so I decided to go. All the attending students stayed in University accommodation. But for me standard accommodation was not accessible enough. Adjustments had to be made.
As I am a Powerchair user I obviously need the accommodation to be wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately at that time the university did not have any suitable accommodation. But they were willing to make the adjustments to a flat so that I could attend the summer school.
So the University worked with me to completely modify a flat, spending about £70,000 in the process. They created an ensuite bathroom, with enough room for me to manoeuvre. They added a kitchenette so I could have dinner in my room. They connected a room next door to mine with an adjoining door for a carer to live in. They even added a ceiling hoist. It was fantastic that they did all this so I could attend the summer school for just one week.
But, after that week the room would be available to any disabled student that needed it. In fact, this was the room that I would later stay in throughout my five years at university, and by the end I was quite attached to it!
Anyway, the theme for the summer school was science, and in fact, it was kind of an introduction to the course I would later go on to do for my undergraduate degree: Interdisciplinary Science. We had some lectures on chemistry, the moon, and Mars by lecturers from different departments. We did a kind of forensic murder mystery exercise, as an introduction to forensic science. We had a talk from a guy who was head of Beagle 2 – the British Rover that they landed on Mars but couldn’t get it to work.
We got a chance to go in the lab and extracted our own DNA to put in a tube. Plus we had a go at DNA fingerprinting, which was invented at Leicester.
Aside from all the academic Staff we had a go at playing football on the University playing fields, went bowling, and had a disco at the end of it. I remember when we went bowling there were two people fighting outside, and then about six police cars turned up. It was good fun.
The summer school was a great experience and undoubtedly was a big influence on me deciding to go to Leicester to study. I was introduced to the disability team (who are excellent by the way), the accommodation, and even the science departments.
.At the time Leicester’s campus was quite old. It wasn’t until 2008 (one year before I started my undergraduate degree) that the student union building was renovated and modernised. Before that the union building, originally built in 1957, was not the most accessible. We went in there during the summer school in 2005 and I remember having to go down this very rickety stair lift, that looked like it had been there since the 70s. I think I got stuck on it a few times if I remember rightly. So when the new union was built it was a massive improvement.
Now, the union is modern with level access for wheelchairs, and there is even an O2 Academy in the building. There are a decent number of disabled toilets, but they’re not all big enough. They are planning to expand it even more in the near future so it will be interesting to read about what they do.