Three Magic Words That Taught Me What I Can Do

How The Three Magic Words “Registered with DSS” Taught Me That I Should Not Let What I Can’t Do Stop Me from Doing What I Can Do

By (former Monash student, class of 2021) M. M. Ahmed

I have to confess that I had mixed feelings after completing my course at Monash University earlier this year.

I was sure that I will not be getting the same level of support anywhere else, as none of the four previous universities I studied at offered a student success and IT team both during and after business hours, nor a Moodle site that did not require an elective in computer science to navigate!

Both my course coordinators and supervisors alike, always made themselves available, and diligently responded to the 6481641 student queries on the Q&A board rain, shine, or pandemic.

Moreover, the new grading system that took into account the current circumstances suggested that the university would rather that all their students pass than make a profit if they failed or needed to repeat their courses.

Lastly, the invitation to be an alumni made sure it was not a “Goodbye”.

Like many students attempting to complete their studies while living with a chronic condition, I was also torn between deciding whether my chronic health condition was or wasn’t a valid excuse that warranted special consideration and additional support during my studies.

And given my often-unreasonable sense of pride and own stigma, I chose not disclose it when first enrolled in my course at Monash.

Consequently, my first two trimesters were akin to swimming up an academic version of the Styx River without a paddle, while wearing a facemask that kept fogging up my glasses to boot.

Therefore, -and despite the fact that I was enrolled in a degree I was passionate about- the “Are You Ready for the next Trimester?” Group email always elicited feelings of extreme angst and apprehension.

I wondered, was this trimester going to be one the one where my four AM brain that was already laden with a combination of medication the side effects were often as bad the symptoms of my condition(s) will finally resurrect a scientist who comes back from the dead to seek vengeance on me for missing the comma behind in my citation?

Registering with DSS

Registering with DSS changed my feelings of angst.

Tom and his team quickly and compassionately made me realise that getting support with my assignments and quizzes was not an unfair advantage but more so one that “levelled the playing field”.

So, when my grades picked up -even in subjects that made me sleepier than my prescribed medication ever did, my reaction every time my grades were released was always the same “What the Dickens?!”

I didn’t understand how and why my grades improved given that the impartial and unbiased support DSS provided me did change the fact I had to do the exact same amount of work on my own.

Whenever I appeared flabbergasted when I did well after submitting a paper which I felt was pure drivel, my partner would often tell me to “Stop being a sourpuss about getting a good grade, and there is no need to add Imposter Syndrome to the list of your chronic health conditions!

Accordingly, and on behalf of all the students who were afforded the ability to apply and receive additional support by DSS with no repercussions, I thank Tom and the DSS team for their dedication and their prompt responses to the flurry of phone rants and emails, which were sometimes on weekends if they believed the matter called for it.

Please take pride that our successes are also yours, and that we will all forever be in your debt for all your support.

I hope that anyone who reads this post -student or university staff alike- recognizes that it is their duty both as a professional and as a human being to make sure that no one they know is ever put in a position where they have to pick between the two excuses.

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