Erinn Pwns tells her story from age 18 to 21 as she went from high school to a training school and on to college. She also went abroad learning and working. Below you will find a full text transcription of the podcast. You can follow Erinn @ErinnPwns on both twitter and Audioboom.
BA Cast: Erinn Pwns: Making It Happen – Transition from High School to College to Abroad.
Blind Abilities presents Erinn Pwns.
Making it happen. Her transition stage from high school to college and on.
Hi, my name is Erinn, at the time of this recording I am in my mid-twenties and I live in Michigan.
I was born totally blind with the exception of light perception. And the topic is regarding the transition period of time for the visually impaired from 18 to 21 years of age. So, I am here to share a little bit about my experiences during that period of my life.
So, the summer before I graduated high school, I knew that I wasn’t going to be going to college right away, because it was agreed that I needed training on quote unquote “skills of blindness.”.
I didn’t do as much as I should of in my house as I should have so, that is a fault. And I was really upset at first because taking a year off was going to put me behind everybody else. And so, I just want to say kind of get use to that idea if you need it because it was really helpful for me. So don’t get down on that or let others look down on you. And yeah, just take the year off if you need it.
After I graduated from high school and had my open house and all that, I went about 45 minutes away from where I live to a training center individuals who are blind.
I had to take mobility, computer and cooking classes and other things for them to see where I was at in those areas. And once it came time, I took an assessment to see if I passed or failed as far as being college or life ready in all the areas. I did pass and did apartment training. They had like two apartments in the buildings so two people could do it at a time. And you had to cook your own meals, do your laundry. One time at a laundry mat and take out your own garbage and all that. And in the end cook a meal for ten people. Some people you invite from the center. So I did that and it went well.
And I also met some really good friends that I still speak to today. So, it wasn’t a bad year.
I was also a volunteer receptionist in the building and I was paid. And an department on a campus near by.
I also started dating someone at that time. And, we are not dating any more, but the point that I want to make is that he lived on the other side of the sate and so I took a train for the first time. It really pushed me to travel and to be more independent, because I was doing something I wanted to do instead of something I was told to do that benefitted me.
So, after i left there, before I went to college, the following fall, I did their college prep program for visually impaired individuals about to go to college. Where you go to take a class, you have a job on campus, and you have to go to some workshops regarding time management and other things. It’s um hosted at a University nearby the same place I worked before as a receptionist.
And so their disability office comes and talks and everything about accommodations. So that was I think a thirteen week thing and after that I was ready to go to college.
So, I attended Hope College.I was a Spanish major. I lived in the dorm for the first couple of semesters then I moved to an apartment. So, again I had to go to the store to get my food and really live with my roommates… kind of.
I guess learning to live around not just other people, but, sighted people who sometimes forget to put stuff back where they found it, or just generally like sharing that small space with four other girls.
And then during a couple of the summers, in between my college years, I stayed in that college town, because where I am from there weren’t any busses. So, I wanted to be able to do some volunteer work. And I also tutored a girl who was blind and was in elementary school. So I wanted to be able to stay and help her throughout the summer.
So that was good it also helped me with my Spanish because the lady I was living with was Mexican.
During the fall semester of my senior year I studied abroad in Spain. I took some classes all in Spanish and lived with a host family. So I got really immersed in the culture and to overcome some obstacles as far as going as a person with a disability and needing some accommodations in a whole different country
But it was a very positive experience. Got to go on excursions and get to know the other people in the program. So, after I graduated from college,a couple of months later I found out that my friend had a house and was looking for a roommate. So I lived with her for about a year. And I got some stuff, and she did too, for the house like dishes and rugs and furniture and all that stuff. Some of it came from my parents. And I had to go to the store and take transportation. And it wasn’t in something like a training program or college. It was something I had to do because it was life. So I didn’t feel any pressure to pass or fail any assessment, but I proved to myself that I could live life with what I learned and I didn’t have anyone else watching me. I just did it.
Then I went to a conference in Minneapolis where I spoke of my experiences abroad and the accommodations I received. And I learned about jobs they offered in nine different countries for people who want to go and teach English. And one of them was Spain. So I wanted to go back there so I reapplied and I was accepted.
So I left the house and was six months in a different part of Spain than I was before and it was definitely different. And the experience was too, because I wasn’t, like I was with a program but because I wasn’t taking classes and going on excursions and I was just working, I was kind of living life. I wasn’t as much as a tourist as I was before.
So I had to do all those things that I did before to be independent but in another country and with little help because I had a host family and your host family tend to do the laundry and the cooking. I might get a chance to go back to Spain. The Principle wants me back. she’s trying to pull some strings and I should find out soon. But if I do go back I will probably actually be in a flat by myself and I will have to do the laundry and do the laundry.
So I am waiting to find out. I am living with my parents because the house got sold, my roommate didn’t want to live by herself. And which is understandable. If I don’t go back to Spain, then I will stay here and get my masters because I received my certificate to teach english as a foreign language to non-native speakers while I was spending that year in that house with my roommate and that is good for going abroad but it’s not very good if you want to work in the states.
I’’m also a member of a non-profit organization called “Abroad with Disabilities.” We assist people with disabilities who want to go abroad to work or study. And provide resources for them an help them to request accommodations and all that. The web site is AbroadWithDisabilities.org if you want more information. And if you have any additional questions for me you can follow me @Erinn Pwns on both twitter and AudioBoom. it’s my name, Erinn, E r i n n P aw n s.
And I wish you all the best and I hope to hear from some of you soon.
This podcast was produced for State Services for the Blind of Minnesota. You can find out more about State Services and what they provide at www.MNSSB.org