A Southampton College Success
By Trish Hubschman
My creative writing teacher, Mr. Peterson, called my name from the stage. My head popped up. I was sitting in the first row of the auditorium in the Fine Arts building on campus. The previous day, I had found a note in my campus mailbox stating that I’d won an achievement award and to come to the auditorium to accept it. The note didn’t say what the award was for. That’s probably why I was surprised. It turned out, I had scored the highest grades the first semester of my junior year. That had been my first semester at Southampton College.
I graduated high school in 1982. For the next two years, I attended a local community college. Because of my hearing, vision and walking impairments, college posed a bit more difficulty than high school. I had to explain to my teachers my physical problems, how they affect my performance in class and how that could be worked around. Sometimes the teacher was willing to assist me. Sometimes they weren’t.
Some classes just couldn’t be maneuvered, like Phys Ed and some science courses, such as Astronomy. That class was too visual. I told the teacher my vision loss made it nearly Impossible for me to identify the constellations. He actually came out bluntly with, “So why are you taking his course?” How was I to answer that? I walked out of his class and dropped the course.
In September 1984, I transferred up to the State University of New York at Albany. It’s one of the top schools in the state. I was so proud of myself for getting in. Plus, well, my friend, Lisa, from community college was in her second year there. I made a lot of friends at SUNY Albany and joined a sorority. Socially, it was great. Academically, well, that was another story. Classes in the Lecture Center had five hundred students in them. Test scores were posted outside a teacher’s office according to a student’s Social Security number, not by name. In my Greek Mythology class, the teacher showed slides on a projector on a screen in front of the room. That wasn’t good for me.
I felt invisible at Albany U. I hated it. I needed to go to a smaller college where I was a person and had a name.
I said goodbye to Albany in May 1985. I went home and worked part-time for a local newspaper. The following January, I signed up at the community college again to try to fulfil those science requirements in order to get my associate degree. But I still couldn’t do it. In September, I found my small college. It was a Long Island University school located in Southampton.
The school term did start out rough. I had much of the same problems with teachers that I’d faced before. One professor didn’t feel I’d be able to keep up with his fast-paced class and suggested I take it with another teacher. One of the required classes he taught, Great Books, was taught by another professor, but American Literature, which was also required for my new major, was only taught by this particular professor. I had no choice but to take it with him. To his delight and surprise, I got a B in the course. I got an A in ‘Great Books’. Most of the required books to read weren’t in large print. That made it difficult, but not impossible. There weren’t much by way of social activities at Southampton, so it, in fact, gave me more time to spend in the library reading for long hours.
I took the train home often on weekends. Actually, the train station was in my Grandparents town. That was perfect. I got to spend more time with Grandma and Grandpa R. In late October, after the Mets won the 1986 World Series, Grandpa passed away. He was my best friend.
Going back to school after that was so difficult, but I did and continued studying. I was an English-Writing major. I loved to write creatively, and this was so easy. So, as I sat in the first row of the auditorium, I kind of felt like I cheated. I was embarrassed and felt guilty too. The president of the Honor Society, which I was part of, had been the class valedictorian since she began college and she was so nice. I didn’t want to, or, as I felt, deserve to, take the title from her.
Mr. Peterson called my name again. Slowly, I rose from my seat. I didn’t look behind me for fear people might be laughing or sneering at me. I walked to the stage and the side of it. There were five steps to climb. I wasn’t sure what to do. How was I going to climb these steps? While I was contemplating my options, Mr. Peterson, knowing my dilemma, trotted down the steps, took my elbow and helped me up them. I was ever-so-grateful. In front of the audience, he presented me with my award, shook my hand and hen helped me off the stage. I sat back down and sank low in the seat. I couldn’t’ wait to call my parents and tell them this.
The next semester, the first in my senior year, went back to normal. I did okay, kept my grades good, but not too good. Samantha was head of the Class, not me. I had made Dean’s List and was in Honors. That was more than enough for me.
When Billy Joel came onto campus and was giving an impromptu talk and show for honors students, I should have been there, but I wasn’t. I didn’t know about it. My friends didn’t tell me they were going down to the gym to meet Billy Joel. It was my own fault. I was too engrossed in my schoolwork and being Roving Reporter for the school newspaper to pay much attention to the social stuff. It was a give or take, a sacrifice, but this time I intended to finish college and I did.
Graduation Day, I shook hands with the professor that suggested I not take his ‘Great Books’ class. He smiled and told me I proved him wrong. Mr. Peterson gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me I was a wonderful writer. I was so happy, so excited. I had an anxiety attack while the procession of graduating students were filing to our seats in the parking lot of the main building. The girl who sat beside me unzipped my graduation gown and urged me to take slow, deep breaths. I did as she instructed and was soon okay again. We climbed the stairs to accept our degrees and that was that. I did it, finally. It took six years for me to earn my four-year college degree and I was proud of me and very tired. Now, I had to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-writing. She is deaf-blind and lives in South Carolina with her husband, Kevin, and their dog, Henry.