The Experience of Attending Gallaudet – Personal Story

Photo courtesy of Natalie Delgado-Grace, ’13.

Growing up, I was the only deaf or hard of hearing student in my entire school, and I didn’t know American Sign Language. I felt like an oddball because of my hearing aids-everyone had to look at me and repeat themselves whenever I missed something.

After my first step onto Gallaudet, and seeing flying hands and feeling the positive vibe that emanated, I knew I had come to the right place, a place where I was no longer an oddity for being deaf – I was surrounded by others that shared common experiences with me.

Prior to attending Gallaudet, I never received services until my second semester of college, which was the first time I realized I even qualified for accommodations. I grew up without any captioning, interpreting, note-taking-the whole nine yards. I didn’t realize those things existed, and that I could have them.

I began learning American Sign Language (ASL), and I decided I wanted to meet others like me. The first time I met deaf friends made me realize just how much I had missed out growing up with only hearing friends. I finally felt normal.

Growing up, I wanted to become a teacher, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to because I kept losing more hearing. But once I learned ASL and was introduced to the deaf community, that dream returned.

Early intervention piqued my interest because it is part of the beginning of a parents’ journey when they first find out they have a deaf or hard of hearing child. My parents never had early intervention services, and only met with doctors and an audiologist when I was identified as hard of hearing. They knew nothing other than what the audiologist and doctors said-which is to say they knew to keep me at the front of the classroom and tell my teacher I wore hearing aids.

My parents, disappointed with their early experiences, now are learning ASL and attend Deaf Chat Coffee. They supported my transfer to Gallaudet and enjoyed their visits to campus. They understood that I needed to experience being in the “deaf capital of the world” with others who were like me.

Not only did Gallaudet offer me social opportunities and ease of access, but learning also became more enjoyable. While I was able to read for leisure and learning growing up, it was hard to keep up with discussions and contribute to classroom banter. At Gallaudet, my experience was the complete opposite. It was incredibly easy for me to partake in a discussion or provide commentary without feeling like I risked the chance of an off-topic comment due to missing something. Smaller class sizes allowed for an intimate understanding of the content we were learning, and relationships with my professors were genuine and not superficial as were my relationships with professors at my former university.

At Gallaudet, my professors knew who I was and what I was working on; I felt confident asking for letters of recommendation without having to describe myself in great detail because they knew me. I was no longer one person in a class of over 400.

I joined the Honors program. I was able to challenge myself by completing a Capstone project and meeting people who were pivotal to my academic career. It was through my networking and academic experiences at Gallaudet that I was able to gain the opportunities, confidence, and skills needed to move on to the professional world and graduate school.

As I entered the world post-Gallaudet, I was so grateful for the internships I was able to have during my senior year. I was fortunate enough to intern at an organization for deaf advocacy, counseling, and other services, as well as an intern at a deaf school’s early intervention and preschool programs. I have since continued to work at different deaf school settings as a teacher, and now I am in my second year as a doctoral student working on my degree in Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.

I would not have gotten here without everything Gallaudet gave me. I am indebted to the University. Currently, I am researching Deaf Latinx culture, especially in relation to early intervention, their parents’ experiences, and their identity development. As a Deaf Latinx myself, I hope to continue giving back to the deaf community so that future deaf and hard of hearing children can have the opportunities I didn’t have, and so that their parents have the information that my parents were unable to access.

I will forever continue learning and growing in my identity as a deaf person, and I feel incredibly lucky that I have Gallaudet to thank for it.

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