How I Survived University with Autism by Nicholas Fearn

Our guest post this month is by Nicholas Fearn a final year student in Applied Linguistics who is also (already) on his career journey as a journalist with publications in various news outlets. You can read his work by following the links at the end of the post. Thanks Nic!

In just under two months, I’ll be finishing my English language degree at Swansea University and I can honestly say that these past three years have been life-changing in a plethora of ways.

It’s honestly a miracle that I even got into university! Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s and was studying in a secondary school where nobody understood me. The teachers essentially saw me as a naughty kid, while the other pupils thought I was odd.

At the time, I didn’t fit in at all – and the teachers essentially wrote me off. That’s until I moved to a new educational setting where I was encouraged to succeed. I had started my own technology blog and when my English teacher learnt of it, she suddenly moved me to the top set. Here, I was given the opportunity to sit the high tier English GSCE and developed my writing abilities.

I knew I wanted to study English at university, so I took the subject at college and eventually got into Swansea University. I chose the latter because I was impressed with the kindness and professionalism of the lecturers and because of the support on offer for my mental health conditions.

If you have a disability, it’s easy to feel like an outcast and like you’ll never go far in life. But these things really aren’t true. Yes, my university experience hasn’t been without its flaws – I’ve constantly had to battle through health problems. However, I’ve had so much support from the Student Wellbeing team and my lecturers. For instance, I’m not the best at working in a team or presenting – so the university arranged alternative assessments to help me achieve my potential and get the best grades possible.

People are also a lot more understanding at university. I went through years of bullying at school but this isn’t something I’ve had to worry about while doing my degree. Granted, many of my peers probably just think I am quiet, although I’ve come across so many amazing people at the same time. You shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself at university – that’s honestly what it’s all about. I feel like I am graduating as a totally different person; I’m far happier and more confident now.

University has also given me the opportunity to work on my journalism and business ventures. I’ve been writing pretty much all my life – I remember writing my own plays as a kid. Now, alongside my studies, I work as a freelance journalist with by-lines in publications such as The Telegraph, The Times, Buzzfeed, Mail Online, Wales Online, The Western Mail, Lifehacker and Engadget. I am also the founder and editor of Tech Dragons, a blog and series of events promoting Welsh technology. It’s supported by the likes of the Welsh Government, Tech City UK and Sir Terry Matthew’s Alacrity Foundation. My university schedule is pretty flexible, so I’ve managed to fit in lots of extracurricular activities around my degree.

If someone told the fourteen-year-old me that I’d be getting a degree and working as a journalist in 2018, I’d probably call them a liar. What point am I trying to make, you may be wondering? It’s that when life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Indeed, that‘s a cliché but I’ve learnt from experience that it can be true. Never let adversity bring you down. And, for me, university has been a highlight of my life (so far).


You might like to check out Nic’s articles which showcase his amazing skills and passion for writing, here:

‘Being Bullied because of my autism nearly drove me to suicide. Then it all changed’, Wales Online

‘Can VR help cure the mental health epidemic?’, Alphyr

‘Hacking the home: how connected tech is making your shack a security risk’, Techradar:

‘The App that helps you recognise your friends and family’, BBC News Online:

‘How business can stay innovative and creative while growing,’ The Telegraph