A dark night soon after Christmas,
While the streets were still wet,
I just had a meal too delicious,
And wanted a run to sweat.
I nimbly dodged a Prius,
And sang Ed Sheeran in my head.
Just thinking I stuck the landing,
My knee crashed into a stone-hard something,
And Newton’s first law sent me toppling.
That’s right, I fractured my arm and sprained my ankle in the clumsiest way imaginable while on break back home in China. I was running at a speed of 7 miles per hour when I bumped into a two-foot high marble column on the sidewalk and fell on my arms in a projectile motion.
I had broken bones but my iPhone screen stayed intact.
On my 15-hour international flight back to Los Angeles for school, I actually didn’t encounter obvious obstacles like carrying my luggage, walking up stairs and opening doors. There were always nice strangers offering help to a girl with a few broken bones. However, the frustration stemmed from the little things—like eating airplane food left-handed when I’m a righty and staying awake for the entire flight to ensure that my cast didn’t bump into the person beside me.
At school, my roommates thankfully offered to do all my chores and helped me with laundry and groceries. In return, I told them the tale of my broken bones and one of them had a good stomach-hugging, minute-long laugh. Yet, even with all the help from friends and kind strangers, I still did an overhaul of my daily routine. I lived on frozen food for nearly two months because juggling cooking pans with one hand would wake up the building, and showering became a daily one-hour journey fought in steamy mist.
My biggest challenge, however, was taking notes in class. Before the academic quarter started, I searched YouTube for tutorials about writing with my weaker hand. The best I could do was scribble deformed letters. I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t take notes on my computer, since left-handed typing would be better than left-handed writing, right? Well, my English major classes forbid electronics. So, I made a bunch of marks in my notebook during class and slowly transcribed them by hand later so my notes would be marginally more legible.
To save my GPA, I went to my school’s international center and got an advisor to approve my taking less classes than are normally required. All I needed was a doctor’s note, which I got from the student health center. Here’s a little trivia on college resources for when you have broken bones or any other injury: at my school, UCLA, if you’re stuck with broken bones or an injury that prevents you from taking full-time credits for a year or longer, you can petition for a one-half reduction in tuition and fees. Ask around, your school likely has these options as well. My caution to international students: don’t forget to petition to the international center if you’re not taking full-time credits. Otherwise your visa could be invalidated.
Should your broken bones cause you to need help getting across campus, contact the office for students with disabilities (it might be called the center for accessible education) at your school with a doctor’s note. The office is there to help you and will arrange vans to drive you to classes.
If you’re hell-bent on getting the most out of your tuition money and don’t want to take less credits, the office for students with disabilities also has resources to make studying and note taking in class easier. You can get a note-taker to help you write down key points in class and the office can contact your professors for any deadline extension or special test arrangement you might need. And don’t worry, the school should provide these services at no extra cost to you.
Even though I’m seven thousand miles away from home, my roommates have been like parents when I had my broken bones. They did my laundry for me, carried my backpack, excused me from all cleaning duties, heated up food and even offered to wash my hair. But the best part was that falling to have broken bones didn’t mean falling behind in my classes. Campus resources for students who have disabilities (even for a short period of time) provide all the services students need. Two months later, when the limited movements have gone away, a cleaner room and closer friendships are the things that stayed. Thanks to the flexible arrangement my advisor made for me, my GPA didn’t suffer much either.