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Dyslexia doesn’t stop me

PROFILE Nothing is impossible, but everything becomes easier with favourable conditions. Just ask Johanna Lundström, student in the Architectural Programme. She was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, and has now discovered a world of smart tools and programmes to help her studies along.

How did you end up in Umeå?

"I was born and raised in Luleå, but have lived here in Umeå at three times in my life. My first time was to play basketball as a professional with the Umeå team. Then, I moved here to take a Master's in Law, but I quit and moved home again before I applied and was accepted to the Architectural Programme at Umeå University. That was two years ago. This autumn I've started my fourth year."

How and when did you find out you had dyslexia?

"During my second stop in Umeå, when I studied law, I stayed with a friend of my mum's who's a psychiatrist. We talked about my studies and when I said how hard I'd fought with my reading and learning, she recommended an investigation. So I only found out about my dyslexia as an adult."

Why did you quit the Master's Programme in Law?

"It wasn't primarily my dyslexia, it was motivation. We had a few study visits early on in the programme and I simply didn't think the tasks of the job interested me enough. If I had really wanted to work as a lawyer, I think I could've pulled through. But now since I've started the Architectural Programme, I think I've found something that suits me better. I actually enjoy studying now."

Tell us more!

"I've always had a strong interest in design and interior design, and have always fancied doing something where I help people. And the method of studies suits me better. University studies, regardless of programme are tough, but at the Architectural Programme, we have lots of presentations and oral examinations in comparison to the Master's Programme in Law. With my diagnosis, I've also gained access to a series of educational aids and tools that I was unaware of before."

What kind of tools are they?

"When you start your studies, you can get help with most things; everything from taking notes at lectures to audio course literature from the library. The latest thing I've discovered is a programme that reads PDF documents to you, which is smart because most of our course material is based on articles and excerpts from books in PDF."

How have the tools changed your study technique?

"At the moment, I'm struggling with how to best use the various tools. Being in the dark about my dyslexia for so long, I've created my own strategies and methods to manage my studies. With these new tools, it's like getting used to a new way of studying. I don't think I'll ever use all the tools on offer, but it's good that they're there if I, or others in my situation, need them."

Have you got any tips for students with dyslexia?

"Basically, this is my approach: Everyone has the right to study at a university, even those of us with reading difficulties. If you find something that you're passionate about, you can find a path to get there. And there is plenty of support, methods and tools to pull through the education."

Where in Umeå do you live?

"After two years in a housing queue and living in a few student dorms and lodging, I've finally found my own apartment at Sandåkern. I really like it there."

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Johanna's top 3 activities

1. IKSU Sport for boosting endorphins and stress relief
2. Bildmuseet for inspiration and relaxation
3. Sliperiet for creative input and new insights

What do you think about Umeå as a city?

"I like it more for every year I'm here. To begin with, I missed my basketball home town of Luleå, but student life here is really great. Everything is at biking distance and there's a large variety of sports and recreation available. As a student in the Architectural Programme, I spend most of my time at Umeå Arts Campus, with Bildmuseet and Sliperiet close by."

Are you planning on taking your entire programme in Umeå?

"I'm considering taking a term or two on exchange in Germany. My grandma is from there and I speak a bit of German, which may make it easier for me to manage my studies. Just like in Sweden, there is also support for us who need it, audio course literature, extended examination times and so on. Now that I know what to ask for, all opportunities are open to me."

 

This text is a translation of an article first published in the magazine Allt kommer bli bra 2019/20.