An Aspie Pespective: My Challenges in College and Graduating During Covid-19

James Reed

James Reed shares his experiences attending different colleges in California.

As a Freshman, I began attending college at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I requested single room accommodations in the first week of classes and received them in the third week. During those initial weeks living with two roommates was not a struggle: both were very respectful and I was too. When I received my single room, I found myself self isolating. I didn’t want to go out and meet other people because I felt as if I had unfinished personal work to do.

I went into college without knowing what resumes and cover letters were, so I was disappointed in myself when I was unable to land a job on campus. One day I was unable to cope with the stress of my academics and personal life, and I ended up saying something which lead to me being removed from student housing. I will not specifically state what the context was, but the result was my housing was relocated to a hotel outside of UC Santa Cruz for the rest of the semester.

My family and I thought it would be easier to go to a different university closer to home. My Godfather recommended I go to Vanguard University because it was a small private college in a Christian setting. We thought it would work better because it would be a new beginning (there are no new beginnings; we are all in one continuation). I received better grades than ever, and I attended all the club meetings that the school had to offer. I was considered a great member of the community due to my feedback within lectures and club meetings. However, an inevitable issue came from my own volition.

Despite my good grades and contributions, I had several outbursts on campus. There were times where I disturbed the public due to making inappropriate comments and actions. One time I randomly said “I have schizophrenia” as a joke with no setup. These incidents added up during the year, and I had to complete a contract promising I would not do it again. I finished that school year and returned for fall semester. I came back after months of reflection and therapy over how I acted in the previous year. However, one more outburst slipped past my radar.

I was removed from Vanguard University because I told my Old Testament professor “I’m going to rip my throat out if I don’t pass my exam.” I said this not be taken literally but as a figure of speech. I told the student council that I meant to say, “rip my hair out,” but it was too late. As someone with autism, it’s difficult to understand the world outside of oneself. Children are told that curse words are the worst things they can say, so when they stop cursing, they become confused when they still receive repercussions for their diction. I was removed from school and decided to continue my studies at Pasadena City College.

Pasadena City College had more opportunities and clubs than Vanguard University. Despite everything, nothing could get in the way of my extracurriculars and my education. However, it was difficult having to switch from community after community with each new institution. The Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles was one of the best groups I took part in; they were a humble Christian group with a modest goal of bringing peace between the two Koreas. I ended up going with them to Korea and Japan on a mission trip. My experiences with them in addition to my grades helped me get accepted to Loyola Marymount University in the Fall of 2018.

Living on campus at Loyola was no struggle at all. Not only did I receive a job at the school library, but I began working as a note taker. In addition, I began to write for the Marketing and Communications Department at LMU. I was assigned to go to different events within and outside campus to interview the hosts of these events for research. This was the first semester I lived with a roommate. My relationship with them was easy; we had a lot in common from Team Fortress 2, to memes, and world history. The real challenge came when I began to study abroad in Hong Kong in the Spring of 2019.

In Asia, I learned to live on my own on the other side of the world without immediate family support. In addition to academics, I prepared my own meals daily and did my own shopping. During that time, I did volunteer work to help elementary school students with English language in a group of college undergraduates. I returned home in May one week before protests started. I returned to California for my final year of college.

When I came back for the 2020 school year, I continued my usual work on campus in addition to my academic work. This went on as normal until the stay-at-home order was placed in the US due to the Corona virus. Staying at home became an issue because of my autism; people who long to communicate with others never want to be at home all day. Nonetheless, I found myself finding more people to talk to. I continued my academic work as normal until I reached my commemoration in May 2020.

James Reed
James Reed is an aspiring writer/artist from Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. He graduated from Loyola Marymount University in May. James would like to work abroad. His interests include drawing, reading, writing, and travel. James has visited many countries and states and enjoys learning about their histories and cultures.

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