So, you are a hearing undergraduate who is thinking about attending the world’s only Deaf liberal arts university, Gallaudet? Great! You are not sure what to expect? That’s normal. You do not know what the future may hold for you as student at Gallaudet? Me either! I always wondered though if….Ah, never mind. Well, even though I do not know what is in your future, I can share my experiences with you and maybe, in the process, help you to see whether Gallaudet may be an important part of your future as it was in mine. Perhaps this series of blogs will help you–a HUG–feel more at ease about what to expect at Gallaudet University.
I always like starting at the beginning. So, I hope you don’t mind. Let’s see…the beginning of your experience at Gallaudet would be, um, looking it up online, checking out what it has to offer, considering whether or not this is the place for you. You’re off to a great start!
I went through this same process, only, for me, it took me almost two years before I even typed “Gallaudet” into my web browser. I always thought that Gallaudet was a school exclusive for people who are Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. I had heard of some brave hearing people attending summer programs there, but it seemed like only the best-of-the-best went to these programs. I also felt a certain reverence towards Gallaudet–almost as if it was the hallowed ground for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people–and for me, a hearing person, I believed that to tread on these grounds would be to commit the most abhorrent crime of the 21st century.
You can relax now. Those are all misconceptions. Hearing people do go to Gallaudet University (and not just for summer programs). Hearing students come as visiting students (one semester), undergraduates, and graduates. Some hearing people are near native-like signers and others have hardly signed a day in their lives.
Also, while Gallaudet does have a sense of pride and deep, rich, significant history about it, it does not mean that hearing people cannot partake of the Deaf-World there. It simply means that we should feel honored and show respectfulness towards the Deaf community for welcoming us into the heart of their community to witness their culture in action and learn from them in the same way that we can learn from other cultures and minorities from around the globe. It is a rare and exhilarating occurrence to experience culture–any culture–first hand. So it is with Gallaudet.
I say all of this so that, when you do begin to consider Gallaudet as an option for your future, you will not feel reluctant or have any insecurities like I did. Think of Gallaudet as a “study abroad program.” It is no different than any other school you are considering except that it offers a rich cultural experience, second language immersion, bi-lingual education, and specialized training for those wishing to communicate or work with people who use ASL. In addition, it is located in one of the best cities in the U.S. for fostering education: Washington, DC.
So, if you have a passion for learning, for working with people who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, for Deaf culture, for ASL, and for getting your hands dirty in a complete immersion program, then roll up your sleeves because you are in the right place.