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Don’t let them bring you down

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Written by Luca Torelli

One of my earliest memories related to education is clearly collocated in eighth grade when, while discussing which kind of college we would like to sign up to, my teacher said that no, I shouldn’t think about enrolling in a linguistic high school, but rather in an easier one, like the hotel school.

Even then I was able to understand why, as the real reason passed over in silence, she said that: my stutter. A teacher, whose real task is to explore the potential of each kid and to let he/she express his/her deep self, was telling me to avoid what’s difficult, to choose the easy way, as if my defective speaking would forever keep me away from any kind of satisfaction.

Despite her advice, I decided to sign up for a scientific high school where, not without difficulties and challenges (as every student, with a stutter or without), after five years I graduated with success.

After that, keeping always in mind the advice to dream small given to me by my teacher years before, I wanted to test my true limits joining the university, as, in fact, I really loved to learn every day something new, trying to create my own place into the world by getting the higher education possible. My stutter hit me deeply this time, as at every oral exam I felt that not even half of what I had studied was able to emerge and, month by month, disappointment after disappointment, the exams were piling up, making me feel always less confident and beginning to think that – maybe – my teacher was right: a stutterer should keep his/her feet on the ground.

Some years passed by and by then I put my ambitions aside, trying to forge my future in a different shape, but not really accepting the failure. I knew that something wasn’t right: was it all my fault or maybe, to some extent, the method of judging my preparation at university wasn’t fair? As with playing golf, everyone should be able to express him/herself to the fullest, adapting the kind of interaction to the limits of the candidate. That’s when I’ve, for the first time, decided to expose these issues to my university where, in fact, I’ve found an amazing response: everybody there shared my view, offering an alternative path to reach my goals.

That’s when, moving from a whole different perspective, I began a new and exciting way of dealing with lessons and exams, explaining to professors and colleagues what stuttering was and feeling finally understood. This path ended up creating a solution that was ideal for both me and my examiners: since the main problem was to break the ice and make them understand how good, in fact, my preparation was, we decided to take a written test first, and then discuss it together, adding some questions and getting into the details of what I had written.

This simple idea literally changed my university career. At last I was certain that everything that I’ve learned would be heard or read by the professor, and all the insecurity disappeared, with determination and hope taking its place.

Retrieving few exams that I was able to pass in my previous career, I’ve managed to get a bachelor’s degree in Archival studies in only two years and, then, a master’s degree in Art history in one year and a half, planning to enroll myself in a second level master in Digital archives by January 2020.

Looking back at my teacher’s words now I really believe that their meaning to me changed across the years, relying more on what I was thinking about myself then on their true meaning. When things didn’t work out I tended to agree with those words, using them even as an excuse for my own failures, but as soon as I realized that, in fact, stuttering didn’t really limit myself but it was rather me choosing to limit myself, I’ve found out endless possibilities, and, sometimes, a restriction made for you by somebody else could be the best incentive to show who you really are, and you are not just your stutter, you are much, much more.

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