I am a university student in London, and I’m now in my 2nd year of studying for my BA in Film and Photography.
People used to talk to me a lot about the support I would need when I started university, but no one offered me any advice on how to make a hearing friend, or how to fit into a hearing world.
Students in my class always waved at me, or smiled at me, but they hardly ever spoke to me socially.
Until one day.
I was travelling on a bus to my university, and I saw a girl I know get on. She stood next to me. She smiled at me, and I smiled back. Then..
THE AWKWARD SILENCE.
Neither of us made the first move.
I started to feel under pressure, thinking ‘what should I say to her?’ ‘What if I say something and she doesn’t understand me?’
Then I said to myself: ‘Samira, why are you so nervous?’
I turned to her and asked: ‘Hi, are you ok? How was your weekend?’
That day, my friendship with her began.
I have realised that if a Deaf person wants to make a hearing friend, they have to put in the effort, because hearing people often don’t know how to communicate with Deaf people, and don’t have any Deaf awareness.
Along the way, we can show them how we communicate, and with time, they will get used to it.
I find it quite difficult to make hearing friends, but I have realised they are nervous about talking to me as well. I have to reassure them that I am just like them.
Another thing I have noticed is that there are things I shouldn’t say when I am around hearing people.
For example, if students on my course are talking about the soundtrack to a film and I jokily say ‘sorry I can’t answer that one,’ they look at me awkwardly and don’t know what to say. Of course, I am only joking, but they don’t realise that.
Maybe it’s too early to joke about deafness. I don’t want sympathy from them, but I understand where they are coming from. I can have those kinds of jokes with my Deaf friends, about not being able to hear things. But around hearing people, I think it’s best not to joke about things like that unless you know them very well.
To people who are starting university or already have started university, I have this to say: There are times where you will be out of your comfort zone but it will be worth it in the end. I am a shy person but I now make the first move, and that helps me to build up my confidence around hearing people.
Also, be friends with hearing people who understand for who you are.
I have experienced so many awkward silences and now, I want to break the barrier of the awkward silence! Because of this, I have made some great friends, friends I never thought I would have.
Samira Mohammed is a BSL user, and is currently studying Film and Photography at university. Follow her on Twitter as @_MissSamira
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