Imagine sitting in class and realizing you forgot your pencil. While you look for it, the professor gives important information that will be in your next test, and as you finally look up, the class has moved on to a different subject. Unable to ask your peers for a pen or what the professor said because they won’t understand. As you look for guidance at the front of the classroom, you find the only person that understands. Your interpreter.
For senior elementary education major Monica Mishrigi, this scenario represents one of many of her everyday life. As a deaf student at the University of Central Florida, she had to overcome obstacles and face challenges to receive the education many take for granted.
Mishrigi decided to study education after having an American Sign Language teacher that showed her how rewarding it could be to merge the worlds of the deaf and the hearing together. However, her educational journey has been everything but simple.
“I had an experience before,” Mishrigi said of her time at Valencia College. “I was constantly being disciplined by the teacher. I felt like I was blocked in regards to my learning. She felt because I was deaf, maybe I was lower educated and wasn’t smart enough.”
As Mishrigi made her transition into UCF, professors started to provide resources that would eventually accommodate her learning style, leading her to UCF’s Writing Center; an on-campus place where students receive support on their writing. Here is where she met senior English language arts education major Rena Perez, her tutor for the past two years.
With the help of an American Sign Language interpreter provided by UCF’s student accessibility center, Perez started her weekly sessions through which she got to understand the great difference between ASL and the English language.
“When Monica first started coming in here, I thought ASL was English but in symbols, but it’s not,” Perez said. “It’s actually a completely different language. The structure, vocabulary, everything is really different. So it was a lot to learn. So now, I have a better understanding of deaf culture, as well as the translations between the two and how overwhelming it can be to learn, seeing it firsthand.”
Being able to have a voice in the collegiate world will ultimately help Mishrigi create a bridge between the two worlds, and it will allow for a larger and more inclusive conversation.
A step in that direction involves announcing the presence of a deaf student in the classroom prior to the start of class, in order for peers to be aware of the extra aid these students would need, according to Perez.
The biggest challenge Monica faces, according to Perez, involves clear understanding of expectations and assignments since some of it can get lost in translation.
While Mishrigi helps Perez understand the different ways that students need support in their learning, the interaction and ultimately friendship that blossomed between them is what united them these past two years.
“We have become really close friends,” Perez said. “She teaches me as much as I teach her. [It’s] a mutually learning experience,” Perez said.
“I think it is really important for the deaf to be involved with the hearing world,” Mishrigi said. “Because if they do not get that experience, I mean, this is the world that we live in. So, if the hearing are a little more zealous to try to get to know us and involve us more, I think that would help.”
No matter the struggle and the extra effort, Mishrigi looks forward to her graduation this summer, when she will be able to prove that deaf students can leave a mark in the hearing world.
“I feel like sometimes [the deaf] do have a negative view of things because they do not have that support,” she said. “But I don’t care. I have to get my education and this is top priority for me. Discrimination, I have to let it go. I have to keep positive,” Mishrigi said.