(Sebastian is a T6 paraplegic, post-injury 2 years, and a Masters student at the University of San Diego)
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” was a quote a close friend had shared with me shortly before my motorcycle accident in January 2019 that left me paralyzed from the chest down. I had just graduated from San Diego State University, accepted my first full-time position as a cost analyst, and my applications for master’s programs for the following fall were pending.
Now, I am originally from Germany and don’t have any family in the United States, so when my accident happened, my parents and sisters had to fly in to be with me during this burdensome time. While I was fortunate to have many supportive friends in San Diego, the truth was, once everyone went back to their usual routine, I would be on my own.
I was told several times that I had to go back home so my family could take care of me or that I had to make arrangements to live in a care home. I didn’t want to hear any of it. But there were many other voices too, that shared their optimism and believed that I would be able to become independent again.
So I made a choice. I planned out my future and I wasn’t going to let my injury come in the way. I worked diligently to improve my physical condition and strength, and only four months after my accident, I was sitting in an interview with the head of the Business Analytics program at the University of San Diego. I expressed that I had such a significant interest in their program that I wouldn’t even let a recent spinal cord injury get in the way.
I was accepted into the program and soon set out on my next adventure towards the accelerated 11-month Master of Science in Business Analytics degree. I typically had class from 9am to 3pm, followed by homework and group projects. The program included a two-week international consulting project during winter break for which we flew to Madrid, and in the spring I worked with a local biotech company for my capstone project. The year flew by and I could not have had a better experience.
In retrospect, starting the program so soon after my accident was the best thing I could have done. I had many questions before I went back to being a full-time student: Will I have enough time to study when daily activities such as getting dressed or taking a shower suddenly take so much longer? How will I get around the hilly campus? Will I be able to concentrate in class with all the pain medication I take? How will I get lunch in the cafeteria when I can’t carry a tray? How will I participate in the international project when I have never even left the city since my accident? And will my classmates treat me like one of them or like an outsider with a severe disability?
I didn’t have an answer for any of these questions when I decided to continue with my education. And if I had waited until I had all the answers, I would have never gotten the degree. This is the best lesson my master’s has taught me: don’t wait until you feel ready. Set your mind on the end goal and figure out the “how” along the way, one step at a time. All you have to do is to go confidently in the direction of your dreams and you can still live the life you imagined for yourself.
– Follow him on Instagram at @sebwallat