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George Upfield photographed with a black Labrador

George Upfield came to the University of Reading with his guide dog Yoko to study Classics as an Undergraduate in 2016, and graduated in 2019.

University is a big step-up for anyone, being in completely unfamiliar surroundings and meeting loads of different people, but for George having a vision impairment, this was an even more daunting prospect. 

Added to this were worries about his disability hindering him from keeping up-to-date with coursework. However, Yoko and George were made to feel very welcome, not only by the halls staff, but also in the Classics Department.

“During Fresher’s Week, I had tours of the Classics Department with my tutor so I knew where everything was, and then had tours of the main campus so I could find other lecture halls, the library and cafes.

My worries of not keeping up with coursework deadlines were soon put to rest after my first couple of essays, and I quickly found a routine of research to suit me, with the help of my lecturers.

I also got more confident about asking for help or clarification if I didn’t understand something.”

Building strong bonds of friendship

The best moments of studying the course for George were the ones he shared with friends.

“I made lots of friends and I still keep in touch with some of them today. Having Yoko with me helped as she was a fantastic social icebreaker, and we both became celebrities around campus!

Whether it was working together in seminars, doing extra-curricular studies before and after lectures, having lunch or dinner together or having movie nights we had a laugh, helped each other with work, and made other friends too.”

George often visited the Classics Resources Room with his friends. The short visits would be to try and find a useful book to reference in an essay, and the longer visits would be for group research sessions or simply socialising over lunch.

“The best memories I have in that room are just setting the world to rights with friends, feeling a geeky kick when finding something to help with coursework or revision, and most of all, testing each other on vocabulary during the first two years and laughing at how bad we were!”

So was it worth it?

George is now working as a fixed-term intern at Guide Dogs, based within the Philanthropy and Visitor Experience teams.

“Being a guide dog owner myself and having volunteered for the charity for six years, I’m really enjoying it. I have to meet deadlines for projects I work on, similar to meeting deadlines for coursework or a dissertation at University.”

Looking back fondly at his time in Reading, George has some advice for prospective students:

“I remember sensing a cosy air about the Classics Department and the Ure Museum; everyone always very friendly and helpful. I cannot emphasise this enough, do not be afraid to say if you need help or don’t understand something, that’s what the lecturers are there for. Make use of the Classics Resources Room, it’s a great place to socialise as well as conduct research. Above all, enjoy your time in the Classics Department, and good luck for your degree!”