Study Abroad: This student didn’t let Marfan syndrome stop him from studying in the UK

Diptansu Sen has had three open-heart, nine eye and spinal surgeries. Despite that, he left home to study in UK.

Study Abroad: This student didn’t let Marfan syndrome stop him from studying in the UK Multiple surgeries and poor health condition could not stop him from studying in the UK (image courtesy: Diptansu Sen)
Team Careers360 | Sep 5, 2023 - 4:32 p.m. IST
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By Diptansu Sen

NEW DELHI: I was born into a middle-class family in Kolkata. My father is a businessman and my mother, a teacher. I was born with a disability called Marfan syndrome. This syndrome is genetic and affects the connective tissues.

This affected various parts of my body in different ways. When I was born, I went into the incubator for 14 days. I was diagnosed with the condition when I was four months old.

None of my parents or anyone else in the extended family had Marfan’s syndrome. Because of this problem, I could not walk properly and had to drag my feet. I used to wear callipers and crutches and this happened to be the case till my early college years.

Education in Kolkata

I studied in St. Xavier’s collegiate school in Kolkata from Classes 1 to 12. I completed Class 12 in 2013 and I was very fortunate that I had great mentors and fantastic teachers there. I was a good student. I was awarded the gold medal for my overall performance by the school. I was a regular participant in activities like public speaking and quiz competitions. I am also a huge football fan.

Next, I went to St. Xaviers College, Kolkata to pursue a degree in commerce. Academically, I got a lot of support from my school and from my college. They were helpful but still, it wasn’t a smooth journey.

I joined the University of Dundee in September 2022 to study international business and marketing. I was supposed to join the university in January 2020 but I could not owing to my health condition. I completed my exams and am expecting the results in October or November. The convocation is scheduled for November 2023.

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Surgeries and hospitalisation

When I was eight years old, my lower spine was surgically repaired at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi; my legs were also twisted. That was in 2003 and I was in Class 3.

Next, I had three open heart surgeries. The first one was when I was in Class 9. I was operated upon in Batra Hospital in Delhi. In 2010, the year I had to appear for my board exams, I had my second open heart surgery. The third happened much later, in November 2019. At that time I was preparing to come here and pursue master's at the University of Dundee. I was supposed to come here [Dundee] in January 2020 but I could not because of the surgery and after that, the covid pandemic forced me to defer further.

During the third open heart surgery, my heart stopped beating for two minutes and 32 seconds and I spent three days on a ventilator. Somehow I survived that too.

I was a sighted person until 2016 but because of the same genetic disorder, I lost my vision. I had multiple retinal tears, had to undergo nine eye surgeries, some in Kolkata, some in Chennai in Sankara Nethralaya. But they didn’t help. I lost my eyesight completely in 2017.

Why study abroad

I always wanted to go abroad as I felt that my undergraduate degree was not good enough. I wanted to upgrade myself as a professional and I wanted to learn more. This opportunity just happened in 2019 when I visited an education fair in Kolkata. I was able to meet representatives from various universities abroad including the University of Dundee.

I got to know about their programme, MSc in International Business and Marketing. I applied for it and fortunately got an offer.

My parents were initially apprehensive but later felt confident that I would be able to do it. They supported me. Obviously my coming here and living all by myself was worrying for them as I had lived with them all along.

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University of Dundee

When I landed in Edinburgh it was very, very cold. I came from Kolkata to Edinburgh via Doha. One of the representatives from the University of Dundee picked me up and brought me to the student accommodation. He was very friendly and I liked spending those first few moments with him.

I started living in a flat which is basically a student dorm. I had one room and there were six flatmates. The flatmates were extremely kind. They were from six countries across four continents. They were from the US, Ghana, Palestine, Scotland, Oman and I am Indian. That was very unique. All of them brought their own cultures and were respectful to each other.

Anytime I needed any help, they were always there for me, helping with my commute or in the kitchen, at every stage they were always there for me. Even the managers and others who were in the flat would chat with me and constantly offered help.

Also, the university provided ample support. They gave me a laptop and I was also given guides. Two of them were extremely helpful – they took my notes and they helped me with my projects. They were hired by the university from Randstad which has a tie-up with the University of Dundee. They were also students and they were wonderful.

There were specific projects that were very difficult for me because of my visual impairment. There was a project that involved creating or designing a poster which is very difficult for a person with visual impairment. I was given a bit of consideration on those projects; my teachers explained in detail and I could cross the hurdles.

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Education loan and jobs

I had taken an education loan from the private Avanse Financial Service. I intend to pay off the loan once I get a job. My EMI does not start until next year.

I have applied for internships here. If that works out, I will be here. After getting my master’s degree, I will apply for jobs here but finally, I would like to go back home and work there after gaining some experience here.

I am looking for a job in marketing and advertising along with the scope of creative writing. I also had modules on social media marketing in my master's course.

I also write. My first book was published in April 2022. It is called Assorted Volume 1 It is available on Amazon. It is a collection of nine short stories. And I will continue to write and publish more books in the future.

(As narrated to Pritha Roy Choudhury)

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