When Laura was accepted to do the Masters programme in computing skills for professionals in financial management and business intelligence, she was ecstatic. She was sure it was going to be both challenging and enlightening and she was also positive that she would enjoy the course.
She had graduated top of her class and was getting ready to start work in the Central Bank, so she was looking forward to meeting like minded people, even people experienced in the field.
On the first day of class, they were about 20 students in the class. They all looked young. They all looked like they were also top of their various classes. They were all smartly dressed.
And then she saw Marcia.
Marcia looked wrong. Everything about her looked wrong. Her clothes looked wrong. Her makeup, her hair, they all looked wrong. Laura couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing there, dressed as she was. To make matter worse, she was also chewing gum, and a bit too loudly.
The Professor came in and before he even asked them to introduce themselves, as part of his welcome speech to the new students, he explained that each course in the the programme consisted of 2 modules. He said that they could choose to do one of the two modules or do both. Before he could finish the sentence, Marcia jumped and said, “Well, I’d like to do the easiest one.”
Everybody turned to look at her. She continued chewing her gum as she sat back down without blinking.
That set the tone for how the rest of the class began to see her. It didn’t make sense to any of the other participants, and neither to Laura, that someone would loudly request the easiest course in a programme that a lot of people would give an eye to get into.
The professor smiled and continued his speech like nothing happened.
Marcia was indeed the odd one out. Laura was told that she didn’t even have a university degree not to talk about being first in her class. She used expressions that are not only uncultured but also bordering on vulgar. As was to be expected, everyone started avoiding her.
Laura had decided to take the two modules of the course. It certainly was not going to be a piece of cake, but she was willing to learn everything she could.
Two days after the induction ceremony, they had to do an assignment, in pairs. Before Laura could move from her seat to the person sitting next to her, she saw how everybody was rushing to choose a partner, just so as not to be paired with Marcia. She then decided to something she was sure was stupid, but she told herself that it didn’t really matter as the assignment wasn’t very complicated for her.
So, she went to Marcia and asked if she would like to work with her.
Marcia, looked at her strangely, obviously because she was already sure that none of her classmate would choose to work with her. Gradually, the look of surprise on her face melted into a very warm and beautiful smile.
When they met the following day to start work, she was greeted with another warm smile from Marcia. She thought that the girl might not be so bad after all, and decided to try to get to know her a little.
What she found out not only awed her, but it also made her feel terribly ashamed of herself and her other classmates.
In the morning of the day she was supposed to go write her university entrance exams, Marcia had a severe cerebral paralysis. She was in a coma for two weeks. The doctors almost gave up on her, and then by a stroke of luck or call it a miracle, she came out of coma. She lost her speech and sensibility on both hands and legs. 2 months later after she was discharged from the hospital, she started physiotherapy. 8 months later, she regained use of her legs and continued working on her hands. She also started seeing a speech therapist and about 4 months later she started learning how to talk and how to write. 2 years after the incident, she went back to school to do some sort of professional training, because she was determined not be tagged, “handicapped”. She passed her exams, graduated and was about to start work with a well known multinational IT firm in the human resources department. She signed up for the course and did the entrance exam not really expecting to pass, not to talk of getting in. But, surprisingly, not only did she pass, she was also accepted for the programme.
Marcia might not have had a university education, she might have appeared to be a vulgar, uncultured, lazy and badly-groomed girl who did not seem to belong with Laura’s classmate, but she is not only deserving of her respect but of her admiration as well.