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First Class student overcomes health problems to graduate

A Psychology student who credits Bangor University for ‘taking a chance’ on her has graduated with a First Class Honours degree.

Ashleigh Johnstone from Douglas on the Isle of Man has battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since high school and her health issues meant that she struggled with her GCSE and A Level exams. But despite setbacks, Ashleigh aspired to study at university.

Ashleigh said, “I have always loved education and looked to the next step  - in high school I was very excited to move to university.

“However, my plans hit a bit of a snag when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This severely impacted on my education, as there were many days where I could barely get out of bed. Luckily, my school - St Ninian’s High School - was supportive and they helped facilitate a plan for me to be able to complete my English and Maths GCSEs through online learning.

Ashleigh JohnstoneAshleigh Johnstone

“At A Level they again allowed me to do what I was able to at the time. My health had started to improve and I was able to start considering university, which is something I was worried I would have to miss out on.

“My mum took me along to the Higher Education Fair on the Isle of Man and I spoke to a representative from Bangor University who explained that they would still consider my application, despite only having two A Levels  - and now here I am graduating!”

Once Ashleigh began studying her degree in Psychology with Neuropsychology, she wasted no time in getting involved in activities within the School of Psychology, serving as a Course Representative, Mentor, Open Day Guide and Email buddy. She also travelled to Krakow and Auschwitz in Poland on a field trip in her second year.

Ashleigh explained, “I have genuinely loved my three years at Bangor and have tried to make the most of my time here. At some points throughout my degree I struggled with my health – with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you can have periods where you feel great, and then you can start to relapse again.

“After a few months at university I really started to struggle and considered dropping out because of my health. However, the Disability Services and my tutors were wonderful and have always been very understanding.

“It’s very exciting to be graduating. There were a few occasions where I didn’t think I would make it to graduation, however the staff in the School of Psychology were all so supportive that I kept pushing through.

“It is also slightly bittersweet; I’m going to miss all of my friends who are leaving Bangor, but I’ve got a Masters and PhD waiting for me in September so I’m looking forward to starting that.”

During the summer between second and third year Ashleigh took part in a summer research internship in the psychology department, which she believes helped pave the way for her to pursue a postgraduate degree.

“I learnt so much about psychological research during those two months, and I believe the experience really helped with my postgraduate applications,” said Ashleigh.

“I have been offered a fully funded Masters and PhD at Bangor that I’ll be starting in September. It’s a really exciting project, and it means I get to stay at the university!

“I’m so grateful for all the opportunities Bangor has given me, and I’m looking forward to the next four years!”

Publication date: 13 July 2015