Determined student on her way to a PhD

Ashleigh JohnstoneAshleigh JohnstoneA Psychology student who credits Bangor University for ‘taking a chance’ on her has graduated with an MSc Psychological Research postgraduate degree with distinction.

Ashleigh Johnstone from Douglas on the Isle of Man has battled ME, or 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 went on to study for a Bachelors and Masters degree and is now studying for a PhD.

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 stalled when I was diagnosed with ME. 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.

“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 could start considering university, which is something I had set my heart 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, two graduation ceremonies later, I’m working towards a PhD!

“I tried to make the most of my time at Bangor during my undergraduate degree, and got involved with many schemes and activities.

“During my Masters I went to the British Psychological Society Welsh Branch Annual Student Conference 2016 with my fellow project member Alexander Kelly, to present our Masters work, and we got the prize for Runner Up for Best Talk which felt like a great achievement.

“I also volunteered for Soapbox Science, which was a great opportunity. I was assigned to one of the speakers where I helped them with their preparation, and assisted during the talk by getting people engaged and helping with props. I was also involved in collecting data by asking people what they thought of the event, and how engaged they felt.

“I helped organise the end of year MSc Conference for the School of Psychology which is when all Masters students present their research as their final assignment of the year. It was hard work, however there was a great feeling of satisfaction once the day was complete.

“I’m now working towards a PhD and continuing with my Masters project, which looks at the influence of Martial Arts on cognitive control. I love Bangor University and the area, and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities to continue to study here.

“I’m pleased with the recent news that the Isle of Man Health Minister is working to improve funding on the island to improve treatment and diagnosis of ME. I think this is extremely important as I believe you shouldn’t give up on someone just because they have this illness.

“I have shown that I am fully capable of studying at postgraduate level despite this health condition, but that is only because I had the support necessary to reach higher education in the first place; improving the funding on the Isle of Man is so important to help other people with the condition get the opportunity to reach their goals.”

Publication date: 15 December 2016