Jenna battles through illness and grief to graduate with honours

'It was the most challenging period of my life'

Date posted

7 July 2021

07:55

Battling Jenna Neeson has overcome severe Covid-19, the loss of her dad and mental health issues to graduate from Edinburgh Napier.

The 24-year-old was awarded a BA (Hons) in International Festival & Event Management with Entrepreneurship after what she describes as “the most challenging period of my life”.

Jenna Neeson on the lawn at Craiglockhart campus in front of The Egg lecture theatre

Jenna, from Greenock, took up her university place after three years of full-time work but her world came crashing down when her father Stephen, her biggest supporter, died suddenly during her second year.

She said:  “I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t bear the thought of getting out of bed in the morning.

“I actually planned to drop out of university. However, after discussions with my mum and the university, I decided to push through and finish my education.”

Jenna moved back in with her mum for several months, adding a commute to Edinburgh of up to two hours to her daily commitments.

By the time she reached fourth year, the pandemic had struck, meaning her classes were delivered online, but the struggle against Covid-19 was about to become very personal.

She said: “In February I became ill and tested positive for Covid-19. I couldn’t believe the effects it had on me, given that I was young and healthy.  

“As my condition worsened, I was admitted to the high dependency unit in my local hospital to treat Covid-19 and pneumonia. I was placed on breathing apparatus and kept under 24-hour observation.  

“Due to the severity of my illness, I missed seven weeks of classes and writing time for my dissertation. It felt physically impossible for me to finish within the timeframe I was working towards as I was still suffering from the effects of Covid-19 and was then diagnosed with long covid.

“This made it even more difficult to focus as I was suffering from ‘Covid-fog’ and extreme fatigue. Thankfully, I received a great deal of support from the university. Although I was offered the option to defer my studies to next year until I had recovered, I fought against my ill health and my self-doubt.

“I finished the semester with three Merit grades and managed to submit my dissertation, which I dedicated to my Dad, as I told myself I would two years prior.”

Jenna concluded: “Although I’m still struggling due to Covid, I feel fortunate to have finished my course and am so thankful to the university for supporting me throughout the most challenging period of my life.”

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