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Danielle overcomes health challenges to graduate with First Class Honours

Danielle Blee, aged 24 and from Glennmornan in Co. Tyrone, will graduate today (Friday 16 December) with a Master’s (MA) in Literary Studies from the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s University Belfast.

During her time at university, Danielle faced some health challenges living with a chronic illness, Crohn’s disease, and being diagnosed with dyslexia during her studies after struggling with her reading.

Speaking about her experience, Danielle said: “The University showed me a lot of kindness during my time there. When my Crohn’s disease began flaring during my studies, the university was very understanding of my situation, and I was allowed flexibility with deadlines. My personal tutor Dr Ramona Wray was supportive and kind, and always kept in touch to make sure everything was going okay. Tutors were very understanding if I had to miss tutorials or lectures if I wasn’t feeling well and would organise for note-takers to be there in my absence. I think that was what helped make the experience of studying full-time with a chronic illness a little more doable as I always knew I had someone to turn to for help.

“I was also tested for and diagnosed with dyslexia after I struggled with my reading and my tutor recommended the test which the University organised. That diagnosis was life-changing as I finally had the extra support that I needed to put me on the same playing field as everyone else. That’s actually what encouraged me to continue studying at Queen’s as I knew that they understood my condition and my limitations as well.”

Danielle moved to England whilst studying for her Master’s to take up a dream job as a Visitor Experience Trainee at Wordsworth Grasmere in the Lake District, which was once the home of William Wordsworth. However, this didn’t come without its challenges.

Danielle commented: “I was very nervous when writing my dissertation as I had just moved to England alone to start working full-time. It was immensely stressful trying to feel at home in a different country as well as handle a full-time job. With the stress of the dissertation on top of that, I thought I wouldn’t do as well as I had hoped, but I will graduate with First Class Honours.

“In a way, it feels like a dream because I never thought I would have been capable of this. Living with a chronic illness and struggling with my mental health has been challenging but I want to stress that I couldn’t let it hold me back. I’m so proud of myself and my course mates for everything we have achieved.”

Looking ahead to her graduation day and the future, Danielle added: “My plan is to have a wonderful day with my family and friends. I’m very much looking forward to the ceremony and having lunch with my parents and partner afterwards.

“Working in a historical house has always been a dream of mine and I love working in the Heritage and Cultural sector. However, my hope is to apply to do a PhD in Scotland in the next few years. I would love to continue my research in the grotesque aesthetic and expand upon my knowledge and interest in literature.”