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Inspiring 2018 graduates: Emma Fitzsimmons

A Leeds Beckett student’s high achievements in the face of adversity have ensured her graduation this week carries extra meaning.

Emma Fitzsimmons

Emma Fitzsimmons, a 25-year-old BA History student, has overcome numerous hurdles to achieve top marks in all three years of her course, to graduate with first class honours.  

A History enthusiast from childhood, studying the subject at university was a long-held ambition for Emma, who has Asperger’s and dyspraxia.

She said: “The route to higher education has been a longer journey for me. I did a couple of other courses before starting A Levels at Leeds City College.

“My disabilities impacted my ability to travel independently so this was something I had to overcome before I could go to college.”

Emma knew Leeds Beckett was the right university for her after attending an open day and gradually adapted to life at the university. One of her first major challenges came in her first semester.

She said: “I panicked in the first semester exams even though it was one of my strongest subjects - the French Revolution - and I had revised really well. I had to re-sit.

“Fortunately, I was able to control my anxiety the second time around. I have been fine taking exams since then.

“Difficulties with anxiety and social interaction are quite common for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and I also found making presentations to seminar groups particularly challenging.

“However, the tutors have been very encouraging and my confidence has grown to the extent that I have made a number of presentations this year.”

Emma attributes much of her ability to better control her anxiety to the support she has received at Leeds Beckett and through regular sessions with university support staff.

“All the staff have made a huge difference to my experience in Leeds,” she added.

“I have received excellent support from tutors and lecturers, and I’ve been attending a Spectrum group, which is a fortnightly meeting for Leeds Beckett students to meet other students with ASD.”

Looking to the future, Emma is set to continue her education at Leeds Beckett by completing a Master’s degree in Social History.

She said: “My undergraduate degree confirmed my enthusiasm for history and I didn’t consider applying to any other university to do it.

“I plan to do it over two years, so I am not pressurised for deadlines, and would like to do some voluntary work alongside it.”

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