Aberdeen graduate Jennifer Murphy has overcome major eye surgery and the loss of her beloved grandfather whilst managing a rare genetic condition to graduate from the University of Aberdeen.
The 22-year-old from Glasgow says she has accomplished something she thought she would never achieve after completing an MA in Geography.
Jennifer lives with a rare genetic condition which results in severe joint pain.
“Many people doubted that I would manage living away from home. Having to adapt to independent adult life was a challenge but I never gave in.
“Once I got my offers, I felt a pull towards Aberdeen above all others. Being quite introverted and shy during my time at secondary school, I felt a need to get away from home and break out on my own.”
A year before starting University, Jennifer also required major surgery which resulted in the lenses inside her eyes being removed.
"My overall vision was massively improved, although I then had to adapt to my new way of seeing - using reading glasses and wearing contact lenses every day. I also had a lack of peripheral vision but the biggest challenges I faced whilst at the university revolved around the pain I felt from my joints due to my rare genetic condition.”
Jennifer served as co-convenor of the disabled students forum during 3rd year and was Vice-President of the Geography Society in 4th year.
“Both roles involved meeting new people and going out and socialising. I enjoyed being able to go out and experience a level of freedom which I hadn’t in the past.”
However just before the start of her final year, Jennifer suffered a sad personal loss that threatened to derail her studies altogether.
“In the midst of working on my dissertation my grandfather sadly passed away. He had declined rapidly and somewhat unexpectedly over the summer. This was the first loss of a family member I had experienced since I was very young. It was hard to find the motivation during this but I overcame because he was always so encouraging and proud of all his grandchildren.”
But despite this sadness, Jennifer says she has experienced many highlights during her four years in Aberdeen.
"My favourite moments include a field trip to Inverness in my second year during which I cemented friendships that would last through the next two years. Another highlight included a field trip to Boston. This was my first time travelling to another country in my own and I massively enjoyed the freedom I experienced.”
As someone who feels she has never been the centre of attention, Jennifer admits the lack of ceremony this summer is somewhat disappointing.
“I had been dreaming of my graduation from the very beginning. Growing up, I wasn’t ever the one in the spotlight. I didn’t have dancing shows, musicals or even a communion like the rest of my cousins did. I was always the one cheering them on. I had hoped that my graduation would be my moment in the spotlight amongst my large extended family.
“I try to see the bigger picture. I have my degree now. I’ve accomplished something I thought I would never achieve - a pandemic can’t take that away.”
Jennifer hopes to undertake postgraduate study in the future.