A RECENT graduate from Shirley is encouraging others to follow her wake, as she graduated with a master’s degree – with distinction – in History at Swansea University.
Jessica Smith, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, received her degree on the stage at Swansea Arena this week, capping a record of stellar achievement at Swansea. She was awarded a BA (First Class Honours) in History and Geography in 2020, before undertaking the MA.
Jessica now has a full-time job at Devon County Council in transport planning, using her exceptional organisational skills.
Her road to success, however, was far from easy as she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome which is an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) as a teenager.
She said: “I was very much breaking the mould.
“Two things about Swansea caught my eye – the picture of a surfer on the beach next to campus that was on the prospectus, and the fact that they had a specialist support team for students with an ASC. None of the universities I had been looking at offered either of those things.
“A friend and I came to an open day and we both ended up studying at Swansea!”
Swansea University has a dedicated ASC team, which supports students from the time when they first accept a place, to arriving and settling in and throughout their studies.
One resource is the Eureka group, a social group for students who have difficulty meeting new people, or who have an ASC, or who think that they may be on the spectrum even if they don’t have a diagnosis.
Jessica added: “The support from Swansea’s ASC team was amazing. It really helped me grow in confidence. It can be tough for anyone, but for people with an ASC, starting university and mixing with new people can be especially difficult.
“If you have an ASC, don’t let the stigma other people place on it hold you back. You can reach your goals, whatever they may be, and although support is a wonderful thing, don’t feel like you always have to be wrapped up in cotton wool.
“Aim high – and don’t let anyone hold you down.”