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Sonya Rooney graduated with a MSc in International Tourism Management. In the later stages of her degree programme Sonya developed a complicated pregnancy and was put on home rest meaning that she had to complete her course via video chat, email and phone calls.

Although given the option to defer for a year Sonya was determined to finish her course and graduate this year. Thanks to modern technology and support from the Course Director and her fellow students Sonya was able to keep up with the workload and today graduates with Distinction.

Sonya said:

“I am delighted to graduate today. It was a challenging but very rewarding course. I had to overcome a few extra obstacles considering I was on home rest for the last few months of the course but the support I received encouraged me to persevere and achieve my goals.”

Before completing her Masters, Sonya had no prior university experience and entered the programme through an Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning application (APEL). She has a wealth of experience in the hospitality sector having worked both here in Northern Ireland and in the US.

“I guess you could say I grew up in the hospitality sector. My parents ran a bar and restaurant which I worked in from a young age. I completed an advanced GNVQ in hospitality and catering management before moving to New York for 10 years where I worked in various roles including hotel front of house and corporate events.”

Sonya had always planned to return home to Northern Ireland, making the move 7 years ago. She continued her career in hospitality working in leading restaurants in Newcastle and Cancer Fund for Children’s Daisy Lodge. As thoughts turned to her future Sonya decided to study for her Masters,

“This Masters in International Tourism Management was the next logical step for me. It was a great opportunity to build on my professional experience and has given me the confidence to pursue my dream of setting up my own business.”

Sonya also received the Cross Keys Award for best performing student in the Research Methods and Dissertation/Business Project module. The business project focused on Photographic Tourism and Sonya is currently working with her husband to bring the project to life. They hope to have it up and running by March 2018.