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Aileen McGuinness graduates this winter with a degree in Renewable Energy Engineering from Ulster University’s Derry~Londonderry Campus.

A Derry~Londonderry native, Aileen was in her fourth and final year at John Moore’s University in Liverpool when she started to feel unwell. Ongoing investigation revealed the diagnosis of a potentially serious condition. The diagnosis had a profound affect which resulted in Aileen making a life-changing decision to leave Liverpool and return home to Derry.

As she explains

“In 2017 I began a four-year course at John Moore’s University in Liverpool, England. I was in the first term of my fourth and final year, it was around November time and that was when everything started to go wrong. I received a potentially serious diagnosis.

I was away from my friends and family. and I just felt that I wasn’t getting the support I needed. Despite having only seven months left of my undergraduate course, I made the decision to leave my course and return home early.”

Once home and with a support network in place, Aileen decided to enrol in her local Ulster University’s Derry~Londonderry Campus to study Renewable Energy Engineering. Although it was a different course to the one she had studied in England, many modules were similar. Ulster University were happy to take into account her work to date and her practical year out which meant Aileen only had to complete two years at Ulster.

“Those were the best two years! I was so nervous, I was 22, turning 23 – many of my friends had graduated already and here I was going back to the start – not only that but I was still recovering from the bad news I had received the year before and was having to work full time to support myself.

It was daunting and full on. However, from the very beginning Ulster University was so accommodating, I explained my situation to them, and they were only too happy to work with me. I was able to do my second year and final year with them as I had already completed my placement year in Liverpool.”

When Aileen first began studying in Liverpool, the Covid-19 pandemic had just hit. By the time she began at Ulster classes had returned in person.

“I hated working online, my friends who were in Liverpool were still all working online. When I returned to Derry, we were able to attend our lectures in-person which made such a difference to my overall university experience.

I had the best couple of years at Ulster, it was so easy to meet people and make friends – the friends I made in the two years at Ulster are friends for life.”

The Renewable Energy Engineering Degree provided Aileen with a range of subjects including mechanical design, electronics and power systems and helped her to access the many career opportunities available in this emerging sector.

Speaking on her course she said “I really loved my course; it taught me to think innovatively and how to turn my ideas into useable technology. It provided me with the skills and knowledge needed to work within the emerging renewable energy industry. The teachers were amazing and a massive support to me. They were always willing to help, staying after class to talk through any queries I had, putting on extra classes – I struggled in a couple of modules, but they really helped me, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Speaking on her overall experience at Ulster, Aileen said:

“Going back to study, especially after getting the bad news that I did, was tough. On top of that I was working full time, and often left my course and went straight to a shift at Tesco. That said I cannot speak highly enough about my experience at Ulster.  Massive thanks to my course director, he didn’t know my story initially, and was so helpful and supportive.

“I got a graduate job with E&I Engineering and I’m now working as a graduate and development engineer. I am absolutely loving it and so glad I made the decisions that I made because they brought me to where I am today.”

View our course pages if you are interested in studying Renewable Energy Engineering