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Lauren Monaghan graduates from Ulster University this summer with a degree in Computer Science.

Lauren always took a keen interest in computers and maths, and loved learning about how computer programmes work. Her decision to apply to Ulster University was inspired by her software development teacher in school who rated the course, and encouragement from her friends who were already in their first year and enjoying the student experience.

But the road to higher education hadn’t always been smooth sailing for Lauren as she explains:

“I was diagnosed with a very rare brain tumour at age 12. Soon after, I went through two surgeries with the second leading to a number of complications and further medical conditions. I had to take time out of school to travel to the USA for trials and treatment, as well as to adjust to new medications to keep my body functioning. I still have rough days coping with the complications of my tumour, but I’ve learned to adapt and make the most of the good days.”

Battling through her health issues, Lauren worked with a tutor from home to continue her studies and ensure she didn’t fall behind her classmates. It was at this stage that she was advised by her consultants to leave education after her GCSEs but this wasn’t in Lauren’s plan:

“Despite the doctors’ advice, I knew I wanted to keep going – I wanted to do my A-Levels and go onto higher education. The number of complications after the surgery and radiotherapy treatment I had undergone were challenging but I worked hard to catch up with classmates and get the grades I needed to move onto the next stage of my education.”

Lauren caught up with her classmates with the help of teachers and support staff, despite everything she had overcome, and was on track to sit her A-Levels when another health issue, not connected to the brain tumour, was discovered. As a result, Lauren had to be held back a year:

“Me and my family always joke that it wasn’t the very serious brain tumour that held me back a year but an unrelated medical problem that required surgery. No one saw that coming.”

Lauren received the necessary treatment, went back to school to sit her A-Levels and was successful in her application to come to study at Ulster University in 2019. For Lauren, although it felt like a big jump moving from school to university, she found her lecturers very supportive and helped make the transition easier, along with support from Student Wellbeing.

In the first semester of her first year, Lauren enjoyed campus life and her mum made the trip a few times a week from their home in Ballymoney to bring her to the Derry~Londonderry campus. But then the Coronavirus pandemic struck in semester two, and Lauren’s learning was moved online for the rest of year one and all of year two.

In first year, Lauren joined Procraftination – an arts and crafts society based on the Derry~Londonderry campus to meet people and get involved in the social side of university life. When things moved online, Lauren became chairperson in her second year, hosting Zoom meetings throughout lockdowns with other members so they could continue to socialise. Lauren and the other members would stick to using household materials for their crafts to make it as accessible, easy (and creative!) as possible.

After completing a placement as a software engineer in her third year, Lauren returned to campus for her final year and began thinking about what she wanted to do next. Lauren had her very first job interview – with incredible results:

“I was contacted on LinkedIn to apply for a two-year graduate programme at Citi. It was my very first graduate job interview so I was quite nervous! But I’m delighted to say I was successful with my application and I am due to start my role this September as a graduate software intern.”

Outside of academia and work, Lauren is involved in fundraising for various charities:

“I am currently a committee member for Brainwaves NI, a volunteer-led charity which funds research into brain tumours and provides support to brain tumour patients and their families in Northern Ireland. I also perform with Cancer Fund for Children’s Care-Free Choir. This charity helped me connect with other young people who understood what I was going through. These charities – as well as Young Lives vs Cancer, supported me and my family which I am eternally grateful for.”

To find out more about what Lauren studied at Ulster University, visit: