Iona Howarth - LLB Law

Iona Howarth
After personal struggles and heartbreaking family loss, Iona Howarth battled throughout her time at RGU to graduate with a first-class honours degree having obtained seven A’s in her final year.

Attending university was always the best option for Iona who enjoyed her time at Speyside High School in Aberlour and wanted to continue her academic education. After a long period of uncertainty on what to study, she chose LLB Law at RGU and decided to see where it would take her.

“It still feels quite surreal that I have achieved a first-class honours in Law. At the beginning of my studies, it was obviously during COVID. I moved to Aberdeen in the September to commence my studies; however, everything was online. This was a very scary time for me and I guess everyone starting university.

“It was a new city, new people, new university and essentially a whole new way of life with the challenges that the pandemic brought. It was very hard the first year. I felt that doing all the learning online, and having little social connections with people or even opportunities to socialise was very difficult.

“I found it hard to learn properly online and with that, to get the motivation to do well. At that point it all felt like it wasn’t real life.”

After an understandably difficult start to university life, it didn’t get any immediately easier for Iona as she faced family struggles that would challenge even the strongest of people.

“My second year of university was one of the most difficult years of my life. Half way through my time into second year I found out my mum had stage 2 breast cancer. At that moment I had to make a decision whether I felt strong enough to stick to my studies or to just give up.

“Thankfully after a lot of convincing through family members (my Grandad in particular) I decided to stay on. Watching how strong my mum was through all her radiotherapy treatments and how she managed to ring the bell and beat cancer gave me the strength to keep going. It was inspirational.

“Unfortunately in 2023, the dearest and closest person in my life, my Grandad, suddenly passed away. At this point I felt like I could never go back to university. I had a meeting with my head of year who had suggested that deferring the year may be my best option as this was the year that really counted. Eventually, I decided not to defer and to instead push through with my studies - I wanted to make my grandad proud.”

While clearly both determined and clever, Iona had struggled to obtain grades as high as she’d wanted throughout her opening three years. It wasn’t until her final year that she got her first ever ‘A’. Her choice to continue studying, rather than deferring, was a catalyst for change.

“As of that moment I made use of a lot of RGU’s resources, such as the counselling and wellbeing team who were amazing to just talk to and help me through any issues and even give me great study techniques and timetables.

“After a tough a year, never having received an A in my entire time at University, I can proudly say I finished my fourth year with seven A’s and one B. I was so overjoyed. This entire experience has led me with not only lifelong lessons, but it’s also shown myself and others that absolutely anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

Having now graduated, Iona is keen to return to the University to complete her Diploma in Professional Legal Practice and credits the institution for keeping her “on track”.

“The unique aspects of my time at RGU - adapting to online learning; overcoming personal hardships; utilising university support resources; and having the most supportive lecturers who ensured I would not fall behind, have all profoundly shaped me. They have equipped me with the resilience, adaptability, and determination necessary to excel in my future career and tackle any challenges that come my way.”

Mostly though, Iona ought to be most proud of her resilience to keep going right until the end.

“The decision to continue my studies, inspired by my family’s support and particularly my Grandad’s encouragement, was a pivotal moment in my life. Witnessing my mother’s strength during her treatment was incredibly inspiring and fuelled my determination to succeed.

“The support I received from RGU was particularly vital during my final year. Despite the grief and option to defer my studies, I chose to persevere, driven by the desire to honour my Grandad’s memory and make him proud.”

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