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Student Life

Neurodiversity Celebration Week: Feel like you belong at university 

To honour Neurodiversity Celebration Week, we hear from Ashleigh King, a Business School MBA (Master’s in Business Administration) alumna. Ashleigh King is a Creative Entrepreneur and Podcaster. She has hosted multiple podcasts, most notably the Nurture Your Zest podcast which has been listened to by an audience in over 70 countries around the world.  

In 2020, Ashleigh was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) whilst studying for her MBA. It is important to Ashleigh that she uses her voice to share content that helps promote understanding of ADHD. Ashleigh openly discusses her diagnosis and how it affected her studies and life as an entrepreneur across her platforms.

Ashleigh understands neurodivergent students could feel isolated or like they don’t fit in. In this blog, Ashleigh shares her advice on how to be a proactive part of the student body, reflecting on her own experience while studying for her MBA. 

What to do if you feel you don’t fit in at university 

I have always loved learning and I had dreams for many years of studying an MBA at Newcastle University Business School. I wanted this opportunity so much that I attended six open days for this programme.  

One of the things I felt worried about was that I am naturally a very ‘creative’ type of person, and I knew that an MBA is traditionally focused so much on business. I thought I wouldn’t have as much to contribute to my class. I didn’t have the same work experience as my colleagues who were mainly from traditional business industries like banking.  

What I loved about my programme was the students were carefully selected for the programme. I was delighted to find that my cohort consisted of inventors, political lobbyists and even a former Cruise Ship Entertainment Director.  

If you feel like you don’t fit in at university, know this; everyone feels like that. Embrace the opportunity ahead of you. You can be certain by the end of the programme, whatever your choice of course, you will not be the same person as when you started.  

Ashleigh hugs the neck of a flamingo statue. The image is in black and white.
Image credit: Lauren McWilliams, For You Photography

I had many worries and concerns about whether I was doing the right thing, and I didn’t realise that my peers had the same thoughts. Therefore it’s important to talk to your peers you are studying alongside, as being a student can be lonely.  

Self-doubt is an important part of our learning journey as said so well by Milton Erickson, an important contributor to hypnotherapy discourse. He stated: “Enlightenment is always preceded by confusion”  

If you have anxieties like this, I recommend reaching out and talking to someone. I found the Careers Service very helpful in this particular area (and many others). They helped me with a free evaluation of my strengths and skills. They also taught me to recognise that my course would be so beneficial in teaching me very important business tips to help me succeed as an entrepreneur.  

University is a great place to learn and network as much as possible 

I found university to be a deeply transformative experience, both exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. But overall, so much fun.  

There are many opportunities to network which will make a big difference in your career later. For instance, I had some incredible teachers, and guest lecturers who I have been able to collaborate with in other ways.  

Tracy Clarkson from Lark Partners was a guest expert for our Entrepreneurship ‘Hackathon’. I had admired her and her work from a distance and felt a little shy when talking to her about my entrepreneurial ideas. Once I finished university, I contacted Tracy and worked with her as a consultant to help my business grow. I also had the opportunity to interview her for a podcast I was working on for a client, which was a nice surprise for both of us. 

Ashleigh King sits on a chair in front of her office door. She is wearing a pink hat, leather jacket and is holding a book opn while looking at the camera.
Image credit: Lauren McWilliams, For You Photography

With her success and insight, she has helped me to make important changes to my business, and I know that connection with the activity I did on my MBA gave us something to talk about from the outset.  

Many people find themselves very lonely at university, as they are going through a transition. I found it was important to reach out and make friends with the people around me, my colleagues on my programme, and peers on other courses around the University. It helped me to gain a new understanding of other cultures, and how to work with people from all walks of life and gave me greater empathy.  

I now have friends all over the world that I can reach out to if I ever go and visit their countries. I can learn more about their culture and enjoy delicious international delicacies.  

The value of student union societies 

Being a member of student societies felt very important to me whilst studying. There are over 200 societies to choose from, from baking to cycling. There are lots of ways to get involved. 

Whilst studying, I was the President of the TEDx at Newcastle University Society. This is an accolade that will always remain very special to me. I led and motivated a team of 15 volunteer committee members and looked after our society of 150 members strong. This felt like a lot of responsibility, and I enjoyed having something which gave me a purpose. I’ll always treasure the Sunday morning sessions (fuelled by coffee and lots of delicious homemade goods) that the TEDx Society committee and I would spend working in the library.  

Being in a student society allows you to make friends and feel connected. As this activity takes place with people outside your subject area, you get to meet people from other programmes. I met incredible scientists and engineers, poets and artists, all with something unique to teach me. I felt this added to my course, as I could see assignments from a multifaceted view. 

I sometimes felt worried about assignments and grades, so having something fun (and distracting) to focus on was great and it helped to ease my studying anxiety and reconnect with myself.  

Whilst the TEDx at Newcastle University Society took up a lot of my time, I also enjoyed other societies like The Leadership Society, Enactus and ‘The Entrepreneur Society’. I liked the International Society as I could make new friends and celebrate different cultures.  

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