Caption: (l-r) University of Cumbria Business School lecturer Daniela Campaniolo, International Business Management graduate Rena Bijman, Dr Yvonne Klose, deputy head of DAA Wirtschaftsakademie; and senior lecturer Karam Al Mandil from the University of Cumbria’s Business School. Pictured outside Carlisle Cathedral after Rena's graduation on Thursday 21 July 2022.

Rena's 14-hour dash from Germany to make graduation

When her flight from Germany to the UK was grounded, there was no other option for Rena Bijman who did not want to miss her university graduation after achieving a first-class honours degree. 

Rena, who lives in Dusseldorf, jumped in a car and made a 14-hour journey through the night to reach her ceremony that was taking place in Carlisle Cathedral the following morning, only 10 miles from the England-Scotland border.  

Travelling more than 600 miles in total, Rena, driven by her boyfriend Julian Spelsberg, crossed Belgium and made it to the UK via the Channel Tunnel before heading to north west England – making it to Carlisle with minutes to spare. 

Rena is among the latest cohort of students to complete degrees via the BachelorPlus programme, a partnership between Dusseldorf business school DAA Wirtschaftsakademie and the University of Cumbria. 

DAA Wirtschaftsakademie students spend two years on a level four and five programme before relocating to the University of Cumbria’s campus in Lancaster to complete their final year, and achieve their BA (Hons) in International Business Management. 

BachelorPlus is among the university’s active global partnerships that include established relationships with academic institutions across Europe, Asia and the United States. They involve research and teaching collaborations and provide student exchange opportunities. 

Rena, 24, said: “I had to be here, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It has been a very hard process to get to this point, spending the first two years in your home city in your mother language and then switching to come to the UK, to study in England. 

“The pandemic was also difficult. I caught Covid last October just as the first semester in Lancaster was starting. Trying to maintain long-distance relationships and all the restrictions and regulations when it comes to travelling were also challenging. When we started our bachelor thesis, our group all saw each other and did the work together, a union of students. We all made it through a tough time. I’m so happy that we did it and could be here for graduation.”

Dr Yvonne Klose, deputy head of DAA Wirtschaftsakademie, said: “I am extremely proud of all our students. They have all achieved fantastic results even in these challenging times.  

“The graduation ceremony is very special for us as we do not have anything like this in Germany; with the robes, the procession and all. When Rena‘s friend texted me about Rena’s travel situation, I was really feeling for her. The ceremony is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students. My colleague and I were also struggling to get to Carlisle due to the train delays. The graduation was a very happy reunion in so many ways.” 

Dr Karen Hadley, Director (Academic), of the Institute of Business, Industry and Leadership at the University of Cumbria said: “Rena rose to the challenge of achieving her goal to graduate, with her resilience reflecting and embodying our own university in being engaged, adaptable and agile. 

“The cancellation did not get in the way of her desire to be with her fellow students, her friends, once again to celebrate their achievements as a collective. 

“Collaborating with others on our programmes in fields of business, leadership and law, everyone at the University of Cumbria is very proud of our international students and partnerships. Our campuses in Lancaster and London extend our university’s reach beyond Cumbria, in fact we are global. Our graduates contribute to communities and practice in over 100 countries around the world.”