Queen's University Belfast student Louise Kavanagh, has been named Study USA Student of the Year.
The 25-year-old drama student spent a year studying business at Southwestern College, Kansas, and now hopes to use the experience to pursue a career in community theatre.
Louise was among 66 students from Northern Ireland to successfully graduate from the programme and was honoured at a graduation ceremony at the Belfast Harbour Commissioner's Office yesterday (October 29).
Study USA, formerly known as the Business Education Initiative, is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).
Since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent over 1800 students from Northern Ireland to all four corners of the United States where they have successfully completed a year studying business at one of 140 institutions.
Louise was named Student of the Year after achieving top academic marks and for an essay highlighting how her experience has helped further her employability.
Speaking about the award, Louise, from Dunmurry, Belfast said:
“Upon completing my internship, I feel I have taken a step towards my career goal of developing and growing a community theatre. Through Study USA I was able to constantly challenge myself and develop the skills to help make a business idea a reality.
“My professional aim is to inspire and develop people to be the best they can be and to make the most of opportunities in a changing community. To say that my experiences in the USA inspired me further would be an understatement.
“Since returning home I have secured a place on the Business in the Community Programme, and with this, will be shadowing professional community businesses and attending specialised board meetings, all contributing to my business plan of opening a community theatre.”
Presenting the awards at this year’s ceremony was Heather Cousins, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Department for Employment and Learning, who congratulated Louise and the other students, on their success. She said: “Study abroad is recognised across the world as a key to developing global citizens, enhancing trade links, influencing foreign direct investment decisions and strengthening international relations. Increased international student and staff mobility is recognised in our higher education strategy as a key element in enhancing the reputation of our universities and colleges and improving career prospects for students.
“Study USA is my Department’s flagship international mobility programme, providing opportunities to our undergraduates to develop their knowledge and skills, outside of their degree disciplines, and in an international context. The programme provides opportunities to create long lasting friendships and develop skills and experiences. This in turn, helps to strengthen the links between our country and the US, bringing added benefit to individual participants and ultimately to the Northern Ireland economy. We are grateful for the generous support of the US Colleges.”
Also speaking about the programme was David Alderdice, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “Throughout its history, Study USA has enabled students to become great ambassadors for Northern Ireland and furthered our long-term links and connections between the USA and Northern Ireland.
“The programme has helped over 2,000 students enhance their knowledge and skills of living and working internationally and, most importantly, build friendships and connections with counterparts in the United States that last a lifetime.”
For more information on British Council Northern Ireland or Study USA, visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org of follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI or Facebook: www.facebook.com/britishcouncilnorthernireland