Queen's University Belfast student Niamh Mackin has been named Study USA Student of the Year.
The 21-year-old Law student spent a year studying business at Marymount University, Virginia and hopes to use the experience to pursue a career in commercial law.
Niamh was among 50 students from Northern Ireland to successfully graduate from the programme and was honoured at a graduation ceremony at the MAC in Belfast recently.
Study USA, formerly known as the Business Education Initiative, is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for the Economy.
Since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent over 2000 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.
Niamh was named Student of the Year after achieving top academic marks and for an essay highlighting how her experience has helped further her employability. This year’s award, which was sponsored by Clarendon Fund Managers, also saw fellow Queen’s student Lisa McCann named as runner-up alongside Alice McElroy, who currently studies at St. Mary’s University, Belfast.
Speaking about the award, Niamh, from Belfast said: “My Study USA experience was truly the experience of a lifetime. It gave me an enormous confidence boost and I discovered that I could push myself further then I had ever imagined and even thrive in a challenging and unfamiliar environment
“Studying business at Marymount University has affirmed my decision to pursue a career in commercial law and helped me to develop skills that will be invaluable in achieving this. In particular, I have enhanced my employability by improving my commercial awareness, refining my communication skills and developing a unique international perspective.
“Overall, I have grown in ways that I never would have if I had stayed home, allowing me to become the best version of myself and fully equipped for my future.”
Congratulating the Study USA graduates on their academic achievements in the US and their performance as excellent ambassadors for Northern Ireland, Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Economy, said: “Improving the skill base, and consequently the employability, of our graduates is vital in a very competitive and global workplace, especially in attracting inward investment from international companies. It is something we would seek to encourage for the benefit of the Northern Ireland economy. Therefore we will require a highly skilled, outward looking workforce to help us take advantage of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
“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, attracting inward investment and improving career prospects for students. Study USA has now developed into the Department’s flagship international mobility programme and we continue to provide it with significant funding, even in challenging economic times, because we recognise its value. It holds distinct benefits, both academic and personal, for the individuals involved.
“It is my hope that many of you will go on to shape our economy and support good international relations in years to come.”
Also commending the programme was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “Congratulations to Niamh and all of this year's Study USA graduates. Year on year we find that those who take part in the programme not only enhance their employability skills but also develop intercultural skills, which helps them to prepare to work in a global economy.
“Throughout its history Study USA has enabled students to become great ambassadors for Northern Ireland and helped strengthened cultural, economic and educational links and connections between the two countries.
“Next year for the first time students will also be able to study STEM subjects as well as business and this can only enhance and grow these vital links between Northern Ireland and the USA - I would therefore encourage those from a range of subjects to apply as you never know where this opportunity may lead.”
Students interested in applying for the Study USA 19-20 programme can now apply online now at http://nireland.britishcouncil.org. This year students can opt to study business and/ or STEM subjects and the deadline for applications for Higher Education Institutions is Monday, November 12 2018 and for Further Education Institutions - Monday, January 14 2019.