Entry is now open for a programme that offers students from Northern Ireland scholarships to spend a year studying business in the United States.
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), and sees students gain valuable international experience and business knowledge, developing their career prospects when they return to Northern Ireland.
Since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent 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.
To celebrate these 20 years, the British Council recently brought together the programmes most recent graduates, along with alumni from each year of the programme and their employers, for an anniversary dinner at Titanic Belfast.
Welcoming guests to the event was Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry.
He said: “I would like to welcome home returning students and the alumni that could be here with us tonight and commend them all on their hard work throughout the programme.
“I also wish to thank the British Council and our partner institutions here and in the USA for their on-going work on this important initiative. The Study USA programmes gives higher education students from Northern Ireland the opportunity to broaden their academic learning, facilitating personal development and equipping them with the skills necessary to contribute to our future success at international level.
“Northern Ireland requires a highly skilled workforce to grow our local economy and to meet the growing competition from other countries. It is for this reason my Department has provided funding to the Study USA programme over the past 20 years.”
From the 70 students who took part in last year's programme, five students were selected based on achieving top academic marks and given the opportunity to complete an essay highlighting how their experience has helped further their employability.
From this, Queen's University law student, Cara Heaslip, was named as the Student of the Year at the ceremony.
She said: “It is such an honour to receive this award and as I look back on my time in the US, I can genuinely say it was a life-changing experience.
“I go into my final year at university with newfound skills – including people and business skills - both of which will help maximise my career prospects. They say the best teacher is experience and through Study USA I have learnt more than I could ever have imagined.
“Thank you to Dr Farry and DEL for funding the programme over many years – and also thanks to the British Council and in particular, the Study USA team, for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an incredible experience."
David Alderdice, Director of British Council Northern Ireland, also commented on the programme, he said: “Throughout its 20-year history Study USA has enabled students to become great ambassadors for Northern Ireland and furthered our long-term links and connections between countries.
“Through the programme, the students learn from leading experts in their field and most importantly, build links and experiences with counterparts in the United States that last a lifetime.”
Students interested in applying for next year’s programme can apply online now at nireland.britishcouncil.org. Deadline for Applications is Monday, November 24.
For more information on British Council Northern Ireland or Study USA, visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org of follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI