Inspirational accounts of student life in the UK have won three students from The University of Nottingham top accolades in the nation's biggest competition for international students.

27 Mar 2009 10:00:00.000

PA 89/09

Inspirational accounts of student life in the UK have won three students from The University of Nottingham top accolades in the nation"€™s biggest competition for international students.


Anjum Aqeel, a PhD student from Pakistan, has been named the East Midlands"€™ International Student of the Year 2009 in a prestigious competition run by the British Council.


Now the 52-year-old postgraduate in the School of Economics is preparing to challenge for the title of overall International Student of the Year 2009.

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Anjum is one of 12 regional winners who will gather in London in April to meet a final judging panel, before going on to have their extraordinary achievements honoured in a national awards ceremony.

Fellow University of Nottingham students Sooyoung Lee from South Korea and Kam Wa Jessica Mok from Macau have both been named runners-up in the regional finals.

Enzo Raimo, Director of the International Office at The University of Nottingham, said: “We’re very proud of the achievements of all of our international students at Nottingham and the way in which they adapt to a very different environment, often thousands of miles from home.

“We’re especially pleased to have a finalist and two runners-up in the International Student of the Year Award as the competition is fierce — it’s a fantastic reflection on both the talent of our international students and on the University as a whole.”

The University of Nottingham, described by The Times as ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university’, is one of the most popular in the UK among overseas students. Its UK-based international student population hit a record high this year — reaching 7,350 from more than 140 nations.

Around 25 per cent of staff and students now come from countries outside of the UK helping to create a multicultural and cosmopolitan environment at the University and in the City. And that traffic goes both ways — around 17 per cent of undergraduate students at Nottingham also undertake some form of international educational experience, either by undertaking a study period at the University’s China or Malaysia campuses or with one of many international partners spread across the world.

Anjum, Sooyoung and Kam Wa Jessica were among more than 1,500 from 118 countries to enter the seventh annual International Student Awards — a major initiative from the British Council that shines the spotlight on international students and their contributions to life in the UK.

In a bid to take home a prize, students at universities, colleges of further and higher education, schools and English language institutions across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales shared stories about the extra-curricular achievements that illustrate how they are making the most of their time in the UK.

To enter, each student was asked to write a personal ‘letter home’ in English, detailing the out-of-class achievements that help make their time in the UK so rewarding.

A judging panel met last month to discuss the merits of shortlisted entries from the region. Anjum’s letter was judged to be the East Midlands’ most impressive and she will receive a £1,000 prize. The ultimate winner of the International Student of the Year 2009 title will receive a £2,000 prize at the competition final, to be held in London in April.

Anjum wrote her ‘letter home’ to her daughters, telling them about her experiences as a mature student away from home and the opportunities available at The University of Nottingham.

She wrote: “When I was at home, I could not begin to imagine the kind of opportunities available here for students. Coming abroad to study, and witnessing all these opportunities, makes me feel like anything is possible. And more importantly, that I can do anything. I see libraries here that rise almost to the clouds. In them are books that date almost from as long back as Time itself. They capture all sorts of ideas about every imaginable subject, and all of these ideas are now ours to read and work with.

“I look forward to this rich interaction with people of all nationalities, access to a world of knowledge, and an expertise to return to, in order to live a more empowered future.”

Sooyoung and Kam Wa Jessica, both studying Medicine, are delighted their achievements have also been applauded.

In her letter, Sooyoung wrote: “Through my journey in England, I feel I have overcome many of the challenges and fulfilled many goals. I also came to realise that there are so many opportunities and so many amazing people I could learn from, and by grasping these exciting opportunities I can develop into a confident, independent, well-rounded person.

“I know my course in Medicine will open many exciting doors through which I can fulfil my dreams and ambitions. I am enjoying my university life to the full, both socially and academically.”

Kam Wa Jessica wrote: “I have made the most of every opportunity life in England has presented to me. I love meeting people, and helping out people who are new to the country, as I know how hard it can be. I ensured the incoming students were welcomed and integrated into life in Nottingham by organising social events and support networks for them. These people have enriched my life and I hope I have enriched theirs with my own culture, as I love telling people about Macau!

“Finally Dad, I’d like to thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity to study in England. I have made some wonderful friends who have opened their arms out to me and made Nottingham my home away from home.”

Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, said, “Studying overseas is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience, building life-long international friendships, understanding and trust.

“International students make a huge contribution to life here because they create a greater understanding of the world in the UK and they help create a greater understanding of the UK throughout the world. This competition is a fantastic opportunity for them to show the world what they’ve achieved and learnt while studying in the UK.”

— Ends —

Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings. More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (  in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations, working in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. The British Council works in the arts, education, science, sport and governance and last year reached more than 128 million people. It is a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Total turnover in 2007/8 was £565 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £197 million.

More information is available at:

Story credits

More information is available from Deborah Webb , Head of International Support Services, International Office, University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 9514161,
Tim Utton

Tim Utton - Deputy Director of Communications

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8092 Location: University Park

Additional resources

The British Council

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