The International Face of Lancaster
A student from Zimbabwe studying at Lancaster University has won a major national award, thanks to his inspiring story of life in the UK.
Simon Bere was one of only 12 students across the country to gain a top honour in the International Student Awards - a national awards scheme run by the British Council.
The Awards recognise overseas students who have achieved personal ambitions, enjoyed new experiences, learnt new skills or made an important contribution to their institution or community since coming to the UK. Over 1700 students, representing 98 nationalities, entered the Awards, by writing letters, as if to friends or family back home, describing their experiences of life in the UK.
The judges were impressed by Simon's intensely personal and moving account of the intellectual and cultural freedom he is now enjoying in the UK. Simon explained in his entry letter that the UK has helped him to realise that different races, cultures and religions can live and work together in harmony. He has gained distinctions for his academic work; has become Graduate Student Association's President and a member of the University's United Nations Association.
In his entry letter he wrote: 'I believe that with what I have learnt here, and what I am learning by participating in other activities outside school I will be able to contribute more to a better Zimbabwe when I return towards the end of the year.'
Simon was presented with his Silver Award at a winners' ceremony at the Kensington Roof Gardens, London, hosted by TV news journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy. As well as a trophy, Simon received £1000 prize money.
He said: 'Although it is a great feeling to have won this award, I believe that winning is not only down to me. It is a result of many people behind the scenes whose contribution has been invaluable but unsung. The greatest tribute goes to the University staff and community for creating an environment for success. This has reinforced in me the belief that there is more joy in applying oneself to serving others. I am inspired.'
John McGovern, Director of the International Office at Lancaster University said: 'Very often, overseas students are seen mainly as a means of increasing a university's income but this Award recognises the much wider contribution which international students make to the UK. Over 90 nationalities are represented at Lancaster University and Simon's story reflects many of these students' experiences. International students are vital to the development of international relations at a fundamental level.'
Andrew King from the British Council said: 'The quality of entries received by the British Council was exceptional - so winning one of the top awards is a superb achievement. Simon is a great role model for students from other countries who may be considering coming to the UK to study.'
Thousands of international students come to the UK each year because they are attracted by the quality of teaching and facilities, the social life, culture and the chance to gain a qualification which is respected across the world. International students help to bring diversity to institutions, as well as allowing the UK to develop long-term trade, political and cultural links overseas.
The number of overseas applicants for places on UK higher education courses starting this Autumn was up by 10.9 per cent by the end of June compared with last year, according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.