Queen's University Belfast student Niall O'Hagan has been named Study USA Student of the Year.
The 22-year-old Accounting student spent a year studying business at Arcadia University, Pennsylvania and now hopes to use the experience to pursue a career with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Niall was among 47 students from Northern Ireland to successfully graduate from the programme and was recently honoured at a graduation ceremony at the Belfast Harbour Commissioner's Office.
Runners-up Jordan Mackin and Niamh Sammon (also pictured), themselves students at Queen's, studied at Alverno College in Wisconsin and Ferrum College, Virginia, respectively.
Study USA, formerly known as the Business Education Initiative, is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for the Economy. The programme is designed to enable local higher education students to broaden their academic learning, through spending a year at an American college, studying business orientated subjects. The programme also aims to broaden global awareness and enhance employability.
Since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent over 1,800 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.
Niall was named Student of the Year after achieving top academic marks and for an essay highlighting how his experience has helped further his employability.
Speaking about the award, Niall said:
Taking part in Study USA was one of the most fulfilling years of my life. I started the year feeling unsure and nervous about what I was going to experience and I finished the year with memories of people I met, lessons I had learnt and places I had visited which have helped me to grow in confidence and give me a broader view of the way I look at the world. It has been a truly life changing experience.
Their "can do" attitude is something we can all learn from and the Study USA experience has shown me that I can push myself harder and achieve much more than I ever thought was possible.
During winter break I applied for a Summer Auditing Internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and I was fortunate to be offered one of 15 internship positions for the summer of 2017. Throughout the internship I was able to draw on my Study USA experience and my new found self-confidence and I was rewarded at the end of the program with the offer of a graduate training contract once I complete my degree in 2018.
Study USA gave me the drive and the push to go after the PwC position and I don't think that would have happened if I had stayed in Belfast and completed my final year degree.