|Yu Huai Zhang overcame ill health to attend Queens University
Two Chinese students, who are studying at British Universities, have been awarded prizes for being the best international students in their respective host countries.
Psychology student Yusi Liu was crowned Welsh international student of the year while Yu Huai Zhang, who studies management, was named Northern Ireland’s international student of the year. Both students join 12 regional finalists in next month’s final, where one will become the UK’s top international student.
Yusi and Yu Huai were among more than 2,000 students from 130 countries who participated in the International Students Awards – a competition run every year by the British Council to find international students who have contributed to life in the UK.
Entrants in the competition were asked to write a letter in English describing their academic successes, extra-curricular achievements and community involvement.
Yusi wrote about her volunteer work with autistic children and elderly people while Yu was the first Chinese national to become a student officer in his university.
Both students told us how integrating with their adopted communities had helped them improve their English skills. Yu Huai said : "Through socialising, voluntary job, my internship and student union work, I have learned a lot of vocabulary I didn’t learn in class."
Yusi agreed: "I joined a lot of volunteer work and got a part-time job which is related to my subject and so I helped a lot of people with mental health issues. A lot of what I learn working with people helps me get a better understanding in my lectures".
Studying in parts of the UK with strong regional accents has helped both of them gain a more realistic approach to speaking English.
Yu Huai said: "As long as you can understand others and make yourself understood, vocabulary and good sentence structure is more important than accent."