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Ulster University student Ryan Higgins has been named Study USA Student of the Year.

The 21-year-old Architectural Engineering student spent a year studying at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana and hopes that the experience can help with his future career.

Ryan, who is from Maghera, was among 53 students from Northern Ireland to successfully graduate from the programme and was honoured at a graduation ceremony at the Harbour Commissioner’s Office in Belfast recently.

Study USA is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for the Economy and since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent over 2000 students from Northern Ireland to all four corners of the United States where they have successfully completed a year studying business or business and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at one of 140 institutions.

Ryan was named Student of the Year after achieving top academic marks and for an essay highlighting how the experience has helped further his employability. This year’s awards, which were sponsored by Study USA alumna Sharon McAleer, also honoured fellow Ulster University students Jana-Rose Donnelly and Shauna McAtamney who were named runners-up.

Speaking about the award, Ryan said:

“By participating in Study USA, I have learned that, in life you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone constantly to be able to grow, to use every experience as a learning opportunity and that self-acceptance, confidence and self-improvement are the keys to success. The combination of academic skills, lifelong friendships and meaningful experiences have positively impacted my life.

Although my travels are far from over, I ultimately want to achieve success in my career here, in Northern Ireland and Study USA has provided me with the skills and experience to attain my ambitions.

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, that I am extremely glad I took part in. The exposure to culture has eradicated my ‘small town’ thinking and I believe I will go on to achieve amazing feats because of it. Thank you, Study USA.”

The graduation event also saw the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announce that entry is now open for the scholarship programme in 2023-24.

Speaking at the graduation event, he said:

“Study USA provides students at Northern Ireland higher education institutions and further education colleges with an opportunity to study at a US college and immerse themselves in an international culture. Participants gain valuable skills which position them strongly for the career opportunities available on their return.

I warmly congratulate not only this cohort’s Student of the Year, Ryan Higgins, but every one of the participants in Study USA over the past year.

Indeed last month I had the pleasure of visiting Greensboro College in North Carolina and hearing first-hand from Eve McDonnell, a Study USA participant who is a student at Queen’s University Belfast, about her experiences.

I am delighted that Study USA is now open for applications for the 2023/24 scholarship programme and encourage anyone who is interested to apply.

My thanks go to the British Council for continuing to manage this initiative on behalf of my Department and to the associate colleges across the US who host students through the programme. Not only will the programme continue to strengthen our relationships with the US, it will also provide life-changing opportunities for those students who participate in it.”

Also speaking about the programme was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.

He said:

“Congratulations to Ryan and all of this year's Study USA graduates. Year on year we find that those who take part in the programme not only enhance their employability skills but also develop important intercultural skills, which help them to prepare to work in a global economy.

Throughout its history Study USA has enabled students to become great ambassadors for Northern Ireland and helped strengthen cultural, economic and educational links and connections between the two countries. I wish this year’s graduates every success as they join this growing influential network of alumni from the programme.”

Students interested in applying for the Study USA 23-24 programme can now apply online. Students can opt to study business and/ or STEM subjects and the deadline for applications for Higher Education Institutions is Monday, November 21 2022 and for HND/Foundation degree students - Monday, January 23 2023 at 12 noon.

The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation, creating global opportunities in arts and culture, education and the English language. For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit, or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NIFacebook or Instagram.