Three students from the Cookstown area were amongst those celebrated at the 20th anniversary of a transatlantic business programme.
Leanne McCrystal from Moneymore, joined Michael Murray and Caoife Wilkinson from Cookstown at Titanic Belfast, to receive their graduation certificates for what was once known as the Business Education Initiative.
They were among 70 students from across Northern Ireland to graduate Study USA this year.
Leanne, a student at Queen’s University, Belfast spent a year studying business at the university’s namesake in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Whilst Michael was based at Texas Wesleyan University in Texas, and Caoife spent the year at College of Idaho, Idaho.
The programme, which is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), helps students gain valuable international experience and business knowledge, developing their career prospects when they return.
Since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent 1,800 students from Northern Ireland to universities across the United States, where they have successfully completed a year studying business at one of 140 institutions.
Receiving guests at the anniversary event, Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: “I would like to welcome home returning students and the alumni that could be here with us tonight and commend them all on their hard work throughout the programme.
“I also wish to thank the British Council and our partner institutions here and in the USA for their on-going work on this important initiative.
“The Study USA programmes gives higher education students from Northern Ireland the opportunity to broaden their academic learning, facilitating personal development and equipping them with the skills necessary to contribute to our future success at international level.
“Northern Ireland requires a highly skilled workforce to grow our local economy and to meet the growing competition from other countries.
“It is for this reason my Department has provided funding to the Study USA programme over the past 20 years.”
One of the students who spent a year in the US spoke of how the time away was one of the best experiences of her life adding: “I would urge anyone thinking of applying for Study USA to just go for it; it’s an experience you will never forget.”
For information on the Study USA programme visit nireland.britishcouncil.org