Issue date: 29 April 2004

ISSUE DATE: 29/04/04

Zhihua Pan, a Chinese student at the University of the West of England studying for an MA in Marketing has won a ‘Silver Award’ in the British Council’s International Student Awards 2004. Another UWE student, Sofia Tsialkouti (from Greece) was one of 60 in the UK to reach the highly commended stage of the competition.

Zhihua received his award worth £1,000 at a special ceremony in London this week. He was one of 12 finalists from over 2,300 entries of 145 different nationalities received this year. Each student has to write a letter describing their experiences and what they have gained from choosing to study in the UK, and the finalists are interviewed by a panel of judges.

Before coming to the UK to study, Zhihua worked as a journalist in China. He says he has found the experience of studying here both enlightening and inspiring, “As a former journalist, I am amazed at the degree of independence and freedom that the media enjoys here in Britain. It is very easy to read or hear different points of view from the media. This spirit of questioning will continue to inspire me to fight for the public’s right to be informed when I return home and continue my career as a journalist in business reporting.”

Zhihua has become involved in the Student’s Union here and with the Bristol Chinese community – teaching British-born Chinese children in the Bristol Chinese Weekend School, helping with the elderly in the Bristol Chinese Association and helping to organise events as part of the Chinese Spring festival.

There has also been a shift in Zhihua’s attitude to religion and he now feels more interested in exploring and understanding a range of beliefs since coming to the UK, “Before I came here, I knew very little about religion as we are taught atheism in school. After having more extensive contact with people with different beliefs, my attitude has gradually changed. I realize that religion in Britain serves important social functions such as helping the vulnerable in the community and improving people’s relationships.”

Zhihua’s experiences in the UK have been published in the English-language newspaper of the Guangzhou Morning Post. On returning to work as a business journalist in China, he says his experiences here will enable him to comment on Chinese economic development and to make comparisons with Western culture.

Zhihua says he will use his prize money to go travelling in Europe this summer with his Chinese girlfriend Yan Li Luo who is coming to study at UWE in September.

Sofia Tsialkouti, a Business Studies student who was highly commended in the competition says her move to the UK to study at UWE has given her a lot of confidence and broadened her horizons. As part of her course she had a student placement in a marketing role with the Bristol office of Mott Macdonald, engineering and business consultants as well as playing a full role in the life of the University. “I became involved with the Students’ Union and acted as a Student Ambassador for UWE. When I had health problems received tremendous support from the University and this helped my recovery. Things I love about this country are the way community replaces the ties of family I was so used to in a Mediterranean culture, diversity in everything, and the opportunities in knowledge that don’t exclude any age or background. Now my aspirations are extended and the world is my oyster. I’ve discovered a side of myself that demands more from life and careers. I would only settle for a truly open international job that involves travel, other cultures and allows me to grow and offer my input in the broader community.”


Editor’s notes

Jpeg visual of Zhihua and Sofia available upon request from the press office.

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