The British Council has named Melissa Ilboudo from Burkina Faso its International Student of the Year, after she raised £100,000 for her home country.
The 24-year-old international development undergraduate at the University of East Anglia was one of 12 regional finalists selected out of 1,300 students from 121 countries who entered this year’s British Council competition, known as Shine!
She was announced as the winner in London last night and received a £2,000 prize.
Her “letter home” describing her experiences of living and studying in the UK was judged to be the most inspiring by a panel of representatives from the British Council, the National Union of Students, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Times Higher Education, which was media partner for the awards.
The letter tells how, from the beginning of Ms Ilboudo’s time at UEA, she had a strong desire both to raise awareness of the effects of climate change and to support the work of two non-governmental organisations operating in Burkina Faso.
She raised £50,000 for the NGOs through fundraising events in Norwich, which was matched with funding from the European Union, taking the total to £100,000.
In addition, her tireless work raising awareness of climate change issues earned her an invitation to attend the recent summit on the topic in Copenhagen, where she had what she called “another unforgettable experience” – meeting Barack Obama.
Ms Ilboudo said: “I heard about the Shine! awards only one hour before the deadline when my friend told me about them, and although I was in the middle of my dissertation, I decided to go for it. I just wrote exactly what I felt, and it was rewarding to realise how much I’ve achieved since arriving in the UK.”