A University of Leicester student has been chosen to front a national campaign which highlights the positive impact international students have on the UK.
Medical Physiology student, Shahla Ela, stars in Universities UK International’s #WeAreInternational: Transforming Lives campaign, which is dedicated to highlighting the contribution international students are making to the UK during their studies here.
International students bring a £41 billion annual contribution to the UK, meaning on average, each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies in the UK is £58 million better off – equivalent to approximately £560 per citizen. In the East Midlands alone, international students’ off-campus expenditure is around £353 million. Their spending has funded 3,093 jobs.
Shahla, who is originally from Finland, stars in a YouTube video where she talks about her love for studying and living in Leicester. She’s also been interviewed by regional radio stations, Smooth FM and Capital, as part of the campaign.
“I’m grateful every day that I decided to move here,” she said.
“If I had one piece of advice to others considering the UK, it’s simple; come!
“I love my home country but Leicester now feels more like home than Finland. I’ve become more emotionally resilient, and I’m becoming my truest self day by day.”
When Shahla embarked on her academic journey to study Medical Physiology at Leicester, her goal had always been to complete her undergraduate degree and continue onto postgraduate research. However, a transformative placement year within the University’s Future Students Office ignited a new-found passion that changed her career trajectory, and it’s a world away from her degree.
In the latest census of 2021, one in four over-16s in Leicester said they do not have a GCSE or equivalent qualification. That figure equates to 26.7 per cent of the post-16 population, making Leicester the fifth worst-educated local authority in the UK.
Shahla worked as a Recruitment Assistant at the University’s Future Students Office during her placement year. The role involved delivering workshops and presentations to school students upwards of 11-years-old, exploring their future career paths.
Her subject choices in school naturally progressed to a medical-related degree at university. Shahla believes if her school had given her more opportunities to explore other lines of career progression, she may have found her passion sooner. Now, she is guiding others to find their passion at a younger age.
She said: “University is so much more than your studies. While it is important to keep up with academia, it is also the time to develop new relationships, hobbies, professional skills, and to have fun. You will walk away from university with much more than a degree.”
In a poll of 2,000 university graduates across the UK, 22 per cent went into a job that didn’t require any of the qualifications they had achieved straight after completing their degree, further feeding into the lack of opportunities to discover our true passion during school.
A spokesperson from Leicester City Council said: “We know how important it is to help people learn and develop new skills, not just so that we can provide a skilled local workforce, but also for people’s personal aspirations and wellbeing.”
UUKi’s campaign looks beyond the financial contribution international students and graduates are making to the economy, highlighting students who have given back to the UK in a variety of impactful ways.