This year’s Study UK Alumni Award winners recently reflected on their many accomplishments and student experiences in the UK. And they each have a fantastic story to tell!

Let’s take a closer look at why these successful individuals chose the UK for education and how the experience accelerated their incredible careers in the US.

Raquel Villanueva 

Hailing from Casper, Wyoming, Raquel Villanueva knew she wanted to pursue a graduate degree in the UK after studying abroad there during her undergraduate program in the US. She obtained her Master’s degree in International Broadcast Journalism in 2009 from the University of Westminster.

With family from Bolivia, Raquel ‘always had a fascination with places outside the US…and other cultures.’ During her study abroad experience in the UK, Raquel ‘fell in love with the [University of Westminster’] and the lifestyle.’ She quickly realized the value of gaining an international perspective.

Raquel noted that she ‘appreciated the way classes were conducted [and] the topics that were discussed’ during her study abroad program and felt like she could really thrive within the UK education model. As predicted, while pursuing her master’s, the learning style involved ‘a lot more independent learning and group learning,’ compared to the US. A highlight of her experience, Raquel chose a final project, building her own website, based on her own interests and motivations, adding that she had the ‘freedom to create something she was proud of,’ while also learning self-discipline.

In addition to her study abroad experience, expanding her global perspective in the field of journalism was a main influence behind her decision to attend university in the UK. As added bonuses, obtaining her master’s degree in the UK was also more cost-effective and shorter than getting a master’s degree in the US.

Outside of her rewarding classroom experiences, Raquel recalled being among the few American students on campus, something she absolutely loved. She began friendships she enjoys to this day. ‘It was international to the core… my friends were from all over the world,’ says Raquel. ‘You’d think there was so many differences… but we bonded over things I thought we never would.’ Recognizing these global commonalities, Raquel has since approached her journalism career to ‘lead with the commonalities you have with people, even people you don’t understand.’

Raquel enjoyed many excursions during her time as a student in the UK, trying out new restaurants, visiting museums, attending musicals, exploring London and surrounding neighborhoods, and taking full advantage of the UK’s transit system, allowing her to see the entire country and greater region.

When asked what she loved most about studying in the UK, Raquel said without hesitation, ‘I loved the opportunity to learn who I was,’ something you truly learn when you’re on your own. ‘In the UK, I got to decide how I wanted my life to look like.’ Attending university in the UK helped Raquel earn a sense of identity and independence that enhanced her personal life and subsequent career.

Raquel is currently a Television Host and Journalist and has served in several similar roles for national syndicated television channels and organizations throughout her career.

Hein Oo

Originally from Myanmar (formerly Burma), Hein Oo sought asylum in the US and eventually relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, as a refugee two years ago. Even during immense challenges, Hein kept his sights on continuing his education while making a difference for others. 

Hein received his Bachelor of Arts Honors in Business Management from the University of Northampton in 2022, a hybrid degree program that allowed him the flexibility to travel the world while studying. While the University of Northampton’s main campus is in the UK, Hein’s program has various locations and programs all around the world, which he describes as ‘pretty unique’ and allowed him to ‘get experience from other places.’

Hein described his hybrid curriculum as ‘flexible’ and ‘very project-based,’ as he enjoyed a great deal of ‘independence while also knowing there [was] a support system and resources’ available if ever needed. Hein benefited from a non-traditional education style in the UK, where his curriculum allotted him more free time and the opportunity to choose projects that were of interest to him. He also noted his professors were ‘great,’ adding that they ‘had real experiences in their field,’ which he enjoyed immensely.

Beyond his studies, Hein described the student population on campus as ‘pretty diverse,’ comprising both local UK students and international students. He enjoyed walking around Northampton and visiting family and friends.

When asked what he loved most about studying in the UK, Hein recalled ‘the culture and the people,’ ‘the affordability of [his] courses,’ and the ‘incredible support system’ in place for him as an international student.

Hein currently lives in New York working for two organizations; he manages data strategy for the American Initiative by YMCA, a community organization focused on immigrant support, and as an independent youth consultant for the ECOSOC Youth Forum by the United Nations. Hein continues to stay busy as he pursues his MBA in Sustainability from Bard College Graduate Program in Sustainability. 

Dr. Emily Rickman

Initially from the UK, Dr. Emily Rickman never even considered obtaining her degree from outside her home country. In 2016, she obtained her Master’s degree in Physics and Astrophysics from the University of Sheffield. This integrated master’s program combined a bachelor’s and master’s degree and study abroad program into one comprehensive and exciting experience, allowing Dr. Rickman to attend the Australian National University for one year.

Describing the UK education opportunities as both ‘amazing and competitive,’ the ability to study abroad as part of her degree program was also extremely compelling to Dr. Rickman. After all, the travel bug bit her at an early age. At just 16, Dr. Rickman, a lifelong member of the Scouting Association in the UK, led a ten-day expedition through Serbia. She described the adventure as a ‘real insightful experience,’ where she realized her passion for ‘learning about people from different backgrounds and cultures and how people approach problem-solving.

On the University of Sheffield campus, Dr. Rickman described her curriculum as structured, with lots of support. She was able to pursue her integrated Master’s degree in Physics and Astrophysics, affording her the opportunity to narrowly focus her studies to her desired specialties. For Dr. Rickman, studying astrophysics was grounded in both fundamental concepts and real, practical exercises, such as learning how to code and program, which she now does in her role ‘almost every day.’ The hands-on experience she also received, like learning how to use a physical telescope, helped her better understand other basic concepts essential to her career. Her educators, always approachable and quick to offer support, had a ‘real awareness of making sure [students] were doing okay.’

Outside of her studies, Dr. Rickman had the ‘opportunity to meet people from all over the world’ on the UK university campus and explored the Peak District, a national park in the UK. She enjoyed running and hiking and visiting nearby towns like Leeds and York when she wasn’t enjoying the music scene in Sheffield.

When asked what she loved most about studying in the UK, Dr. Rickman reflected on how ‘well-connected’ the UK is with other universities in the region and on an international level. ‘Being able to interact with other universities, departments, and countries…that network for me was just great and helped me get to the point of where I’m at now.’

Dr. Rickman is currently a Science Operations Scientist, representing the European Space Agency at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. She’s an avid traveler and marathon runner.

Adnan Iqbal

Originally from California, Adnan’s service and social justice-focused high school inspired him to gain global experience and eventually study abroad. In 2008, Adnan received a Master of Philosophy in Bioscience Enterprise at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Biotechnology.

Unable to study abroad during his undergraduate program, an opportunity to do so emerged a few years into Adnan’s first career as a management consultant. In this role, he started gravitating toward the biotechnology industry, exclusively working with large biotechnology companies that were predominantly based on the west coast of the US.

Adnan soon realized that he ‘needed and wanted to get more depth in the biotechnology science itself.’ He started looking at different biotech hubs around the world, including Cambridge, UK, known as the European hub for biotechnology. As he began his initial program search, he described the Bioscience Enterprise program at the University of Cambridge as ‘interdisciplinary’ with many elements of interest to him, including life sciences, biopharma, and a ‘smattering of business.’ Inspired by the university’s history, where foundational sciences were created, Adnan knew he had to give it a shot.

Reflecting on his time spent studying in the UK, Adnan noted that the ‘UK in particular is truly a global village…[it] attracts people from the entire planet; the perfect amalgamation of diversity in the truest sense.’ While he continued to meet people from all over the world and immerse himself in new experiences and new cultures, Adnan’s UK curriculum was comprehensive and included both foundational sciences and business. He also took charge of his own master’s thesis and worked with a biotechnology company headquartered in Cambridge and in labs in Heidelberg, Germany. The experience led him directly to his career path back in the US, evaluating digital health technologies from both a science and business lens.

Outside of studying, Adnan traveled throughout the UK and greater Europe during his time as a student there, which he describes as an ‘invaluable experience in and of itself.’

When asked what he loved most about studying in the UK, Adnan said, ‘How different the style was, both teaching and learning.’ These differences challenged the way he learned, interacted, and communicated with people, which helped Adnan learn more about ‘different cultures and styles’ and ‘helped [him] become a great communicator and have the ability to connect with others…’ a required skill in his current career.  

Adnan is the co-founder and Chief Executive of Luma Health, a leader in the digital health space. The company is currently entering the UK market, partly influenced by his experience in the UK. 

Adnan Iqbal
Adnan Iqbal - Master of Philosophy in Bioscience Enterprise at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Biotechnology.
Raquel Villanueva - Master’s degree in International Broadcast Journalism from the University of Westminster
Hein Oo - Bachelor of Arts Honors in Business Management from the University of Northampton
Dr. Emily Rickman
Dr. Emily Rickman -  Master’s degree in Physics and Astrophysics from the University of Sheffield

Studying in the UK is an incredible opportunity to meet people from all over the world, learn new cultures, discover your passions and interests, and truly develop and enhance your career.

Craving a new adventure that can put you on an exciting path? Look no further than studying in the UK!