Queen University's my safe haven, says Venezuelan after she left crisis-hit home
A Venezuelan woman who came to Northern Ireland to study during a turbulent time in her own country will graduate today.
Patricia Lopez, who studied a Master's in Structural Engineering, Design and Management at Queen's University, left the South American country in 2016 as it was in the throes of economic and political collapse.
She opted to study at Queen's and has enjoyed life in Belfast.
"Most people love their countries and only under certain circumstances would consider leaving them," Patricia explained.
"Venezuela is a wonderful land which is full of resources. However, at the present time there are many problems there.
"No matter your profession, study level or even your income it is very hard to access basic things such as food or medicine and many people are dying. I received some special help during the examination period because by that time there were many problems in my country and my family was at risk.
"This affected my concentration and focus over this period and the university has helped me to go through what is happening in Venezuela.
"Belfast and Queen's have been my safe haven this past year and they have a special place in my heart."
Patricia took part in many of the programmes organised by Queen's which help international students to become part of a community in Northern Ireland.
She now hopes to stay in Northern Ireland and continue to build a life here.
She added: "The people in Northern Ireland are very kind and helpful and people are a big part of what makes this place so special.
"It's hard to imagine a better place."
Patricia Lopez is from Venezuela, where the population have been suffering due to economic and political problems