"There's more to life than studying," is the message from 21-year-old Hazel Mowbray, who has beaten thousands of students in winning the title of Graduate of the Year 2005. The competition, run by Real World magazine, in association with PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Moloney Search Graduates, seeks to identify exceptional students who have made the most of their time at university by contributing to university life, their local community or society at large.
Hazel, currently in her final year at the London School of Economics where she is studying for a degree in international relations and history, says: "This award is fantastic because it highlights you really can do it all. I'm hopefully going to graduate with a really good 2.1 and I couldn't have worked harder, but I still made the time to do everything I wanted to do."
Indeed, featuring on her already glittering CV is impressive evidence of voluntary work at home and abroad, a passion for music and rowing and development of her role as the student union's disabilities officer.
"I'm dyslexic," she explains. "That's why I initially got involved in work around disabilities at university. When the previous disabilities officer left, I was elected and as part of my new role, I established weekly drop-in sessions and organised Disability Awareness Week. In addition, we had some really good organised debates. It was a really satisfying role."
Equally engaging for Hazel has been her work abroad. Having been to India in her gap year, she then spent her first university summer holidays working for a human rights NGO in Ecuador and during her second summer, she worked in Ethiopia, where she helped set up a project providing ante- and postnatal care for women. The most profound part of her trip, she says, was actually on her day off, when she volunteered as a nurse in Mother Teresa's hospital, helping to provide palliative care to cancer patients.
Having reached grade eight in the piano and oboe at school and having taught music for five months in India, Hazel was determined not to let her enthusiasm for music slip at university. "So I started teaching in a primary school during my first year, then in a secondary school in my second year," she says. Finally, in her third year, she started playing in the University of London Orchestra.
"Music is fantastic for so many reasons - as a stress reliever, as a discipline and as a way of communicating with people. For instance, in Ethiopia, I played the piano for the hymns in church on Sundays and it was a wonderful way of getting past language barriers and meeting people," she says.
In her third year, Hazel, having developed an interest in refuges, embarked on a role as a legal case worker for a Tamil organisation, where she helped compile asylum appeals for Tamil refugees. "It involved a lot of reading, some of which was horrific, but I really believed in what I was doing," she says.
As if this weren't a daunting enough schedule, Hazel has also managed to maintain her interest in rowing. Typically, not content with coaching and coaxing the men's team she established a women's rowing club at LSE. "That's been great fun, especially as we all go to the pub afterwards. It's also taught me some diplomacy skills - for example, in telling someone that their coordination is really quite bad!"
Hazel says she is living proof that good time management enables people to fit in a huge amount around their studies. "Of course, if you get up at noon, you won't fit everything in. But it's not as if I don't sleep much. In fact, I'm very grumpy if I don't get my full eight hours."
Hazel has been awarded £10,000 for winning the competition, which will pay for her masters in development studies at LSE, with the remainder going towards a return trip to Ethiopia. Her dream is to go on to work for the Department of International Development.
"I will be graduating from university not just with a degree, but with an outlook, enthusiasm and objective for life," she says. "My advice to other students would be to get involved with projects and causes you are passionate about - don't just do things to put on your CV."Reuse content