Dhionis and Marineo’s story | NHS heroes

Dhionis and Marineo, two international students, in scrubs.

When twins Dhionis and Marineo decided on the UK to continue their higher education, neither could have foreseen the unprecedented challenges they were about to face. 

The Albanian brothers started full time study at the Leeds International Study Centre in 2019. To support themselves financially and further their career development, the Registered Nurses took jobs with the NHS.  

COVID-19 struck just as the pair were preparing to complete their Study Group pathway programmes to progress to the University of Leeds. 

This International Nurses Day – a day designed to celebrate the enormous contribution nurses make to our society – we are recognising two Study Group students who have shown exceptional dedication to healthcare, education and to supporting the next generation of healthcare workers. 

For Dhionis, the UK was the right choice. He finds the UK, and Leeds especially, very welcoming of international students. “I settled quickly,” Dhionis says of joining the Leeds International Study Centre, “because I saw that my peers were experiencing the same challenges but that we and our international study environment created an instant support network.”  

Marineo says that the pair “decided on the UK among other European countries because we are able to speak the language well, avoiding the challenges associated with the language barrier.” 

Dhionis adds, “I felt very welcomed, particularly by Study Group but also by the University of Leeds and the NHS. Each of these institutions appreciate diversity and recognise that international people are at their heart.” 

Studying and working throughout COVID-19 

Working in the Intensive Care Unit throughout the pandemic, Dhionis delivered critical care for countless patients and families throughout one of living memory’s most difficult periods. His inspirational dedication to others, caring and learning prevailed. 

The international peers and tutors at the Leeds International Study Centre were deeply admiring of the twins’ drive and dedication. In addition to his work and studies, Dhionis was an active member of the student community, taking on a Student Representative role, supporting others and ensuring international students had an effective voice. In recognition of his personal impact on others, Dhionis was voted 2019 Student of the Year. 

The brothers have both since graduated from the University of Leeds with a BSc Hons Medical Science.

Support is a key component of success 

Reflecting on his journey, Marineo says it “was not easy. There were times that we had meltdowns, but we motivated each other to keep on and make our dream a reality. We made sure to look after each other's wellbeing by intentionally taking our mind off things, playing board games, and taking exercise classes.” 

Dhionis says that, alongside his brother, his place of work and study were invaluable in supporting him, “I am the person I am today because of my time as an international student with Study Group. Claire, the [Leeds International Study Centre] Centre Director, supported me like a mum. 

“The NHS were very supportive and gave me equal and fair treatment. I was listened to by an inclusive employer, which meant I felt the belief and support to pursue my studies and ambitions. I am very grateful and very proud to work during that time.” 

“True success is all about working towards meaningful goals and dreams,” Dhionis said upon graduation, “working as an Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse and studying Medical Sciences full-time has been difficult. To attend university, I needed to use my annual leave and request a night shift working pattern. But today I am delighted to say that I finally made it.” Dhionis went on to secure his dream job, working for the NHS as an Education Practitioner at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, completing the loop on a journey started by learning.  

“My education, work and life experience, particularly as an international student, combine perfectly for my job role, to provide an effective education so my learners flourish,” Dhionis says. “I also work with international nurses who come to the UK to work, and it is my duty to support them in understanding how the NHS operates. As a previous international student, I know how difficult it can be to transition to a completely different environment and culture. You are alone and away from your family and loved ones, so having someone with similar experience to support you and explain how things work is quite helpful, making you feel safe and not alone.” 

Dhionis and Marineo are now colleagues, with Marino working at the same trust as an Oncology Research Nurse. 

Alongside their education, Marineo credits having a twin brother as the main reason they’ve achieved so much, “We are thankful to have each other because it has made us stronger to overcome the many difficulties we have encountered.” 

Education is the greatest gift of life,” says Dhionis, reflecting his naturally determined, positive and learning mindset. “If you focus and work hard, you can achieve your goals.”

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