A Russian postgraduate student who knew only six English words when she arrived in the UK as a child is representing England at an international beauty contest.
Maria Rimmer-Turbakova left her birthplace in Yekaterinburg and moved to Huddersfield at the age of 11.
For months she cried herself to sleep at night and struggled to communicate with her new classmates with only the most basic words.
But ten years on she is studying for a masters degree and has now been invited to represent England in the Miss World University competition in South Korea.
Miss Rimmer-Turbakova, 21, said: “I can’t believe how lucky I am to be invited to the competition. When I moved here I couldn’t understand anyone because I wasn’t taught any English over in Russia.
“I only knew how to say ‘hello’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘goodbye’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’ so it was very much the basics.
“It was very scary for me but because I started at school straight away, I had no choice but to learn.
“I suppose you could say I was thrown in the deep end. To think what my life is like ten years later is amazing.”
Miss Rimmer-Turbakova came to England when her mother married her Yorkshire stepfather.
Thanks to the help of staff at Almondbury High School and Language College, the Russian student became fluent in English within three years.
She gained nine GCSEs and four A-levels and then graduated from Leeds University with a degree in psychology.
Miss Rimmer-Turbakova is now taking a masters degree in investigative psychology at Huddersfield and hopes to do a PhD there too.
She began modelling several years ago after a relative suggested she should give it a try.
Since then she has modelled for a major international company and said it has helped her self-esteem.
Miss Rimmer-Turbakova said: “I started modelling when I was 17 after a relative in Russia, who is into photography, took my picture and said I should think about trying it.
“I gave it a go and although it seemed very strange at first, it really started to improve my self-esteem. I applied to an agency two years ago and I didn’t think I stood a chance because I’m not very tall but they took me on.”
Since then the student has modelled for clothing companies and was runner-up in the Miss Yorkshire event last March.
“It was at that event when one of the organisers approached me and asked me if I would be interested in taking part in the Miss World University competition,” she said.
“I knew straight away what an amazing opportunity it would be and I said ‘yes’.”
The trip, which will last for nearly a month, will also see Miss Rimmer-Turbakova travel to Korea and then onto Cambodia, where the final will be held.
As part of the contest the student, who is also an artist, will perform belly dancing and drawing as she competes against other women from across the globe.
She said: “I’m so lucky to have been chosen and I’m really excited for it. I think it will be a brilliant competition and I hope it will help raise awareness of the importance of world peace, especially with the conflict we see today.
“If you win, you are represented for a year as a peace ambassador which is a great opportunity.
“I’m so grateful to all of my friends and family who have given me so much support.
“I’m the sort of person who can’t sit still and I constantly have to be doing something. I think that is why I have managed to achieve what I have and I have my family to thank for that.
“It’s the way I have been brought up and I’m so thankful.”
Miss Rimmer-Turbakova volunteers with Kirklees Youth Offending Team, mentoring young offenders, and said her dream is to become a forensic psychologist.
She has had her costumes donated by two local businesses but welcomes sponsors to help fund her trip.