WHEN Bruna Pereira arrived in Essex she couldn't speak a single word of English. Five years later, she’s not only fluent, but has eight GCSEs to her name.

Bruna, pictured right, moved to Billericay from Portugal and started at the town’s Mayflower School in Year 7.

She faced the daunting task of not only starting a new school and making friends, but learning the language while she did it.

Bruna, 16, of Radford Way, picked up the language with the help of staff and classmates, but admits she found it really hard. She said: “It wasn’t that I was lonely, but there was a lot of pressure. Everyone else was talking and I was having to use a dictionary.

“I used to watch TV with subtitles, and it wasn’t that long – less than a year – until people started to tell me I was fluent. It has been good. I have got lots of friends”

Bruna achieved an A* in Spanish, As in English literature and child development, Bs in religious studies, maths and science, and Cs in art and design and English language.

Bruna, who only needed two Cs and a D to get on to her chosen hairdressing course at Chelmsford College, said: “It was nerve-racking as I sat waiting for the results with my mates.I am so pleased, especially with my A*.

“I wasn’t expecting as many As and stuff, I worked quite hard to make it happen and spent lots of nights before the exams revising.”