Studying abroad for one semester changed alumna Stephany Feijoo’s life.
To give back to FIU and help fellow Panthers experience a journey like the one she had, Feijoo created a scholarship fund to help students participate in the international exchange program. She has pledged to give a total of $10,000 over five years, with one student each semester receiving $1,000 to study abroad through the program.
Thanks to the gift, international relations major Odae Bood, the first recipient of the scholarship, packed his bags in December and is currently studying at the prestigious Sciences Po Aix in France this semester.
“Being able to go to France and learn about international relations, but also French history is incredible,” Bood says. “Having that access to professors all over the world is amazing. I want to bring back [those experiences] with me in my academic life and my career goals.”
The scholarship, he says, is the main reason he even considered studying abroad.
“I’m from Belize, from a very modest background. Having the scholarship means so much to me,” Bood says. “I’m grateful. Giving back to FIU students is so important because we come from all over the world. We have dreams and may be limited by financial means. Having a network of alumni ready to give back is incredible as a student. Stephany Feijoo gave out of the kindness of her heart.”
For Feijoo, it all started in the summer of 2016. She studied abroad in Leuven— a small town in Belgium 15 minutes away from Brussels.
“It was the first time leaving my house and my family,” says Feijoo, currently a financial analyst at General Motors in Detroit. “It was time to put everything into practice that I had learned at home. I was going to a world that I did not know anything about. It was this moment of ‘this is your time.’ It was a test run for what was to come for me.”
When she got off the train her first night in Leuven, it was raining, the temperature was in the 40s, she was starving – and, as she soon discovered, supermarkets in town close at 7 p.m. on weekends (before she arrived.)
Besides the cold and rainy climate, Feijoo quickly realized Leuven’s culture and schedule are very different from Miami’s. People don’t need cars much, as they can either walk or bike to places or take a train and be in another country. Like a college town, apartment buildings dot the landscape. And aside from supermarkets, banks close early. She loved getting to experience it.
“It showed me a different style of living,” she says. “It can be something that you like or might not like, but it showed me a different face of a coin.”
The experience boosted her confidence in her ability to survive and thrive anywhere in the world. It also opened her eyes to the value of travelling and the personal growth that comes with experiencing other cultures and traditions.
After graduating with her bachelor’s in economics from the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs in 2016, she visited numerous countries, from Israel and Jordan to Egypt, Iran, Thailand and Cambodia.
During her commencement ceremony, she realized she wanted to give back to FIU in some way.
“Being a donor to FIU helps me to stay connected,” she says. “This is where I had all my education, I had so many opportunities here. Coming back as a donor, it feels like I’m closing the circle.”
Feijoo hopes the study abroad opportunity will cement students’ desire to give back as well.
“I have a passion to help others, too,” Bood says.
At Sciences Po Aix, Bood is looking forward to taking an economic development class and to learning about processes and policies he can implement in his work in the future.
He plans to pursue a career in economic development, focusing on the Latin American and Caribbean region – and particularly on helping youth in the region avoid falling into drugs or criminal activity.
Today, he gets one step closer to giving back thanks to Feijoo’s gift.