FIU taught me to chase my dreams wherever they lead

By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17

As we began our descent into Nashville International Airport, I looked out the window and let out an audible gasp.

It was the fall of 2009. I was a sophomore at FIU and a sports writer for The Beacon (now the Panther Press) traveling with the Panthers football team to cover its road game against Middle Tennessee for the student paper.

Growing up in Miami, I had never experienced a real autumn before as family trips to Orlando were as far north as we had gone. So when I saw a sea of brilliant orange trees under a clear blue sky out of that plane window, I felt like I was entering another world.

We stayed in a hotel right in the heart of downtown Nashville, and the morning of the game I had some free time to walk along Broadway, a major thoroughfare that runs through the heart of the city. As I passed some of the Music City’s iconic hotspots like the Ryman Auditorium and the Johnny Cash Museum Café, a thought crossed my mind: I could see myself living here one day.

After the game that evening, we loaded onto a plane to return to Miami, and I sat in my seat knowing that this trip had crystalized my career path: I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing.

* * * * * * * *

Now a staff writer for FIU News and FIU Magazine, I was assigned to write a piece for an upcoming issue of the magazine focusing on alumni pursuing career opportunities outside of South Florida.

My time at FIU has given me memories I will carry with me for a lifetime, from coming face to face with bald eagles in Alaska to interviewing an alumnus inside the White House.

Ironically, just weeks before the article was published on our website, I accepted a new career opportunity – in Nashville. In late April, I will join the writing team at Ramsey Solutions, a company that is helping millions of people across the country eliminate debt, get their finances in order and build a legacy.

As a writer, it’s not often that you end up becoming the subject of one of your own stories. Something magical happens when you’re telling someone else’s story and suddenly their story becomes your story too.

Like many of those I interviewed for the piece, who also followed their dream jobs outside of South Florida, the prospect of leaving FIU and the city I’ve called home my whole life is bittersweet.

There’s excitement in the prospect of doing work you love in a new city where you can start fresh. There’s the stress and fear involved with uprooting your life and starting over again. There’s the sadness that surfaces when saying goodbye to family and friends (and the beach and Cuban food).

But in many ways, this is what FIU does best: It creates an environment for students and alumni to learn, grow and eventually thrive in careers that align with their passions and skills, whether it’s here in South Florida or elsewhere.

Now I get to continue chasing my dreams in the same place where those dreams became clear, equipped with years of education, training and professional experience I’ve gained through this university.

Read more: A growing number of alumni are pursuing their dreams outside of Florida

The FIU experience has been a gift to me, a gift I thank God for every day.

From the moment I first stepped on campus 10 years ago as a wide-eyed freshman who couldn’t figure out where the Graham Center was, FIU has always felt like home. And it always will be home.

FIU provided me with an education that allowed me to pursue my passion for writing and made available many opportunities to sharpen my skills, both in and out of the classroom.

FIU fostered an environment that helped me cultivate some of the most meaningful personal and professional relationships in my life. That same environment forced me to confront life’s greatest questions head on and eagerly seek the answers.

FIU challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and find new ways to tell the stories of the incredible students, faculty, staff and alumni who are changing the world around them. And their stories inspired me to continue boldly living out my own story.

That’s what FIU gave me. That’s what FIU has given to thousands before me and will continue to give to thousands more in the years to come. These are the gifts I will take with me wherever I go.