Living Abroad while Studying

Connie Fuentes Garrido

Founder and Director of Human Rights Awareness

I still remember that day. I was 12 years old, standing in an airport in Mexico City, with two suitcases, one ticket to Canada in my hands, and ready to leave my family for the next two months. I remember being a bit scared but at the same time at-ease due to the great enthusiasm I had. That was the first time in my life I travelled to another country without any family member or any friend. I was sent to an ‘English Camp’ in Ontario, created for children from all over the world to learn English as a second language. That experience was fun, exciting and above all, it was eye-opening. I learned that my reality as a kid was not necessarily the reality of kids from other countries, that being open to other cultures and embracing their differences is a major factor of social interaction, that a smile and kindness are a bridge for starting friendships regardless of not having a complete understanding of each others’ languages, and that I wanted to keep on travelling when I became an adult woman. After that trip I decided that somehow when I grew up I wanted to travel and to meet other people across the globe. And so I did!

When I was 15 and I was in high school I got the great opportunity to do my studies in three countries. I was studying in Mexico as a primary country and then as an exchange student in Spain and in Canada. At this point I was not scared any more of travelling with no friends nor family but I felt I had a great challenge being abroad because I was going to study not a language but ‘real stuff” like Maths, Physics, Biology, and all those difficult subjects you study when you are in high school. I had an amazing experience studying in those two countries. At this point I realised that studying abroad was an interesting, fun and very productive way of travelling to other countries and getting to know different cultures.

After high school I started Law School. During the 5 years of Bachelors, I did not study abroad as an exchange student even though I would have really liked to. Unless you are studying International Law as your Bachelors, Law is a very local subject that needs to be studied in depth in the country you are going to apply your knowledge. However, I did find an advantage of studying all those years in Mexico and not moving around: I worked as a Law intern almost all my University and that gave me the chance to save some money for my next study abroad!

Once I finished Law School, I took all the money I saved while working as a Law intern, I got some money by selling my car and with some help of my parents I went to Spain to study a Masters in Political Analysis at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. I had one of the best experiences in my life! I was studying abroad not as a 12-year-old with tutors in Canada, not as a high school teenager studying abroad, but as a young woman discovering the freedom and responsibilities that go along with living in a foreign country by yourself. It was simply amazing!

After Spain, I came back to Mexico. While working there in human rights I decided I wanted to study another Masters in Belgium but I did not have any money after spending all I had in my studies in Spain. I had not saved enough in my work in Mexico for paying another year of studies and living costs with no income. So, I decided to risk it and to apply for a scholarship. For getting it you needed to apply with lots of documents in a sort of a competition process. I still remember when I was informed that I got the scholarship. I could not believe it! I was very happy. I travelled to Belgium for studying an Advanced Master in Governance and Development at the Institute of Development Policy and Management of Antwerp University. I was studying with 70 people from around 50 nationalities. It was such an extraordinary experience to be surrounded by people from so many countries around the globe. I was so inspired by this experience and by knowing that no matter where you are from, what language you speak, what your ethnicity is, to what culture you belong, what your abilities are, we all are human beings with equal value and dignity.

Motivated by my studies in Governance and Development, where I chose the track of poverty reduction, I decided to go to India for a while. I had the great opportunity to be with women and children in the slums of New Delhi and to understand a bit about their complex situation. I learned so much about the importance of access to opportunities and development not only for some but for all. I fully understood that we, as a society, have the responsibility to defend the rights of those in vulnerability and not to leave anyone behind. While in India I founded an online platform for raising awareness of human rights, mainly of those of children, youth and women called ‘Human Rights Awareness’. I am very optimistic about this platform and I do believe that it can help to do my bit in this society.

Following India, I came to London and this is where I am right now, writing for the blog of this amazing project called Inspiring Women. I want to tell all young girls from all over the world not to give up in what you want in life. It does not matter how big the challenge looks, you are capable of facing it. I would encourage you all to travel as much as you can, get to know other cultures, be kind to one another, work for your society and do your bit!

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Maybell Saliu International Women’s Day blog post

Our final blog post to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017 is from Maybell Saliu. Maybell is a Project Manager Trainee with Network Rail and has been volunteering with us since April 2016. A special thanks to Maybell and all the inspiring women who lit up our blog this week to help us celebrate International Women’s Day! #BeBoldForChange

“Sadly, I was not an individual who was able to utterMaybell the words – ‘I aspire to be just like….’. I was not exposed to, nor did I ever have anyone to aspire to. Until I received my GCSE results – I met face to face with failure. The reality that I had played around and squandered any opportunities to be the best I could be in that season, hit me hard. I would say from that point forward I was inspired to always give my best, always!
I have a passion to ensure young people in education are exposed to as much information and opportunities as possible, to make the best choice for their future and to own it! Also, I do not want young people to forcibly go through the motions of education and ultimately life. Life is what you make of it, and age should never dictate the level of success that can be achieved.
I attended schools that did not have the opportunities to expose me to what I could be. I know times have changed but I believe more opportunities need to be brought to the attention of young people. A wealth of information needs to be available and easily accessible to them so that they can grasp these opportunities and position themselves for greatness.
Volunteering allows you to connect to young students, impart knowledge and encourage others. It is a great platform to genuinely contribute to generations behind you, so they may become greater and better than our generation. Last but not least, it is fun and fulfilling to see a young student blossom and take steps into the next chapter of their life.

The advice I would give to a young person wanting to pursue a career in my field is:

• Research, research and research.
• Stop, sit down, and think, strategies & then Go.
• Buy Project Management books
• Read blogs/articles of successful projects in different industries.
• Check Project Managers Career history via LinkedIn.
• Give a project management related company a call or email asking for career advice.
• Get a mentor
Inspiring the Future are passionate about causes that are close to my heart. Their vast network of schools, allows me to actively engage with young people. The best part of it is when a student request to speak to me further, it reassures me I said something that they were able to relate to. “

Brooke Wachtel International Women’s Day blog post

Today’s Inspiring Women blog post is from Brooke Wachtel, who has been a volunteer with us since April 2015. Brooke is a director in Corporate Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The company is our key strategic partner and lead corporate sponsor, and has over 900 amazing employees signed up as volunteers.

“I am incredibly inspired every time I volunteer for an Brooke WachtelInspiring the Future event. I love hearing the questions the young people ask about different jobs and being able to share information about careers that they never thought of before. My favourite moment is when a young person decides they can aim for more than they thought they could…that’s a very fulfilling volunteer experience!

When we are young we can sometimes be limited in our thinking by what we see around us. There are so many unique and diverse careers to aim for but many times we build dreams based on what we already know. It is so important to be able to meet people from many walks of life and understand their experiences so we broaden our thinking and can truly decide what we want to do with our lives.

This is why Inspiring the future is so important to me. I want to be able to share my experiences with young people who may have never thought about entering my field and show them that anything is possible if they work hard for it. I’ve had many different career experiences which I’ve been given mainly because of my work ethic. I truly believe that if you are willing to work hard any achievement is possible and I want every young person to feel empowered to reach for their dreams.”

Amy and Francesca’s International Women’s Day blog post

 

WIFM_1         WIFM_2

In honour of International Women’s Day 2017 we wanted to reemphasise the profound impact volunteer interactions have on the lives of young people.

Francesca and Amy, two Year 13 students from the Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School, attended their first Inspiring Women event in May 2016. During the Inspiring Women in Business and Enterprise event at the London Stock Exchange they met an array of leading women from the Business sector. They were involved in the campaign again this year, however now they were speaking on behalf of the Inspiring Women campaign!  Francesca and Amy took to the stage at the Women in Facilities management annual conference to speak about their experiences meeting volunteers.

Here’s what Amy and Francesca have to say about their experience:

“The Inspiring Women in Business event in May has been a continuous source of enlightenment and has offered us advice as how to be successful in our careers. As students, it is extremely beneficial, speaking to women at such events, because it allows us to aspire to achieve great things and how our gender should not limit our success. We were able to meet women in demanding professions who are excelling in their chosen career, but who have also been able to create a successful work and family balance.

The event offered us direction to our final goal and the types of skills and traits that would be required for our chosen career, which was extremely advantageous. These events have encouraged us to succeed and being in contact with employers has given us the knowledge to understand what we need to do to excel in our chosen career.

Being able to share what we have learnt with these women, was important because it means that further women will be able to support the charity, and thus many young women similar to us will be able to benefit significantly.”

Thank you again to Amy and Francesca for their wonderful contribution and to all our volunteers for making this possible!

 

Dr Cristina Aguilera Xiol International Women’s Day blog post

Today’s Inspiring Women blog post to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017 is from Dr Cristina Aguilera Xiol. Dr Cristina is the Project Manager at Genomics England and has been volunteering with us since October 2014.

‘I studied Biochemistry at the University; in my class there were far more young women
than men – no need to count, it was evident. During my PhD in Biomedicine, around half of the students were female. During my PostDoc, the number of women started to decrease but, more importantly, most of the Group leaders were men. This is not just my experience; research shows that there is substantial attrition of both men and women Dr Cristina Aguileraalong the science and engineering educational pathway to first academic position which is expected. Nevertheless, there are major differences between the patterns of attrition between men and women: fewer high school girls intend to major in science and engineering fields, even more alter their intentions to major in science and engineering between high school and college, fewer women science and engineering graduates continue on to graduate school, and fewer women science and engineering PhDs are recruited into the applicant pools for tenure-track faculty positions (1).

Why is this happening? How can we change this trend? I do not have answers to these complicated questions but I feel concerned so I decided to volunteer to Inspire Women to ensure girls can see what women are capable of. I feel that meeting role models inspire young girls to pursue their passions and dream BIG, knowing that other women have already gone through the path they dream of.

I studied at the University and did my PhD in Spain, then came to the UK following my dream of having a career in science, and today I can gladly say I do. I am very grateful to this country that welcomed me and my family. The best way I found I could contribute back is by volunteering and help make the Uk, Europe, the world really, a better place ensuring young women and young men can achieve anything they are able to dream of.  UK as well as Spain and many other countries in Europe have two essential society pillars: Education and Healthcare. I work in Healthcare but I am as well passionate about Education. The primary role of Education is to provide people with knowledge and confidence to make a difference in the transformation of society – we need to invest in Education to ensure our children create a better world for everyone. Volunteering for Inspire the Future is my little contribution to this brighter future.’

 

References

  • Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. National Academy of Sciences (US), National Academy of Engineering (US), and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.

Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2007.

Lieta Marziali International Women’s Day blog post

The second post in our week of Inspiring Women blog posts to celebrate International Women’s Day comes from Lieta Marziali. Lieta is an artist jeweller who owns her own jewellery company and has been a volunteer with us since September 2015. Lieta is also one of our language volunteers, able to speak to young people about how she uses Italian in her day to day life!

‘I Lietabecame a volunteer because I was eager to share my journey with the younger generation. Despite today’s job market shifting towards more varied and portfolio careers, there is still enormous pressure on children to “get it right” first time. This can start as early as picking extra-curricular activities in primary school, and certainly it is felt by the time they have to choose their GCSE subjects. Hopefully, my experience of exploring as many as four very different areas of work before becoming an artist can provide a reassuring voice that it is perfectly acceptable to try out different paths, and that the answer to what is our perfect job sometimes can take years to become obvious.

There needs to be a shift in the mindset that taking risks is to be avoided: it is how we learn what we like and, above all, what we do not. Through Inspiring The Future I have both a permanent mentor role at one of my local High Schools, and I also attend as many career events as I can fit in. Every time I make sure that I reinforce the lesson that the biggest and most difficult subject children should prepare to be studying all their life is, in fact, themselves. The other big lesson is to approach every new path they take not only with hard work but above all with enthusiasm, as this is the secret to always gaining something and learning valuable transferable skills, regardless of whether it is going to be the job of their life. For the shorter events, I often take with me a large travel bag filled with objects that represent my version of this accumulated knowledge, in the form of uniforms, tools, books and other reminders of my previous work lives. It is always such a pleasure to see their eyes light up and their smiles grow the more different objects I take out!

Being a volunteer is all about providing a caring external voice: it is the privilege of sitting neither on the parents’ nor the teachers’ bench. It gives children a glimpse of an outside world they are sometimes scared of peering into or, in the worst case scenarios, prevented from exploring by obstacles of a social, cultural and economic nature. For many children, it is about bringing that outside world literally into the classroom, and with it possibilities and opportunities they might not be otherwise exposed to.

When writing this piece, I was asked who had inspired me when I was very young, and I was confronted with the fact that the person who truly opened my eyes about the way I could shape my future did not appear in my life until I was 20. Through being a volunteer, I can make sure I can be a positive influence for children when they need it most, and before so many of the insecurities that we face in adulthood have had a chance to set in. Inspiring The Future for me is not just about helping shape the lives of those much younger than us, but recognising that, by doing that, we also help shape a better future for all of us, where success is not achieved by unquestioningly ticking somebody else’s boxes but by allowing and even encouraging mistakes and by slowly learning to walk happily with our own feet.’

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Paske International Women’s Day blog post

The first in our series of blog posts to celebrate International Women’s Day and our Inspiring Women volunteers is from Alex Paske! Alex is the Managing Director of Mintridge Events Ltd. and has been volunteering with us since January 2015.

‘My name is Alex Paske and I am an “Inspiring the Future” volunteer. alex-paske

At a young age, I was inspired by my sporting role model, Jonny Wilkinson, for his meticulous outlook on training and huge desires to work for his team and become the very best.

I have become an “Inspiring the Future” volunteer because to me, Jonny was amongst a pool of male role models that I looked up to growing up and I am very keen to alter the gender gap and increase the number of female role models available for young people.

The advice I would give for someone looking to start their own business or charity, should remember the following:

1)            Your dream job does not exist, you must create it!

  1. Build your contact base.
  2. Always deliver your maximum! Be proactive, you can always strive to be doing more!

2)            Create short term targets to achieve your long term goals!

  1. Success takes time and lots of mistakes!
  2. Be stubborn about your goals but flexible about your methods. Believe in yourself and trust your instinct!

3)            Enjoy the journey and not just the destination!

  1. Enjoy your day to day work.
  2. Surround yourself with talented and positive people that understand your cause.
  3. Ensure you have a work / life balance.

You will undoubtedly have to overcome challenges on your journey to success, and it is how you deal with them that is important. Without my challenges, I wouldn’t be in the strong position that I am in today.

I have battled mental health issues following dropping out of university and not being selected for a national sporting team; both of which I have dreamed of from a very early age. I have battled a series of setbacks since starting Mintridge which include negativity from potential clients and investors – it only makes you believe in your vision more and I am happy that I have been through it all. Although, I probably wouldn’t have said that at the time!

I am looking forward to plenty more “Inspiring The Future” events as I hope to make a small impact on a young person’s career journey, allowing them to discover that there are plenty of routes to the top!’