In many cases, the path to arrive to Graduate school, and especially Graduate school in Tropical Ecology, is not cheap.
After completing my undergraduate degree, which already required a fair amount of money, I found myself performing different activities that were definitely helping the development of my skills, the enrichment of my experience and my resume, but also the depletion of my bank account. I volunteered in labs, in field expeditions, I had internships in different parts of the world and I enrolled in several English courses. I used to say (for myself and the judging world) that all of those activities were INVESTMENTS. When I got into the PhD program I thought that, finally, all of those investments would be acknowledged. Yes, they were; I got into a good lab doing what I want to do. However, I soon realized that Grad school was one more investment. I was financially juggling to pay the fees, the rent, the food, the insurance and the car; everything to start a life in Miami.
Fortunately, my lab mate Catherine Bravo encouraged me to apply for the International Peace Scholarship offered by the sorority P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization). This scholarship supports international women doing their graduate studies in the United States and Canada. During this past academic year, they have provided me support to pay my fees and some extra expenses which has made my life a lot easier and enjoyable.
P.E.O. was founded in 1869, by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The goal was to promote educational opportunities for women. The sorority has grown and now it is present in the 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces. There are more than 250,000 members of P.E.O. around the world. More than 90,000 women have benefited from P.E.O.´s educational grants, loans, awards, special projects and stewardship of Cottey College.
I recently had the honor of attending a luncheon to commemorate the foundation of P.E.O. by the seven brave women who challenged the world of their time. I met incredible women from different chapters in Broward County, Florida. They showed an incredible enthusiasm about my research, my goals and about the impact that myself and other women can have on society.
It was certainly a great experience and I want to sincerely thank P.E.O., not only for the funding which is incredibly helpful, but for the emotional and social support that they provide me.