Thanks to her leadership and academic excellence, María Alejandra Vargas, a Government and Public Affairs and Economics student at the Universidad de los Andes was granted a partial scholarship to attend the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Intercollegiate Convention, which is the most important meeting of university students and recent graduates interested in becoming business women or leaders in their field of study.
The meeting, which takes place annually every October, is organized by the Women in Business Club at Harvard College. Over 1,300 students take part from different universities throughout the U.S. and the world. The scholarship was granted by the Fundación Mujeres por Colombia, which aims to contribute to the comprehensive training of female professionals so they can empower themselves and become the political, economic, and social decision-makers in the country. They will then lead Colombia’s transition towards peace, justice, equality, and development.
As well as attending the international convention, the scholarship includes seven additional days to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), several faculties in Harvard, Yale, and Columbia and some tourist attractions in Boston, Cambridge, and New York.
María Alejandra says that, “My dream has always been to study in the School of Government at Harvard. Getting first-hand admissions information is an opportunity to project myself. At the same time, it is possible to tell young people that it is not necessary to be the most gifted of the person with the most funds but to have the initiative to get these opportunities”.
It will also be a personal challenge as it is the first time that she will have left Colombia alone, which she says will, measure “her independence and ability to function in a new country”.
The application process to travel to Massachusetts involved sending references, certifying grades, creating a life project, writing her reasons to want to attend the conference, and initiatives that she has led and supported.
María Alejandra has stood out for having been involved in social causes that have supported the community. Ever since she was at school, she volunteered with the Fundación Fe y Alegría and also belonged to a scout group. Later, at Los Andes, she was a student representative in the School of Government, where she was elected as the representative of the CADE Committee (Student Guidance Center Unit - Deanship of Student Affairs), which undertakes continuous monitoring of students who are part of the Quiero Estudiar scholarship program.
She is currently part of the Uniandes Women in Business social responsibility committee, which is the first student club for business women in Colombia and was inspired by the Harvard initiative.
The scholarship, which was granted by the convention on women in Harvard, covered a third of the cost of the trip.
She said that, “to get the rest of the money, my mom and I saved and did a raffle: I sold one hundred tickets. I realized that people are always willing to help, especially with these types of initiatives as they realize that the grain of sand they contribute goes to a great cause.”
“I never imagined studying in the Universidad de los Andes as I didn’t have the money. But I realized that dreams and aspirations cannot hang only on a dollar sign. You can’t just depend on how much money you have, but instead, how talented you are and the desire you have to drive your life forward,” said María Alejandra, who was able to study her undergraduate program thanks to the Quiero Estuidar scholarship. This program covers 95% of her degree.
She adds that, “the reciprocity element is really important, and it is really satisfying to think that a small part of my salary is going to help a lot of young people be able to fulfil their dreams, just like I did. They can take advantage of everything that the Universidad de los Andes has to offer them.”
She says that thanks to the Quiero Estuidar program she has not only been able to study, but she has been introduced to a world of possibilities. “When I graduated from school, I never thought that I was going to go to Harvard to attend a congress for women on a scholarship. This would have been impossible if I had not studied as Los Andes.”
She affirms that she is not the only beneficiary of the Quiero Estudiar program. It will help her family, the next students who will receive the scholarship, and the country will also benefit from the excellent human talent.