Uniandino chosen by the Obama Foundation

Picture of Pedro Oswaldo Hernández

Pedro travelled to the United States in August 2019, and he is now taking a masters at Harris.

Where will I be in a few years’ time? This question has that Pedro Oswaldo Hernández Santamaría has been asking himself ever since he found out that he had been awarded a scholarship to study a Master’s in International Development and Policy in the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

This economics and political science graduate from the Universidad de los Andes was chosen to become part of the program directed at supporting the next generation of global leaders: young people who are having an impact on their communities in diverse areas. He will have many experiences including a meeting with the ex-president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the opportunity to share knowledge with young people from countries such as Nepal, China, South Sudan, Mozambique, Israel, Palestine, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Jordan, Georgia, Cambodia, the Philippines, India, and Pakistan.

However, it was not an easy road; it was full of huge leaps. Hernández was a beneficiary of the Quiero Estudiar program, was awarded a Cum laude degree, and took subjects in government and development from the School of Government and Cider. As part of his professional experience, he has worked in the Office of the President of the Republic, the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of the Republic, and the National Department of Statistics (DANE). He was also an adjunct professor in Los Andes and participated in several research projects at the university.

Long before that time, when he was studying in the Francisco José de Caldas Technical Institute in Bogota, he began to consider his academic future. His parents did not have the opportunity to go to university; his mother was the only one who had graduated from high school. He wanted to make them proud by going on to higher education.
My objective was to go to a public university, but I also thought that, if that didn’t work out, I could go to the Sena
Pedro Hernández

Destination: Los Andes

However, his plans changed when he came across a poster of the Universidad de los Andes that caught his attention: an indelible memory. “I think that what attracted me to this image was the people lying down on the grass next to the Bobo statue”, he added.

Driven by curiosity, Pedro contacted the Admissions Office to enquire about the opportunities to study at the university. They told him how important the State test previously known as the Icfes was to be able to apply for funding options. He decided to prepare himself to go to this campus that had really caught his attention in the photos.

After completing the process, Los Andes and Quiero Estudiar accepted Pedro. But he was also awarded a place in a public university, which is when a dilemma arose. All it took was one visit to the Uniandes campus where he saw the famous grass from the poster he had liked to seal his fate. “I knew that this the place for me. I felt part of it. I felt really good there” he affirms.

At the beginning, it was hard at the university because he considered not knowing anyone a disadvantage—as well as when he was in math or English class. He felt this even in the simplest situations: “Signing up to a course, I felt the difference. When I asked my classmates why they preferred one teacher they told me that it was because of a friend’s recommendation. But I was blind. I had no one to ask”.

As time went on, he felt more comfortable, especially when he discovered the recognition the Quiero Estudiar program commanded as well as how much the members of the Uniandino community admired those who were part of this program. “If I was you, I would be extremely proud. Congratulations, what you have achieved is not easy” a classmate from English told him when they found out how he had got into the university. This was what Pedro needed to hear to feel confident and develop his potential.

His progress throughout his degree became his cover letter for the world of work. Thanks to this he managed to make a link with the public sector and become an attractive profile for the Obama Foundation. As he explains, “they make a bet on connecting people from all over the world, both people with a lot of experience as well as young people who are fighting for their community, for their country, or for their company”.

The news of Pedro’s scholarship is something that Los Andes as well as his friends and family are proud of. “This opportunity I earnt is a huge source of happiness for my parents”, he says, satisfied.

The political science graduate advised those who are aspiring to study for these options to lay out clear goals that create an impact on society. “I hope that the boys and girls from every corner of the country, especially those who study in public schools, are encouraged to deepen their education despite the circumstances they are in. A story like mine should not be the exception to the rule. Despite all the difficulties we can have, it is worthwhile believing that it is possible. Maybe believing is the hardest part of all”, he details.


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