Mendez Earns Competitive FEA Scholarship, the First for Geneseo

Waderlie Mendez

Waderlie Mendez '20 is the first Geneseo student earn a Fund for Education Abroad scholarship. The award will take her to Spain this summer.

GENESEO, N.Y. -- Waderlie Mendez ’20 has been named a Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) Scholar for 2018-19 and will travel to Cadiz, Spain, and around the country this summer to study Spanish language and culture. The sophomore psychology major is the first Geneseo student to win this award and joins a class of 100 Scholars chosen from a pool of more than 2,300 applicants representing approximately 517 colleges and universities across the country.

The non-profit Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) was established in 2010 to provide scholarships for international experiences to students who are underrepresented among the U.S. study abroad population supporting minority, community college, and first-generation college students before, during, and after they participate in education abroad programs.

Mendez is a Bronx, N.Y., native and will study Spanish at the Centro Superior de Lenguas Modernas (CSLM), which is a language school located on the Universidad de Cádiz campus. She is a first generation student of a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father who knew little to no English while Mendez was growing up.

“A very common assumption made about me is that I am fluent in Spanish because of my name, ethnicity, and accent. However, that is not the case,” she said. “I once was more familiar with Spanish than English as a child. My lack of knowledge of the English language made me hate school as a child. Gradually, I adapted and spoke English more, but in doing so I lost my familiarity and comfort with speaking Spanish.”

95% of this year’s Scholars come from minority backgrounds, and 91% are first-generation college students. According to the FEA website, “Applicants from groups underrepresented in study abroad are given preference, in an effort to make the demographics of U.S. undergraduates studying abroad reflect the rich diversity of the U.S. population.”

For Mendez, language study in a Spanish speaking country will help her to “regain my confidence to speak my native tongue again. Another aspect of studying abroad that fills me with excitement is immersing myself in such a rich and historic culture. Spain is one of the oldest countries in the world, filled with beautiful and historical landmarks.”

Mendez’s two-part study abroad adventure will begin with “Spanish 203: Accelerated Intermediate Spanish in Spain,” which is a four-week program focused on culture and contemporary topics led by Geneseo Adjunct Lecturer of Spanish Felisa Brea, involving travel to an array of cities, including Madrid, Córdoba, Burgos, and Santiago de Compostela. What makes this specific program even more special to Mendez is the inclusion of the famed Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Route, where she will have the opportunity to embark on a six-day journey, on the same path followed for centuries by millions of pilgrims, hikers, and sight-seekers from all around the world.

The second program, a three-week summer program in Spanish, will be located on the Universidad de Cádiz campus. Mendez will be staying with a host family and situated in one place for three weeks.

“I love the idea of living in Cadiz, practicing my Spanish, and being able to witness Spain through the lives of its inhabitants.,” she said. “I have dreamt of studying abroad for a long time. Now that the chance to do so has presented itself, I am determined to see it through.”

When Mendez enrolled at Geneseo, she said she assumed she was only there for a college degree.

“I did not recognize the extent to which college life would amend the woman that I am, and how it still continues to leave an imprint on my life,” she said. “During my freshman year, I lacked the motivation necessary to step outside of my comfort zone, test my limits and try new things.”

Her time at the College has given her “a sense of freedom and purpose that I was searching for my entire life. Contrary to my old reserved self, I am now eager to engage in activities that I am passionate about and have come to a realization that I will only feel genuine happiness when I stop allowing fear to get in the way of achieving my goals, expanding my knowledge and improving my skills.”

FEA offers general and dedicated scholarships. Dedicated scholarships include numerous regional scholarships, the Hiliary Echo Douglas Memorial scholarship, the Jane Gluckmann & Carol Rausch Go Global scholarship, and a Rainbow scholarship for students nationwide who self-identify as LGBTQI. Dedicated scholarships are made possible by the generous support and fundraising efforts of FEA volunteers and partners.

For additional information about the FEA Scholars program and other scholarship and fellowship programs, visit here. Also, contact Michael Mills, Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships at or call 585-245-6002 for more information and assistance with applications.


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