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Alina Cedo '21: A Girl with Goals
Why did you apply to NYU Shanghai? How did Financial Aid impact your decision to accept your spot?
NYU was my dream school. Because I am from such a small country, New York City just seemed like it was the “it” place to be. But when I was invited to an Accepted Students Week in Shanghai, that all changed. While I was here in Shanghai, someone asked me “If I gave you a ticket to go anywhere in the world, where would you choose?” And I responded, “ I am here in China, what more could I ask for? The moon?” However I was 100% sure that I would not be able to attend NYU Shanghai if I did not receive a scholarship… so during the scholarship interview, the interviewer asked me, “if you and I were in an elevator and you had 10 seconds to convince me why you should get a spot at NYU Shanghai, what would you say? And I said, “ If NYU Shanghai is the door to the future, I hold the key.”
You mentioned you come from a small country, how did this impact your desire to pursue higher education outside your country?
I am a first Generation college student, and being a first gen college student is so hard because [my parents] are like yes we want you to study and go abroad, but we made it without education. And I was like no, I have to pursue an undergraduate degree, and while I could study at a public university back home, I knew the quality of education is not the same and I want to “make it.” So while I was waiting to hear back from NYU Shanghai about my acceptance, I was preparing to take an exam for the Ecuadorian Government Scholarship that provides a full ride to university. I was in a center that prepares you to take the test, surrounded by other hopefuls when I got my acceptance letter and I told them all, “ I got accepted to school in Shanghai! And they were all like, ‘Que?’” Because no one understood why I wanted to go to school in China. But without funding, it didn’t matter if I was accepted, because I could not afford to come. Once I checked the award letter, I knew I would be able to afford to go, and immediately texted my Mom and said “I made it! I got the scholarship! I can go to Shanghai!”
So while you have the scholarship, it doesn’t cover all your expenses right? How have you managed that?
For the first few semesters, my parents were able to help me cover some of the tuition that is my responsibility, and I was able to use my work-study and summer jobs to pay the rest. But this semester was the first time my parents were not able to help. The university was able to provide a one time emergency scholarship to help me cover the rest of this semester, and I am working hard to make the rest. I honestly am not really sure how I have made it [laughs] but I just paid off the semester two weeks ago. I was reading something yesterday, and that was talking about your success is not just based on your effort, but also the people who surround you and their support. I would not be here [at NYU Shanghai] if it was not for the support of my friends and family, even if my parents cannot support me financially, they are always cheering me on. I would not have made it this far without their support, and all the people who have supported me, including the donors who provide my scholarship.
What is a meaningful experience that has come from you studying at NYU Shanghai?
Since I got to China, I had this beautiful idea of investing my money in Chinese tea. I took the money I had been saving for the semester and invested it in 200 hundred boxes of tea, took the tea back to Ecuador, and used it to start my own imported tea company. I was able to use the proceeds of the business to help pay for my tuition. So now I am a small business owner, which would have never happened if I had not come to NYU Shanghai!
It sounds like you work a lot to support your education-- does this impact your life as a student?
I recognize that I am working a lot and putting time and effort towards this that I would love to put towards my studies, but when you are struggling financially, it's an everyday pressure, because it's not just tuition, it's also food, books, and flights home. But the education is worth it, that is why I am doing it. I got here, I have to finish, and I recognize that the education at NYU Shanghai is so much better than anything I had access to back home. I am thankful for being here because other students also take their education seriously.
What is your favorite thing about being a student at NYU Shanghai?
The fact that I AM here. That a place like this exists and can provide the opportunity to meet so many people from so many places. Ecuador is a small country of 16 million people-- less than the entire population of Shanghai. The highest building in the city I am from is 15 floors. And NYU Shanghai is 15 floors. So the fact that things are constantly changing in this city and the diversity is so amazing.
What is something you wish NYU Shanghai had?
I just wish more people knew more about NYU Shanghai. People in South America would love to be here, and would love this opportunity.
What is your dream next step after graduating university?
My goal is to go back to Ecuador. I left with the plan of studying in China to find things here that I could bring back to make the lives of Ecuadorians better. I am a business major, so I dream of opening a big company that I can import good that people need there that they might not even know exists! For example, I remember the first day we arrived, the school took us to Ikea, and I saw this little sponge holder. It was designed so well, and we don’t have anything like that back home. That’s what I want to take back, things that make people’s lives easier. I want to expose them to how much more there is in the world and also help them find more opportunities. I also tell my friends, because of going to NYU Shanghai I deeply understand the importance of serious education, so I also joke that I want to be the Minister of Education for Ecuador. Everything I learned here, I hope to take back to Ecuador.