Western Union Foundation awards scholarships to international students

Giving By Emily Larson December 7, 2020

Western Union Foundation Awards $250,000 in Scholarships to Grant  International Students Access to Higher Education

The Western Union Foundation has an unwavering commitment to help provide access to education and workforce skills training to help its recipients build a better future. While 2020 has brought countless challenges related to COVID-19, one specific challenge that emerged is that many international students are struggling to fund tuition and other basic needs such as healthcare, food, and housing. Global unemployment, travel restrictions, and fewer job opportunities due to shutdowns have left many international students at a disadvantage and in significant financial need, despite universities prioritizing the health and wellbeing of their students.

The Foundation responded by establishing a $250,000 fund in partnership with the Institute of International Education (IIE), specifically for international students. Twenty-five deserving students were granted $10,000 each to pay for immediate needs so that their education can continue.

These students are from 15 different countries, studying at 22 different colleges and universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, and New Zealand. Their studies range from engineering to public health to business management. Below are some of the stories of these amazing and inspiring students, who refuse to give up on their dreams. We will continue to share stories of these students on the blog and on the Foundation’s Twitter page, so you can learn more about them and how they are overcoming the challenges facing them.

Sofia | From Colombia studying Civil Engineering in the United States

Sofia’s parents were funding her tuition, but when COVID-19 hit her home country of Colombia, they lost their jobs and were no longer able to support her. Education was always emphasized in her home, so following in her father’s footsteps as a civil engineer was a natural fit. Her college experience has been key to her success of integrating into the United States, overcoming cultural barriers and gender barriers in civil engineering, and managing through the impact of the pandemic. Sofia is using the money from the Western Union Foundation scholarship to help her finish her final year of school. Her advice to other students like her is to just keep pushing — it is hard for everyone but give it time and keep pushing.

Fareste | From Haiti studying Hospitality Management in Canada

Fareste has always known he wanted to be in the tourism industry. Fluent in six different languages, he is a natural fit for the industry, but he knew that in order to advance his career he would need to get a degree. He traveled from Haiti to Canada, where he is learning the skills needed to be well-equipped for a successful career. His goal after graduating is to work full-time and gain permanent residency in Canada while being able to support his parents back in Haiti. Fareste is using the money from the scholarship to pay for his accommodation and tuition. Fareste’s advice is to always believe in yourself, set realistic goals, and have determination and discipline in everything you do.

Venant | From Rwanda studying Business Administration in the United States

Venant believes education is the single most important tool for success. He traveled from Rwanda to the United States by himself so he could obtain the higher education he needs to enable him to one day run his own business. Through his studies, he is learning different cultures, different views about the world, and also about himself — and how he can make the world a better place. His dream is to ultimately give back to his communities in Rwanda and the United States. With the Western Union Foundation funding, he has been able to pay his tuition. Venant’s advice to other students like him is to believe in yourself — grab every opportunity that comes your way, never give up, and don’t lose hope.

Norzom | From India studying Health Policy in the United States

Tenzin is a first-generation college student who is building on her inquisitive nature about science and health to help people and inspire them to find better futures for themselves through health and society transformation. Born and raised in India, and identifying as Tibetan, Tenzin brought her culture to the United States and has made friends and family through her teachers, advisors, and fellow students. Tenzin’s advice is to always stay optimistic and enjoy life by sharing love and happiness with others.

Ekene | From Nigeria studying Mechanical Engineering in the United States

Ekene bravely came to the United States from Nigeria alone, so he could pursue his dream of gaining a higher education. His father inspired him and encouraged him to go after his goals and get a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He misses home but hopes to secure a job in the United States after graduating.  Ekene’s advice to others is to keep pushing, and while it may not be easy it will be worth it in the end.

Nguyen Nguyen | From Vietnam, studying Chemistry in the United States

Nguyen’s mom is her champion in all things, including her desire to attend college. In Vietnam, her mother did not have the opportunity to gain a higher education, so she dreamed of it for her daughter. After graduating, she plans to explore her career options to determine whether she will stay in the United States or go back to Vietnam.  She started college late compared to many of her friends, but it has allowed her to gain a better understanding of herself, her motivation, and her goals. Nguyen’s advice to others is to find out what you really want to do in life then never give up because there are people willing to stand by your side to help you achieve your goal.

Juliet | From Nigeria studying Engineering Management in the United States

Juliet has a desire for more knowledge and decided to pursue another degree away from her home country of Nigeria to expand her expertise. Passionate about both business and engineering, Juliet is pursuing a second degree in engineering management. She believes having a graduate degree is empowering and will expand her job opportunities upon graduating, particularly in project management. Juliet’s advice is to never give up, always have hope and keep trying.

Iyinoluwa | From Nigeria, studying Public Health in the United States

Iyinoluwa has naturally gravitated toward preventing a problem before it occurs, which is why she is studying Public Health, with a focus in environmental health. She personally has experienced environmental pollution in her home country of Nigeria, so it means a lot for her to be able to make a difference in this area for her community. Her advice is to take your time in your studies, be flexible, and try new adventures when the opportunities arise.

Brian | From Kenya studying Computer Science in the United States

Brian grew up in Kenya, and was always interested in technology, from making his own toys to developing his own app. He knew a college education would mean world-class training making him more appealing to future employers. When he graduates, he hopes to be a software engineer in the fintech industry. Brian’s advice is to build good relationships with those you meet, as they will be a good support system for you.

Parastou | From Iran, studying Law in the United Kingdom

Parastou studying law in Iran, but when she moved to the United Kingdom realized she would need to study English law to become a solicitor. She has faced many challenges but knows if she studies hard, she will be able to achieve her goals. She sees university as an investment in her life, will get a better job from it, and be able to support herself and her family. Her advice is to do research, do the hard work, and you will see the rewards.

Anh | From Vietnam, studying Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry in the United States

Anh’s mother has always supported her dream to become a doctor, including when she decided to move to the United States to get her education. She hopes her degree will help her have a chance at a better life and give back to her community. Her advice is to always be prepared and have backup plans, especially during these uncertain times.

Onyinye | From Nigeria, studying Nursing in the United States

Onyinye realized she had a special interest to help improve people’s lives. When her daughter was diagnosed with a chronic disease, the nurses who helped her daughter inspired her to be a part of this community. She is grateful to be living her dream, and excited for the lives she will be able to help after she finishes her studies, giving back kindness, empathy, hope, and courage to those she meets. Onyinye’s advice is to be focused, courageous, and never give up because your goals are what will keep you going.


These are just some of the people our donors have enabled us to help during the pandemic. Find IIE’s full list of programs at https://www.iie.org/Programs. Learn more about the Western Union Foundation’s efforts around the world, and follow us on Twitter (@TheWUFoundation) for the latest news.