Meet Maria Fernanda Perez Fernandez

What were you doing at 16-years-old? Most of you were probably in high school worrying about boys and working on getting your drivers license. While you were doing that Maria Fernanda Perez Fernandez, a current student in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at UW-Milwaukee, was focusing on graduating high school and preparing to start her college career at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM). The Santo Domingo native finished her four-year degree in Accounting and Financial Management at age 20 and her proudest moment during those four years of hard work and dedication was the day she presented her thesis. Talk about incredible, right?

I had the privilege to sit down and get to know this brilliant woman and learn about her and what made her decided to further her education in the United States.

The simple answer to those questions is: this girl has drive. The tenacious, now 21-year-old, decided to make the move to Milwaukee and attend UWM because she wanted to enhance her English.

“It was a process getting here,” Fernandez said. “I told my mom I want to learn English and speak English more fluently. My mom said I have to finish my university degree and after I did I told her that it’s now or never.”

After Maria made the decision to further her English education, choosing where to do so seemed to be the easiest part of the process. She has two uncles and their families that live in Milwaukee and are here as her support system away from home.

“I am very close with my family, especially my mom, making the move hard,” she said. “But having my uncles and family here has made me feel more comfortable, especially having my cousin attend UW-Milwaukee has helped.”

Could this badass chick get anymore awesome. Well yes, yes she can. In addition to being family-oriented, super smart and humbling (brushing off my compliment about her intellectual drive and accomplishments) this woman is not one to shy away from new things.

As we sipped on our Arnold Palmers, an American drink made with half lemonade and half sweet tea she was open to trying for the first time during our interview, Maria told me about the many adventures she’s been on since living in Milwaukee.

“Last weekend I went whitewater rafting with Outdoor Pursuits on the Peshtigo river,” she said. “I was a little nervous about falling out and the water was so cold but it was so much fun.”

Maria also lit up about her Friday night at the April Milwaukee Art Museum After Dark event. The quiet clubbing event had two DJs competing for her headphones attention. The light-up headphones changed colors depending on what DJ she was listening to and that indicated to her friends and dancers around her what music she was listening too.

Actions speak volumes about a person and Fernandez’s spoke volumes about her adventurous spirit. After finding out she also loves baseball, I asked if she had been to a Brewer game and was surprised to hear that she hadn’t. With excitement, I extended an invitation to the May 4 game as I was going with some friends and she happily accepted. Friday night a group of eight of us attended the Star Wars themed game and had a blast.

In college it’s rare to come across someone like Maria who has so many genuine layers. UW-Milwaukee prides itself on being a diverse university but not many students take the opportunity to get to know their peers. After talking with Maria and getting to know her outside of school, she made me realize how beautiful life can be when you open your heart and mind to new cultures, people and experiences, just like she has. Maria instantly brightens the atmosphere with her contagious smile and enriches the lives around her with intellectual conversation. Her willingness to explore unfamiliar territory, the drive she has to learn something new, the bravery to move across the world and the loyalty she has for her family is what truly makes her an inspiring woman and role model. She is one-in-a-million and is definitely a powerful woman to watch out for because her kind heart and passion for adventure is going to take her far. Follow her adventures on Instagram: @mariafernanaperezf

10 Fun Facts about Maria:

1.Hometown in the Dominican Republic:

Santo Domingo

2.Favorite thing about your hometown:

The beach and the food

3. Your favorite American food:

Burgers

4.Your favorite Baseball team:

From US: New York Yankees

From Dominican Republic: Aguilas Cibaeñas

5.Your celebrity crush:

 Maluma

6.What five things can't you leave the house without? 

Earrings, lipstick, my phone, headphones, money.

7.What is one world issue you care deeply about? Why is this something that means so much to you?

How people have become so insensitive today. Nowadays people only think like “Me, myself and I” and do not worry about helping others. I care about others greatly.

8.Who was your biggest role model growing up?

My mom.

9.You have to repeat the same selfless deed for the rest of your life-what do you do? 

Help poor kids without family and with bad health conditions.

10.What famous woman to you look to as a source of inspiration? Why? 

Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady of the United States (1933-1945). She worked so hard for human rights and always thought and said that “magic” happens out of your comfort zone. Two of my favorites quotes of her are:

  • “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
  • “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”