20-year-old Abbie Godoy is not only the 2020 recipient of the Commonwealth Caribbean Rhodes Scholarship, she is the first female Belizean to ever achieve this feat. Godoy, who is currently majoring in English at the University of Belize, said that when she first applied, she never believed that she would even be shortlisted, much less that she would win. The Rhodes is essentially a ticket to attend Oxford University in England. Godoy, a San Ignacio resident, stopped by our studio today and walked us through this milestone, from the time she applied to when she discovered that she received the scholarship.
Abbie Godoy, Rhodes Scholarship Recipient: “The Rhodes Scholarship was started in the memory of Cecil Rhodes, it was left in his will, so you have select countries for example in Jamaica where you will always hae a Rhodes Scholarship available to you and so as time went changing the committee in charge decided to add another one which would be the Commonwealth Caribbean Scholarship and so it’s the oldest scholarship so you have a ton of people competing at the same time. The process was really quite easy, I found it online, the whole entire thing is online so you just got to make sure that you get the soft copy of everything, you have to make sure that you really sell yourself on paper, there are a lots of limits. The interview is usually nine people but this year it was eleven people and so everybody comes to this interview, we have a pre-dinner so everybody gets to know everyone and at the end of the dinner they let you know who is going to be on the panel the next day and then they lock you at the Government House from 8:30 until the process is done the next day.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: So what was it like when you found out that you were that person.
Abbie Godoy, Rhodes Scholarship Recipient: “Honestly you’re very tired. I keep telling everyone there wasn’t a day since I left home that I didn’t cry especially after the dinner because you’re like “oh what if I said something stupid.” “What if this person that’s sitting next to me is on the panel and I said this and I said that.” so after that I just kinda came home and laid on my bed and I just cried and I was like “mom there is no way I’m gonna get this.” because you’re competing with people who are going to Harvard, people who are already in Oxford, people who are going to all of these huge universities in the US and you’re like “I’m from Belize, Hi !” So that’s kind of what it was like but when they announced I was the winner I was just in shock, I was just in disbelief I was like “I won? Are you guys sure about this ?” But lucky for me the Governor General who awarded me, because there’s two parts to it; so they bring you into the room where they held the interviews and they let you know who the winner is and then they give you a few moments to compose yourself and then they bring you back out to do it in front of the press.”
Godoy told us about her future plans, including still having to navigate her way while applying to Oxford University. Her plan is to major in Development Studies, which looks at colonialism and the economy specific to the developing world. It deals with the history of a country such as Belize, and how to move forward. Godoy promises to use her knowledge to better her home country.
Abbie Godoy, Rhodes Scholarship Recipient: “It means a lot of pressure for me because I remember they straight up asked me in my interview “what makes you think, coming from your university that’s so small that you can compete in Oxford?” and I was just a little bit offended and I was just well I know how to read, write, analyze I’m pretty sure that I have the tools that I need to succeed in any field. So now being the first female it feels like okay I’ve opened up a door for a lot of people but not just for the Rhodes and that’s not how I want to think of it. I don’t want everyone to be like “okay so this girl won the Rhodes I’m gonna sign up for the Rhodes” no it’s really about telling people “Hey as long as you’re looking for it you’re gonna find something.” Applying to the Rhodes you need to have a minimum GPA of 3.7 and above so I met that, I’m still not done with my bachelors so I still have another two semester grades left and you need to apply to the university but for Belize there isn’t a grading criteria yet so in American universities they tell you okay you need a 3.5 in their grading system but because we don’t have a lot of students going abroad to Oxford we don’t have a system in place so now I got to navigate that water and see what is it going to take for me to get into Oxford.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: So one of Belize’s biggest problems is brain drain but you’re planning to come back and use what you’ve learned to help Belize?
Abbie Godoy, Rhodes Scholarship Recipient: “Yes. I said that in my interview that I plan to come home. The only thing that would stop me from coming home or prevent me from coming home immediately after my masters is if I would get the opportunity to do my doctoral degree. So other than that I’m for sure coming home.”
Godoy volunteers with Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC), and UNICEF. She also started Fridays for Future here in Belize.