Alum of the Month: Stephanie Fodor
Meet March’s Alum of the Month, Stephanie Fodor. Stephanie participated in CIEE’s Tokyo, Japan study abroad program in her junior year of college. She is an accomplished actress and entrepreneur that has recently appeared on the hit NBC television show, “Grimm.”
Why did you decide to study abroad in Tokyo with CIEE?
I was born and raised in Kailua, O’ahu, Hawaii, and grew up surrounded by a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I was always fascinated by Japan and I loved the food—my friends would come to school with homemade bentos or sushi boxes! I began studying Japanese in seventh grade, fell in love with the language, and decided that I would visit Japan one day. It took me until my junior year of college to get there, but I did it!
When it came time to choose a city, Tokyo seemed like the perfect combination of it all—full of history and important cultural sites, urban energy, many dining and entertainment options, and accessibility to smaller cities for day trips. I chose CIEE over other programs because we’d get to do a homestay and take classes with local students at Sophia University. I was so excited to stay with a Japanese family and be among Japanese classmates. It made my experience so much richer and authentic, and helped me immensely with my language skills.
What skills did you learn through study abroad that you utilize today?
My study abroad experience was truly one of the very best decisions of my life. I remember being nervous and scared when I left Hawaii and travelled alone internationally for the first time. I was excited, but I also didn’t know what I was in for! Studying abroad taught me to be independent, get out of my comfort zone, take risks, and welcome the unknown. Not only did my language skills improve, but my awareness of the world around me expanded and I developed a more mature outlook on life. Studying abroad boosted my confidence in so many ways and made me realize that I could do anything I set my mind to!
Did your study abroad experience change your life in any way?
Yes, it literally changed my life. I met Jimmy the first day of my Tokyo program. He was already there doing the one year program when I arrived for the spring semester. As it turned out, we began dating during that time. Fast-forward several years later and we ended up getting married! I also made some lifelong friends from my CIEE program; a group of us regularly stay in touch, and we’ve been to each other’s weddings and do group trips when we can. Also, I had such a kind, wonderful host family. It’s been many years since my program but we keep in touch on Facebook!
What type of acting/performances have you appeared in over the years?
I’ve been acting professionally since I was eight years old. I’ve had the great opportunity to act and perform in a wide variety of projects such as commercials, plays and musicals, film, television, voice-over, and even video game motion capture! It’s always been a big part of my life, but I also believed in being a well-rounded person with a variety of interests. To that end, I decided against going to London to study drama and instead went to Tokyo to study international relations.
Describe some of your entrepreneurial pursuits.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, even when I was young, and I’ve loved being my own boss. In Japan, I taught English privately on a weekly basis to a few regular students. It was a great situation, as it allowed me to interact with Japanese locals and have my own little tutoring business! Being an actor requires you to be an entrepreneur, as you are your product—you need to market and sell yourself to industry buyers who will hire you! Jimmy and I also recently launched our own e-commerce business, www.authenticity50.com, where we sell luxe bedding, bed sheets, and home goods that are 100% Made in USA.
What was it like to be on Grimm?
Doing Grimm was a dream come true. It was very exciting to book this role because the character goes through so many emotions in a short amount of time. I was on location in Portland for several days and had the best time working with the cast and crew. Everyone was kind, friendly, and a true pro at their job. I had the best time working on this show. The best part is that family and friends all over the world got to watch the episode. It’s fun that I was able to entertain them on the telly.
What do you have planned for the future?
Acting opportunities and Authenticity 50 are keeping me very busy! We hope to expand A50 into a popular Made in America brand, and I hope to be on your TV screens more as well! I guess I should say, ‘stay tuned’?
Any advice for prospective study abroad students?
DO IT! It changed my life. Literally. I met my husband through studying abroad! I’m not saying you’ll find your spouse through this but you will learn, grow, and mature in so many ways. I encourage everyone to study in another country—get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, learn a new language, and immerse yourself in a new culture. I promise it will change you in so many positive and amazing ways.