Alumni Spotlight: Katalina Salas

Katalina a PhD student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She is passionate about the environment, sustainability, and education. She hopes to continue traveling around the world to teach what she is passionate about.

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Why did you choose this program?

I was guided to this program by my research advisor; she knew I loved to travel and enjoyed submerging myself into new cultures. Traveling abroad allows me to create connections that are very different than here in the States. This is why I truly enjoy learning and growing in different countries around the world. This program was offering just that. This is a program that is based in sustainability but offers the cultural experience of the country you are in.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The program took care of lodging, meals, and transportation during the program. I was responsible for the program fee and flights to and from the program country. Although the staff at TGP were always super helpful and friendly, they always answered my questions via email or by phone. Questions were always welcome, and assistance was always given.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

For traveling to Peru or any country with poor water conditions, there are many vaccines that are needed. Sometimes it is very expensive to receive those shots in the States, and you may even have to travel to another state to receive these vaccines. A simple solution is to locate a clinic or hospital in the country you will be traveling to and find out if you can get vaccinated there. This is sometimes cheaper, and saves you time. Just make sure you do not need these vaccines to enter the country.

You should always travel with an open mind but be aware of your surroundings. When you are in new surroundings, things don't always go as planned. So instead of being reactive in a situation, step back, breathe, and create a proactive solution.

When traveling to a place where you do not know the language, it is always wise to carry a small dictionary or have a phone (that has data on the global network) in order to communicate in case of an emergency.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Every day is exciting and thrilling – something new occurs each and every day! It was a bit exhausting to wake up early and explore every day but it was well worth it. It was back to back adventure, food, dancing, hiking, rafting, and zip-lining. Of course there was plenty of time to explore and discover some of the culture on our own.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

This was the first time I was traveling alone to a country I had never been to. I knew I was going to be in a group with students just like me but I was worried about arriving on my own. Luckily, I am a native Spanish speaker so even when flights got delayed and got missed, I was able to push through and arrive safely in Peru.

Once I met everyone in the program, I realized it was easy to connect with people who believed in the same things I did. I was able to create connections with people whom I have now and I hope continue to be life-long friends with.

What advice do you have on documenting your experience?

I highly encourage journaling and taking photos. Having a journal entry about everyday you are abroad helps you reflect on your day. It can also help with writing a blog or creating a presentation for someone who may be interested about learning about your trip. This will also help you remember your trip for many more years than a short instagram post.