Paola Gamboa

Paola is a 21 year old student from the border town of El Paso, TX. She studies Communication and French at the University of Texas at El Paso, and when she isn't planning her next adventure abroad, you can find her discussing the merits of Coldplay and Phoenix, or hiding out in the school library.

What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?

Paola Gamboa

Paola: Before I went abroad, my school had done a stupendous job of preparing us as well as they could for what to expect, and how to stay safe, but what no one ever talked about was the huge hole you would feel in your heart once you returned. I'd heard from other students I'd miss it, but this? This was heartbreak times ten; and we all know a broken heart doesn't heal easy.

I really wish someone, anyone, would have told me about how drastically my life would change in such a short time. Would it have changed anything? Probably not, but a heads up is always nice.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Beautiful scenery.

Paola: As soon as anyone mentions their interest in going abroad, I'm always quick to answer with a very enthusiastic "Do it!"

Coming from a place where going abroad is seen as such an impossibility, it's so important for me to motivate others to get out there and see what the world outside El Paso is like. I always like to serve as an example and show them how if I, a broke, inexperienced 20 something girl did it, they can do it too. I want my friends and other people to find themselves in love with a completely different place and learn new things both about themselves and the world in general.

What made this experience unique and special?

Paola: Going to Italy was something I'd dreamed about since I learned about Renaissance art in 10th grade. I saw it as something I'd do once I had a job or a college degree, so making it there 4 years later was pretty special in itself.

Undoubtedly, what made Italy so special was all that I learned about myself. This experience taught me I could absolutely do things on my own, and that fear and self doubt had kept me from a lot of things. Italy made me get in touch with who I was, what I wanted, and where I was going, and that to me was incredibly special.

Rome Colosseum

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

The biggest part of what made it so meaningful was how hard I'd worked to make it happen. When I landed in Rome I couldn't believe I'd actually made it there. There had been so much work put towards planning (and financing!) this journey it was absolutely surreal for me to be there.

I have returned from Italy, and my life has changed COMPLETELY since then. I know now that whatever it is that I end up doing in my life, it will be abroad. Nothing had ever taught me more about myself, and the world in general, than 5 weeks across the world.