First Abroad Stories: Maria-Alejandra

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story by Maria-Alejandra Paz

I started college in September of 2014 and I am currently on track of graduating in winter 2017 which is a semester earlier than planned. I was accepted into college under the circumstance that I complete a obligatory summer program before beginning in the fall of 2014 that would allow me to increase my knowledge in English and Math. At the time,  I was attending a technical high school and taking Autobody and considered not going to college and going straight into the workforce after my high school graduation.  However, I decided that I needed to try and so I did and passed the summer program with flying colors, so much that I was selected in getting my paper published in the school's journal.

Attending a public and commuter school meant I always worked part time, working at least 20-35 hours a week. A portion of the money gained was given to my parents for house expenses and another was for school supplies and school fees. Being a first generation student, I always had an enormous pressure to do well in school in order to be successful in the future. With that being said, I never gave any thought in studying abroad because I felt it was unnecessary in order to complete my dreams. However, I always thought the idea of studying abroad was interesting but never within my reach.

However, I spoke to a friend who had studied in England for the summer at Oxford and her compelling stories captivated me. I began to do some research and found amazing programs that I found to fit my needs. From there I became passionate and obsessive, and I knew that I could not let my college career pass without studying abroad.  

I wanted to gain a new perspective, a new cultural lens, to help me critically think about my own culture and life back home. My parents supported my decision but worried about the cost. So I decide to take matters into my own hand and create a GoFundMe account. I campaigned for 2 months, using social media outlets, going around my town posting flyers, and overall speaking to my friends and families about my dream in hopes that supported me and wished to contribute to making my dream come true. With the help of scholarships and my campaign I raised almost $6000.

I was dumbfounded , I couldn't believe so many people were encouraging me to follow my dream and willing to take their time/give their money to help me. I was truly in shock and it was very overwhelming. I gave my absolute thanks and my undying appreciation and just like that I was able to make the deadline for the final payment and I was on my way to Barcelona, Spain and Rome,Italy for two months!

Maria-Alejandra Paz


I am a senior at the University of Massachusetts Boston working towards a Bachelors of Science in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing. I am a first generation Guatemalan-American, and the first person in my family to attend a four year college straight out of high school.

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