I am very happy for the interview that my Colombian friend David Millan from “Vivir, Viajar, Amar”, did. I loved all the questions!
David made a very good summary about my entire trajectory of experiences abroad through scholarships, work programs and volunteer projects.
This is the link to the original interview: The Mexican who has traveled with grants, volunteer projects and other opportunities
Pilar is a Mexican girl who has traveled with the help of scholarships, volunteer projects and other opportunities.
She has studied in 5 different countries, volunteered in India and The Netherlands, and worked on developing humanitarian projects in Africa.
As she says, she is a travel addict.
I have interviewed her to know her story and share her advice.
A first trip that changes your perspectives
Her first trip alone and outside of Mexico happened in 2011 when she went to Philadelphia, United States to be part of a volunteer program with Volunteers for Peace for two weeks.
Pilar had just started college and although she had a good command of English, she had never practiced it outside of her school.
I asked her about the fears that she had on that first trip. “I was not afraid, I wanted to leave the country and see what was outside Mexico… more than fear I was emotioned” she answers.
“I had always wanted to travel abroad but I wanted something more than just going as a tourist. A friend told me that she had volunteered with Vive Mexico organization, which connects people with other organizations and volunteer projects around the world. So I saw the website and I applied” she continues.
Vive México is an organization for global volunteer exchange in her country.
To be able to participate in the program, she had to:
- Pay an application fee of $83 USD
- Write and send a letter of motivation in English
- And fill out the online form
Once accepted, she had to buy the round plane ticket but she didn’t have to worry about the accommodation and food expenses, since they were included in the program.
“We were an international team with members from France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Turkey and the United States and we helped with renovation tasks in a community center and a church,” she tells me.
Her volunteering also included sightseeing in the city and it gave her the opportunity to get to know other cultures. “I loved it. This was the first time I saw the United States and I was able to practice my English every day. I had a lot of fun with the other volunteers and tasted very delicious food”, she says.
My first scholarship to study abroad
“At the end of volunteer project I was even more eager to know the world. I returned to Mexico with the satisfaction of having contributed to improve the community and this opened me the doors to later get more opportunities to study, work and volunteer abroad
I decided to get a scholarship to have an exchange semester during university with all expenses paid.
I searched for a long time all the scholarships that existed and which were the student profiles they were looking for. I made a list and applied to several.
Although I was not selected in some, I was able to learn a lot from all the application processes, which allowed me to do it better and better every time “ she continues.
In 2013 she got her first scholarship to make an exchange at FHWien University in Austria.
She won the Ernst Mach Grant Scholarship that she found on Scholarsips.at website.
The scholarship covered the costs of the course, living allowance and round airplane tickets.
“Before applying to the Ernst Mach Grant, although I had good grades and had been part of extracurricular activities, I still needed to improve my English and I had to take the TOEFL test.
I studied 1 hour per day to prepare for the exam and in the end I was able to meet all the requirements to apply for the scholarship”, she tells me.
Internationalization as a base of greater opportunities
During her exchange semester Pilar visited 12 countries, one as a volunteer and the others for academic purposes.
“I made an effort to improve my curriculum with more international experiences because I want to do my master’s degree in a top university in the world”, she says.
In the Netherlands, she volunteered for a week at the European Youth Olympic Festival with protocol services.
As a volunteer she had access to the different festival events, food during her work shifts and free public transportation in the city.
To participate in the program, she didn’t have to pay any application fee. The only thing that is needed to be part of this event that takes place every two years is the willingness to help.
Although the accommodation is not included, you can stay in a hostel, use AirBnb, Couchsurfing or as Pilar did, stay at a friend’s house.
After The Netherlands she traveled to Sønderborg, Denmark and for another week she attended “Waves of Democracy” summer course.
She participated in workshops that sought to address the problems of the European continent and was part of cultural activities and activities. The course provided her with accommodation and food.
The professional advantages of having traveled
“Every experience abroad has allowed me to improve my curriculum so every time I apply for a new opportunity I have more points in my favor and I’m a candidate with more experience and knowledge than the average.
That is why, over time, the doors have opened more easily for me to continue achieving my goals and I have also found new challenges, opportunities that demand even more requirements and that motivate me to continue improving”.
The following year, in 2014 she traveled to the United States to do a summer course in Stanford University.
Upon returning to Mexico, Pilar graduated from Actuarial Science (a combination of applied mathematics, insurance and finance) and for almost two years she worked for Bain & Company, a strategic consulting firm.
Then in 2016 she went to Zimbabwe for 5 months to do a project in agricultural distribution with the NGO TechnoServe.
That same year she traveled to India and volunteered for 3 weeks in a renovation program of a primary school with FSL India.
On her return she started the blog The Lifestyle Hunter and in 2017 she won a contest for bloggers and influencers that allowed her to travel to Malta and study a four-week English course with Sprachcaffe Languages Plus. The scholarship covered the course, accommodation and study book.
Then, she traveled through Europe for other months and finally arrived to South Africa where she is currently living with a Critical Skills Work visa.
To win an scholarship
The organizations award the most prepared students who demonstrate their achievements on their trajectory and proove that they will make the most of the scholarship, as well as contribute to society. That’s why all the time I’m looking for new ways to improve my curriculum.
When I was in high school and college I sought to have very good grades, to belong to university clubs, to the student society, and to do many extracurricular activities such as helping NGOs.
I combined this with experiences abroad, I volunteered in the United States (organizations don’t ask for many requirements to apply) and afterwards I was successful to win scholarships and sponsorships for which I had a better curriculum every time.
Before volunteering, you need to know:
- The country(s) and city(s) you want to visit
- What profit will you take from the experience
- How are you going to contribute
- And what are all the costs that this implies. Some volunteer projects cover accommodation and food and we only have to pay for our airplane tickets; while in others we must pay a participation fee.
During the volunteer project:
- Give 100% in the activities you are doing
- Visit nearby places. After all, you traveled many kilometers to not venture to know even more places
- Get to know the other volunteers and make great friends
- And above all enjoy the experience and have fun.
Find opportunities abroad
I constantly check out Facebook pages that compile different scholarships and volunteers such as:
- Becas y Convocatorias
- Quiero salir del país
- Becas para Mexicanos
- Convocatorias para ONGs
- Trabajo Humanitario
What do you need to achieve your goals?
I think there are 3 factors:
- A reachable goal
- Various plans (A, B, C, D and E)
- Constant motivation
With ‘a reachable goal’ I mean knowing ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses; keep in mind that to reach our goal we will have to work and improve some areas of opportunity in a certain time.
Next, we must search exactly which are all the different ways to reach our goal. Don’t have only one plan but several that we can apply.
Finally, we get constant motivation when we know everything we gain by achieving our goal. For this we can do some online research and read about success stories.
What is next to Pilar
Currently she is working in South Africa with a Critical Skills Work Visa and she plans to stay there approximately one year to then get one (or more) scholarships to study a Master’s degree abroad.
“I plan to do an MBA or a Masters in Finance and I have in mind the United States and Australia. In addition, I would like to focus on growing my blog to motivate more people to travel with purpose, winning scholarships, volunteering and working abroad ” she ends.
I want to thank Pilar for sharing her experience and knowledge with us.
If you have questions or comments, you can leave a comment below.
To connect with Pilar you can visit her blog The Lifestyle Hunter and follow her on her different social networks:
Are you interested in finding opportunities to go abroad? In the Scholarship Finder, you can discover a wide list of scholarships, work opportunities, volunteer projects, contests, entrepreneurial support, and virtual courses!
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