Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series of feature stories highlighting female students and faculty as Florida Poly celebrates Women’s History Month.
Florida Polytechnic University graduate student Maria Paula Gomez has been out of her comfort zone for a while, and that’s how she likes it. She left her loved ones behind in her native Argentina to take a leap of faith in herself for a better future.
Gomez has family in Lakeland, Florida, and during one of her visits she found out that Florida Poly was accepting international students. She already had a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Saint Thomas Aquinas University in Tucumán, Argentina, but this was an opportunity she couldn’t miss. However, her English skills were a challenge.
“My English wasn’t strong enough and I only had two months to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a foreign language). I hired several English teachers to help me, but they told me I couldn’t do it,” said Gomez, who joined Florida Poly in the fall of 2016. “I started reading a lot of English books and practiced constantly. When I passed nobody believed me.”
She decided to complement her industrial engineering degree with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering to broaden her knowledge and skills. This brought her a different set of challenges from the very beginning.
“It was tough every semester because I had to learn all these different software I wasn’t familiar with,” she said. “I also struggled presenting my first project in biology class because of my strong accent and I was so shy. But I did my best and actually won an award. After that, I felt like I could do anything.”
Gomez completed her new undergraduate degree in five semesters and was immediately ready for her next step: a master’s in big data analytics. She has a natural ability with numbers that’s proving useful in this new area of learning. And once again, she wasn’t scared of the new challenges.
“I quickly realized I don’t have the computer science skills and programming skills needed for these classes,” said Gomez, who is in her second semester of her graduate degree. “I’m working hard to learn those by myself.”
And while she continues to overcome every obstacle in her way, Gomez keeps her eyes on her future goals. She wants to gain some experience in data analytics before eventually having her own consulting company. After all, dreaming big has never been a challenge for Gomez.
“I always follow my intuition. Some people will tell you it’s not possible, but if you put your time and effort there’s nothing you can’t do,” said Gomez.
“It’s like sports, the more you train, the better you get.”
Assistant Director of Communications