Born and raised Madrid, Paula tried all sorts of sports during her childhood, but always felt closest to track & field. Her father, a great runner, inspired the love she has today for this tough sport that is often not recognized enough. Paula started running at 9 years old for the local team in Mapoma team but then was enrolled in the prestigious Spanish first-division A.D. Marathon team, where her rising sports career began. At present, she is living the U.S. College experience at Eastern Washington University where she competes on the track & field team. (http://www.goeags.com/sports/c-xc/2013-14/Bios/Paula_Gil-Echevarria).
EasyGOtoUSA: During 2012/13 you made up your mind to leave Spain and go to the U.S. What were the reasons that lead you to that decision?
Paula: Honestly, I had never thought about studying in the United States because I was really close to the Spanish track & field's world (I mean, with my regular training team, friends, tournaments...) and because I actually used to feel a bit scared about going so far from home. It is something I had never tried before until I spent a summer in Connecticut (2012). When I came back, whilst starting “segundo de bachillerato” (last year of upper high school level in Spain) I decided that studying abroad was a must, as well as being something worthwhile. Besides, thanks to a recruitment services' company, I knew more or less how to deal with all the massive tasks necessary regarding the application to go to the U.S.
EG: So, it must not have be as easy as booking a flight and taking a plane towards there... What kind of paperwork did you have to prepare?
P: No way! it was quite the opposite. It looked easy, but once I rolled up my sleeves, I had to study to pass two exams (SAT and TOEFL) with the aim of being accepted by the universities and the NCAA, as well as waiting for the replies from the universities.
EG: If you had to pick which task was the hardest, which one would you choose?
P: I think that the most difficult was to achieve great scores in my last academic year before university (because in the meantime I had to keep up with training, studying for the exams, English, and trying to sleep enough to be able to keep up...).
EG: According to what you told us, it doesn’t seem to be enough to have good marks but you also have to work hard on your studies if you want a place on a U.S. college roster...
P: Yes, I think I have always had to work a lot and do my best. Luckily I was able to be accepted to a great university. (Eastern Washington University). They have made me feel like at home. I'm extremely happy.
EG: Do you think this has been a long process?
P: Yes, but even before starting you know that it is worth the try. Once you are here, you realize how lucky all the athletes are for having the chance to come to the U.S. to study.
EG: What has the full U.S. experience been like?
I love it. To be honest, the first semester I felt a bit unsafe, doubtful, and with too much stuff to think about. Now I see everything more clear. There is nothing that can make me change my mind. There would be nothing better than staying here. Moreover, things are going really well (courses, scores in the track & field, friends,...).
EG: About your sports life, what upsides are there with a university team?
The teamwork; I'm delighted about that. I don't know how other universities work, but in mine a good performance from your teammate brings joy both for you and for her. We support each other, train together and almost even live together; in doing so our team becomes closer.
EG: Finally, what are you expecting over the next few months?
P: Honestly, after having tried the 3,000 meters steeplechase for the first time this year and getting a standard time to the World Junior Championship in Eugene and to the Regionals in the U.S., my goals are to bring my university team as high as I can this season (both in the Big Sky Conference and in Regionals), and strive to qualify in national competitions in order to represent Spain this summer. That would be a dream come true.
EG: Thanks for your answers and good luck!