Photo of Ale smiling in front of green field and blue wave on left side that says Voices of Making Waves
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A World of Possibilities: From UC Berkeley to Studying in Portugal to Interning in Spain

by Bonnie Shea

Making Waves Education Foundation » Stories » A World of Possibilities: From UC Berkeley to Studying in Portugal to Interning in Spain

Voices of Making Waves: Meet Ale Paz

As Ale Paz (she/they) entered her first spring semester at UC Berkeley, she started brainstorming about ways to spend her summer during a call with her college coach from Making Waves Education Foundation.

“We were coming up with ideas of what I could do,” shared Ale, a first-generation college student who grew up about a half hour away from UC Berkeley and has been a part of the Making Waves community since 5th grade when they started attending Making Waves Academy.

“Study abroad came up as an idea and I was like, ‘oh, wow. I could do that.’ I just had not thought about it yet.”

The coaching is one part of Making Waves’ college and career success program, which provides scholarships and pairs students with coaches, financial coordinators, and career specialists.

“A lot of people in my family didn’t go to college, so having a coach has been super helpful,” Ale shared. “We talk about my future and plan how I can get there. Having a coach has allowed me to learn about the possibilities out there and how I can use the skills and resources that I have.”

Ale found a summer program through UC Berkeley Study Abroad, earned a scholarship, and spent the summer learning about Portuguese culture and history in Portugal.

“It can be scary to be away from friends and family, but I met so many great people and learned more about myself,” Ale said.

“Studying abroad allowed me to really grow confidence in my ability to be independent and take on new experiences. It’s a great feeling knowing you can be there for yourself.”

In addition to confidence and independence, Ale also gained a new major.

“I was indecisive about my major and met some people who were studying geography. I learned so much from them. I took a look, and decided to switch my major to geography,” Ale shared.

“I have been loving all the courses and the conversations and weekly networking with my professors.”

Fast forward to this past summer – and Ale went abroad again. This time to Barcelona, Spain, for an internship at the Time Use Initiative, a nonprofit that focuses on rethinking and rebalancing the distribution of time.

“I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone again,” Ale shared. “I worked on a time policy that considered equality and sustainability as well as accessibility, health, and gender and care to support more egalitarian communities.”

Now back on campus, Ale is preparing to start a new job in the UC Berkeley study abroad office, supporting other UC Berkeley students in exploring opportunities to study and intern around the world.

At the same time, Ale is considering her future career options in a global way.

“For example, I think about careers in tourism or jobs outside of the United States, which is definitely feasible for me because I speak Spanish,” Ale shared.

Before starting their senior year at UC Berkeley, Ale is planning to pursue another internship program this summer, this time in New York City.

“College has given me so much freedom to explore these opportunities and figure out what’s best for me. It’s been a great journey,” Ale said.

“I love how UC Berkeley is so diverse and accepting. There are so many people from so many different cultural and religious backgrounds. I learned to be more open minded,” they shared.

“College has helped me feel comfortable with my identity and being my true self. As a queer woman, I’ve found a community here that’s super accepting and loving.”

While Ale described attending UC Berkeley as “the best decision,” she originally thought she would go to community college.

“I was always worried about the cost of college. But my advisor at Making Waves Academy said I could afford UC Berkeley with financial aid and the scholarship from Making Waves Education Foundation.”

With the scholarships making college affordable and removing the need to take out student loans, Ale shared: “It was super relieving. All my life I was worried about the financial aspects of things. It’s great to not have to worry about that anymore, to not have that huge burden.”

“Plus, the support opened me up to choosing a major, a decision that isn’t only about getting paid well. I get to do something I am passionate about,” Ale shared.

Ale sitting on wall in front of green landscape in Portugal
Ale during the UC Berkeley study abroad program in Portugal.

This past fall, a Making Waves partnership with Braven opened up a fellowship opportunity for students that included a 14-week virtual career development course. This came at the perfect time for Ale.

“The program pushed me out of my comfort zone once again – in the best way,” they shared.

“This program definitely helped me practice my leadership, communication, and other skills. I leaned into a leadership position working with a team as the project manager and it felt really good to know I am capable of that,” Ale said.

“For students looking to develop their career skills, it’s definitely a great experience.”

Ale noticed she is using these skills on campus, too, in her role as a house manager with the Berkeley Student Cooperative, where she supports project management, conflict resolution, and communication with 50-60 residents.

“The Braven course emphasized that I am capable in these leadership roles,” Ale shared. “Now I will not shy away from leadership opportunities.”

Reflecting on their experiences in college so far, Ale shared: “My advice for other students is to look out for yourself and advocate for yourself, but don’t go at it alone. Always keep an open mind to new opportunities.”

This Voices of Making Waves storytelling series spotlights the voices and journeys of the students and alumni in our Making Waves Education Foundation and Making Waves Academy communities.


At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 430 college students.​

Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.​

Our alumni network includes more than 730 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 85% graduating debt-free.