"It was such a huge peace of mind to know that I could go to the school I wanted and did not have to panic about how to pay for it.”
Tamy, Dartmouth College
Hometown: Miami, FL
For Tamara (Tamy) Gomez-Ortigoza, fearlessness is fundamental to her character. When she was 15 years old, Tamy and her mother left home and family in Mexico City to move to Miami, Florida, in search of a new future. While they lived paycheck to paycheck, Tamy thrived in her new academic environment, taking on Honors and AP courses at a small charter school in the city. Nevertheless, adjusting to life in the U.S. had its challenges: “I came in sophomore year and the other kids were thinking about subject tests and SATs, but I didn’t understand the American college process, so it was all very intimidating,” Tamy explained.
At home in Mexico City, Tamy’s older sisters had attended college, but by the time Tamy was in high school, she knew her family did not have the funds to support her higher education aspirations. When Tamy and her mother first arrived in Florida, Tamy considered staying in state and trying to find loans for a community college or state school, but a high school English teacher changed her perspective.
“He saw that I was smart, but didn’t know how to navigate the system, and so he started to send opportunities my way,” Tamy shared. “He was the first person to tell me about QuestBridge.”
With new possibilities in her mind, Tamy shifted to a new academic program the following year, which allowed her to pursue both an Associate’s Degree and a high school diploma. However, when the time came for Tamy to seriously consider higher education options, she still lacked context about American universities.
“College names did not mean anything to me. I did not know what they offered, where I would fit in, or what I would study,” she said.
It was at a college fair that she first heard about Dartmouth College. Because the college fair featured Ivy League universities, she assumed it must have been a good school, but knew nothing else. Feeling out of place and alone, Tamy did not know what questions to ask or how to connect with admissions representatives.
“Then I saw this man in a green velvet topcoat at the Dartmouth booth who was going on and sharing stories about his college days — swimming in the river, roasting food over a fire, and trudging through the woods. All these crazy fun stories about dinners with professors and how everyone knows your name,” Tamy shared. “He answered all of my questions and was so nice to me. I didn’t know what Dartmouth was, but I knew I wanted to go to a school that made people feel this proud about having attended. I had love at first sight with a school.”
Months later, Tamy applied to the National College Match and was matched to Dartmouth: “I was counting down the minutes and I couldn’t think about anything else. When the time came, I could not even check myself. I had my mom do it. She started screaming and we were so happy. It was such a huge peace of mind to know that I could go to the school I wanted and did not have to panic about how to pay for it.”
When the school year began, Tamy said her first visit to Dartmouth felt like “something out of a movie,” and right from the start, she made it her mission to make the most of her college years.
“I didn’t play a sport or have an artistic skill, but I decided to explore everything I could,” Tamy explained. From road cycling to joining the equestrian team, all the way to taking tango and salsa lessons, Tamy had an open mind and a daring spirit. When she heard through the grapevine that a professor did not have time to interview for a Spanish teaching assistant position abroad, she marched into his office and a casual interview led right to a job offer.
For three months, Tamy taught Spanish in Argentina and was able to explore her surroundings, visit museums, and try all of the local food. She discovered a love for travel and wanted to learn more about different cultures, languages, and people. Thanks to programs Tamy found through Dartmouth, her time teaching abroad in Argentina was far from the only international experience she had during her undergraduate years. She spent time in Poland, restoring a Jewish graveyard and researching the Holocaust, studied abroad in Toulouse, France, and returned to Argentina to research informal markets.
Even after graduating from Dartmouth with a B.A. in Economics, Tamy found ways to travel, exploring Iceland and returning to France. Fluent in English, French, and Spanish, Tamy was driven by her global mindset and knew that a related career was the best fit for her passions. Through a program offered by Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School, Tamy learned about consulting and was excited by the possibility of solving problems for businesses all over the world. Tamy now works as a Management Consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. “I wanted a job that was different all the time and I really struck gold,” Tamy shared. “I work with all types of industries in all kinds of different places. I am constantly learning and traveling.”
Reflecting on her journey as a whole, Tamy shared that, like the Dartmouth representative she met many years ago at the college fair, she is now a very proud alum with a plethora of her own stories to tell.
“Letting go of fear is the best lesson I have learned. Talking to someone I didn’t know at school, signing up for challenging classes that helped me to learn French, traveling all over the world. I want to be as unafraid as possible. To always try new things.”