I live in Mexico and I work as a freelance architectural and still life illustrator and animator.
I discovered the fascinating world of 3D in the university. It was there that I started to learn in simple programs like Minicad. I felt great relief and satisfaction building models in 3D, and being able to work with them and make changes, without doing everything over and over again, as was the case with physical scale models. It was also here that I first learned Autocad in 2D, as it was not very common (and not very user friendly!) work done in 3D. Anyway, my teachers were "old school", so they completely disliked things done with a computer.
When I finished the university, I enrolled in an Autodesk Training Center in Mexico City . And since then, I have studied by myself all I can regarding Illumination, GI, modeling. Either by experimenting, or aided by the tons of free tutorials available on the internet, and of course by participating in the forums and in the challenges periodically hosted by the main cg forums. The challenges have been specially enrichening for me, not so much for the prizes, but for the wealth of information I have learned by participating in them.