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Finishing College Abroad – Summer Benavidez’s Journey from Dublin to UNR to Turin, Italy

July 20, 2015

Summer Benavidez Gradaution pictureWe last spoke with Dublin High School Class of 2011 graduate Summer Benavidez as she was completing her freshman year at the University of Nevada, Reno (read more…). Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and Summer spoke with us from Turin, Italy where she is completing the final requirements for a degree in economics and business management at the Università degli Studi di Torino. Summer’s story adds to the portfolio of Life in College and Life After College series of articles profiling the journeys of Dublin High grads. What led you to major in economics, and how does economics at the college level differ from your experience back in high school taking AP Microeconomics?

Summer Benavidez: “I think it was a surprise to everyone who knew me that I decided to major in economics. AP Microeconomics was the hardest class I had taken up to that point and I actually struggled to get a C in that class! Luckily my teacher, Ms. Carhart, was always there to help me and pushed me to keep trying and it was those moments when it finally clicked that I realized I liked economics. I liked the challenge that it presented so when I started excelling at it in college I felt really accomplished. At the college level, economics definitely gets more complex and complicated, but taking AP Micro helped prepare me for those late nights and the times I felt like I would never understand the material.” How did your college experience change as you transitioned to upper level courses?

Benavidez: “I enjoyed college much more as an upperclassman for many reasons, but mainly because my courses became more applicable. Once I started taking classes that I felt I could use towards a career, and taking them with people who had similar interests, I liked college even more. On top of that, I felt more motivated to understand the material I was learning.

“As a lowerclassman, you’re taking general ed classes that might not apply to your major so it kind of goes in one ear and out the other, but once I started applying for internships and eventually relevant jobs, I realized the importance of what I was learning. I also picked up a second major as an upperclassman.  As much as I love dealing with data and putting together reports, I also love working with people and in teams, so I decided to pick up a business management major. It was the best decision I made because I’m blending my analytical nature with my love for working with people.” Conversely, did you ever “hit the wall” during your time at UNR, where you had to struggle to keep on track?

Benavidez: “I think every student ‘hits the wall’ at some point. For me, it actually happened twice and I’m sure it drove my mother crazy. The first time was during my second year of college before deciding to pick up the second major. I felt a little lost because a lot of the work I was doing was individual and didn’t involve too much teamwork. But once I picked up the management major, I felt a lot more motivated to get back on track. The second time was during my last semester at UNR. College is such an amazing experience and it truly has been the best four years of my life. The realization that it was ending was definitely a hard pill to swallow and I reacted by being unmotivated; senioritis doesn’t only exist in high school! Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way as thousands of other students were ending their college career as well, so having them to turn too and understand helped me get back on track in no time.” Why did you decide to complete your degree at Università degli Studi di Torino?

Exploring the French Alps

Exploring the French Alps

Benavidez: “Since I entered college I have always wanted to study abroad. I love to travel and everyone I knew that had studied abroad thought it was an awesome experience. For me, taking a whole semester of schooling somewhere else wasn’t the most ideal because I know myself and I get distracted very easily, so I felt like I was always going to jeopardize my college experience. I was either going to get too distracted with traveling or the new city I was living in so I wouldn’t focus on school, or I would be too stressed with making sure I focus on school that I wouldn’t appreciate being abroad!

“I’m always impressed by those who take on a full semester  of work while adjusting to a new place! Leading up to studying abroad I have always worked during the summers so I was actually getting a little discouraged coming into my last year because I thought it wasn’t going to happen. It turned out that I needed to take summer school to finish up two elective classes after walking in May, and the program in Torino offered those classes! It worked out perfectly.” For students considering studying abroad, what have you learned about selecting a college overseas and all the logistics of living in another country?

Benavidez: “Studying abroad is an amazing experience and it is hard to summarize all the benefits you get out of it. I guess my biggest advice is save money, do your research, and keep an open mind. I have been here two months and I’m amazed at how fast the money goes! I’d also suggest choosing a country that matches up with your interests. If you’re learning a language of a certain country, I would definitely go to that country! But for me, I chose a college based on the classes instead of really researching the country and I definitely was hit with a little bit of culture shock, which is where having an open mind comes in.

“Moving to a new country for months at a time is a big decision and once the ‘honeymoon stage’ of being abroad is over, it can get overwhelming. But just remember that it’s all part of the experience! It helped knowing that other people in my program were feeling that same thing so we would lean on each other and pick each other up to keep the experience positive. I cannot describe how amazing it is to step out of your comfort zone and learn to adjust to a culture so different from yours. I have made friends from all over the United States, as well as the world now, and I know I will reap the benefits of the experience for a lifetime. I highly suggest studying abroad to everyone!” What have you learned about Italy – and Italians?

Benavidez: “Italy is a beautiful country that provides a ton of gorgeous scenery and amazing architecture everywhere you go. Italy is also hugely rich in history and it’s mind blowing to see just how long this country has been around! There also is no shortage of good food and drink so that’s been a bonus.

“The people are also just as beautiful as the country – inside and out! Everyone here is so friendly and willing to help you at a moment’s notice. Italians also have a very laid back attitude about everything, which is a huge change from being in the U.S… 30 minutes late to a meeting? ‘va bene’. Missed your train to another country? No problem. You can catch the next one. It’s really refreshing to have so many people be so relaxed all the time!” What role did internships play in helping you understand what you wanted to do?

Benavidez: “Internships were the best in solidifying what I want, or not want in my case, to do. I held two internships, both in Human Resources, which is what I thought I wanted to do. Each internship was in a different department within HR and although I learned so much and appreciate the experience, it helped me realize that it isn’t right for me long term. Internships give you real-world experience and add that extra bit of knowledge that you can’t learn in the classroom. Learning what I don’t want to do is just as important as learning what I want to do, and I’m happy for all the opportunities I’ve had.” What role did non-academic activities play in your college experience?

Benavidez: “Non-academic activities have helped make my college experience that much better! I was involved in clubs and volunteer work which not only enhanced my resume and increased my professional network, but helped create friendships that I know will last a lifetime.” With the end of your college experience approaching, what are you planning to do upon entering the “real world”?

Benavidez: “Ha! My plan for entering the ‘real-world’ is to make a plan when I get there…” What advice do you have for Dublin High Class of 2015 graduates who are about start their college journey?

Benavidez: “My advice is to GET INVOLVED, HAVE FUN, and TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY POSSIBLE. College is such an amazing time because you have so many resources and potential in front of you. Whether it is job shadowing, interning, volunteering, or going to campus events, people love college students. I met Michelle Obama for $20.00 my sophomore year of college and although I had to get up before the break of dawn, I knew an opportunity like that would be less likely to happen outside of college.  My friends and I still relish in that moment and opportunities like that present themselves to you in college all the time!

“College is also a time of growth and having fun! I am not the same person I was when I left high school (probably for the better) and when I think about the times when I learned the most it was when I was putting myself in new situations. Interested in Greek life? Go for it! Want to start/join a club? Do it! Want to play on an intramurals? Get out there! Want to intern for a company that is highly competitive? Don’t ever be too afraid to try something, or of what someone will think, or of failure. These four years fly by fast and the last thing you’ll want is to regret not doing something because you were too afraid.”

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