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The Campus Times

Studying abroad is a life-changing experience

Daniela Benavides is pictured at her senior night at Campbellsville University during her last home soccer game as a collegiate athlete in the United States.

Studying abroad could be one of the most life-changing opportunities you could ever experience. No matter how old you are and where you go, you will learn so much, mature and become more independent.

I have been studying in the United States for almost four years in college. As a senior about to graduate, I have gone through a lot during my college years, experienced different cultures, learned from my mistakes and became a better version of myself.

Daniela Benavides competes in her first track and field meet at Waldorf University in Iowa.

I came to the U.S. on a soccer scholarship to a very small four-year university in Iowa. It might sound weird to a lot of people that someone who comes from a big city, the capital of Peru, someone who wants to experience the “American college experience,” is going to one of the smallest towns ever to exist. There was nothing but cornfields and cold weather. However, my experience was great. What kept me there for three years were the amazing people I met. I made life-long friendships that I will carry for the rest of my life.

I eventually got a little bit tired of the cornfields and cold days, and moved to Kentucky.

For some of you, that might not seem like a “crazy” change. However, I got to experience better weather, live on a better campus and, of course, meet more amazing people.

I believe that everyone should try to study abroad at least once during their lifetime. Besides the amazing memories you could build during this life-changing experience, you will grow as a person in many aspects.

Moving to a different country to study will make you experience a great variety of cultures. Besides the culture you are stepping in, you will meet people from all over the world. During my college years, I have met people from almost every single country. The big difference in cultures is immense and I have learned a lot from them. Living in a foreign country exposes students to new customs, traditions, languages and ways of thinking.

Secondly, and one of the most important aspects you will develop, is personal growth. Moving to a foreign country requires a lot of us to step out of our comfort zones. This leads to lots of growth as humans, where we start to adapt to the uncomfortable until it feels comfortable. We navigate different environments, situations, challenges and more. We develop various skills such as problem-solving, patience and resilience. I can see a difference from my first day when I came to the United States until today. I have become more independent and learned so much about myself.

I planned to come to the United States just to play soccer, earn a degree and that’s it. However, a lot more has happened. The four years I’ve been in this country have shaped me into who I am today. I learned to walk for a long time to go to a grocery store because I was “too shy” to ask a friend to take me. I learned how to drive, got my license and bought a car. I joined the track and field team. I got an amazing internship. I got to work and manage my own money, and so on. Coming here not only taught me to play soccer, train and study hard. I also learned so many life lessons that have led me to success.

Another big aspect, depending on your experience, could be language development. Whether you already know a little bit of the language of the country you are moving to, you are going to improve incredibly while facing different situations in that language. I came to the United States with a solid base in English since I learned it during school. However, when you are fully exposed to the language, and you must interact and live your life 100 percent around that language, you will see improvement. Daily interactions with native speakers enhance language skills significantly, facilitating fluency and cultural competency.

One of my favorite experiences as an international student was when I was complimented on my English. I have always been a person that had a pretty decent accent when I talked in English and I feel like with the years of experience here, it got way better. One day, I was told that a lot of people thought I was from California because of my accent, or that I was American. They found out after I told them I wasn’t, and proceeded to compliment my English since it sounded very fluent and similar to theirs. Small things like this are the ones that make me keep working. As someone that has always been shy to speak up in class because of the fear of being judged, this makes a huge difference.

Daniela Benavides is pictured with her boyfriend, Daniel Burko, as they compete on their last collegiate soccer game together in Forest City, Iowa.

Overall, this experience is amazing and will continue to be. I recently got a job offer at Disney, which will start immediately after graduation. I’m thrilled with what is next to come. Don’t get me wrong, living abroad can get tough sometimes. It is very difficult having your family so far away. As someone who grew up close to family, it’s difficult to experience tons of holidays or memories without my loved ones. As of now, I have not seen my parents in over a year, and sometimes it’s okay to get homesick, especially when your friends’ families are only a three-hour drive away, and they get to see them whenever they want. However, you are so far from your family you would have to take a 20-hour trip on various planes, and probably spend everything you earned. But, being away from them has made me very independent, which is something I value a lot from this experience.

For all the people feeling scared to try this, don’t be. I have gained so much from this. I met one of my best friends ever. I also met the person who I am sure is the love of my life. He’s someone who I met in one of the smallest towns in Iowa. He was born in Ukraine and raised in a small town in Norway. What are the odds? It is crazy to me that this experience is real.

I encourage you to go out, experience, get out of your comfort zone, meet people, travel and take risks. That is what life’s all about.

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About the Contributor
Daniela Benavides

Daniela Benavides is a senior at Campbellsville University. She was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, but most recently has lived in Lima, Peru. Benavides started her collegiate career at Waldorf University, a small four-year college in Iowa, after being awarded a soccer scholarship. Looking for better opportunities academically and athletically, Benavides transferred to Campbellsville University in August of 2023.

Benavides is a mass communication major, and is planning on being a sports photographer/videographer or social media manager in the future. She’s currently interning with the Sports Media Information staff as a photographer and videographer.

Benavides is looking forward to graduating and seeing what the future holds for her, as she is currently looking for jobs and optional practical training.

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    CARAVEDO ClaudiaMar 28, 2024 at 4:53 pm

    Congratulations Dani! What a wonderful and rich experience! A kind heart goes a long way!