Student Spotlight: Nathaniel Benson
Name: Nathaniel Benson
Major/Minor: Mechanical Engineering
Term abroad: Spring 2018
Year in school that you studied abroad (sophomore, junior, etc.): Sophomore
Country that you studied in: Australia
University that you attended abroad: Western Sydney University
How did you prepare yourself for studying abroad?
I was extremely nervous about studying abroad as I’m sure many people are. The idea of going to a country for five months where you don’t know anyone is frightening. That being said I knew that this is what I wanted and that it was the route for me, so I made sure I had everything submitted as soon as I could, so I couldn’t back out. As the date to leave got closer it really began to sink in that I was really going to do this. This caused my excitement to grow and I started packing two weeks in advance because I was so excited. This excitement continued to grow until the moment my flight from Los Angeles landed in Sydney.
What was your housing situation?
I did the ISEP program, so I stayed on campus, but it was very different from the on-campus housing we have here at MSU. I was in an apartment with five roommates, all of whom were from different countries. It was true apartment-style living, I went to the grocery store bought my own food and cooked my own meals. I became extremely close with two of my roommates, Gregory from Tanzania, and Dominik from Germany. It got to the point about midway through the semester that we were always together, we had all of our meals together, we traveled around Australia and Oceania together, and I can honestly say they are two of my best friends even now that I am back at MSU.
What are some tips or pieces of advice that you'd like to pass on to future study abroad students?
A couple of tips that I have for study abroad students are first, to enjoy your time wherever you go and make the most of it. You are there to try new things and experience things would wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise. This might mean spending a little extra money to make a trip somewhere, or studying a little less for an exam in order to go out to dinner with friends. Be willing to say yes to things you may not otherwise say yes to. By expanding your horizons you will get the most out of your study abroad experience. Finally, your first couple of days might be tough, you might wonder if you made the right decision to study abroad. The answer is YES. You made the right decision. You’ve done it, don’t give up. Get out of your room and meet new people and try new things!
Tell us about one or some of the friendships that you made
I made so many friendships that it is tough to talk about just one of them. I talk to many people from my time in Australia. One of my favorite things is now that I don’t see all the people I was friends within Australia, we have all been planning trips to go see each other. I now can travel to just about any continent and have a place to stay and someone to see which is an incredible feeling. However, if I were to choose the people I am closest with, it would be Gregory and Dominik. Both of them were my roommates while in Sydney and we did almost everything together. We went camping in the Outback, surfing across Australia, backpacking through Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand together. I also learned a ton from both of these incredible people. One example was Gregory was an incredible cook so he taught me how to cook some of his favorite dishes from home as well as the true meaning of “what is mine is yours” in Tanzania.
How did your time abroad affect your career or life plan?
When it comes to securing my dream job as a mechanical engineer, in a highly competitive market, my study abroad experience has set me ahead of my peers. The world is becoming more global and employers are looking for people who are willing to travel and have experience traveling. My global experience has given me talking points that I will be able to bring up in interviews and when talking to future employers. I now have the ability to apply concepts from studying abroad to real jobs and experiences across various cultures. Finally, I have made international connections with fellow students who studied abroad, students I met at Western Sydney University, and professors in Australia which could lead to future social opportunities, job opportunities, and business partners.
Favorite memory while abroad
My favorite memory abroad was when a couple of friends and I made a trip down to New Zealand for break. While in New Zealand we made a trip to Lake Tekapo and decided to camp in Aoraki Mt Cook National park. After a long day of hiking, we were relaxing sitting around the fire when my friend Emmanuel suddenly stopped talking and was looking up at the sky. We all looked up as well and saw what I believe to be the most beautiful I have ever seen, Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights. We sat and stared up at the red, yellow, orange, and pink lights dance in the sky. We were in such awe it was all we could talk about for the rest of the trip.