Ben’s journey as a Charles Darwin University international student started in a slightly unconventional way. He had failed his English exams in the fourth year of his finance degree in his home country of Colombia. He needed to build his language skills to resit his exams and graduate. A cousin living in Darwin suggested that Ben join him to learn English, so Ben threw caution to the wind and did exactly that. Find out how Ben went from learning the English language to becoming an award-winning international student advocate and Bachelor of Accounting student at CDU.
Every day I meet people from everywhere in the world. I’ve made so many friends, so wherever I go out in Darwin I know someone. It feels like home.
Like most great success stories, Ben’s started with difficulty. When he first moved to Darwin as an international student, he experienced homesickness and became introverted, which was not at all like this self-confessed social butterfly.
“It was very hard for me at the beginning. I’m usually a very talkative person – I like socialising with people and making friends,” Ben said.
“But one day someone at work said, ‘Hey Ben, why are you so shy and quiet?’. It was the first time in my life someone had asked me that, and I just thought, ‘From today, something needs to change’.”
From that point on, Ben threw himself into volunteer work in Darwin, helping communities and meeting people from around the world. He soon became part of the fabric of Darwin’s thriving multicultural community. Ben said his original plan was to stay in Darwin for ten months, learn English and go back home to resit his English exam, but everything was going so well in Australia that he decided to stay.
“That was the biggest decision I had ever made in my life. I’m an only child and I lost my father when I was very little, so my mother is back home on her own,” Ben said.
“It’s a tremendous sacrifice that we both have had to make, but she told me, ‘Of course I wish you were here. I love you and I miss you. But if you believe that your future is there, then that’s the place you should be’.”
After completing his English language studies, Ben decided to do an Accounting degree at CDU. It was here that he was elected as the 2019 President of the Students’ Association and the student representative on the CDU Council. Relishing his calling as a volunteer, Ben also became the Student Representative in the Northern Territory International Education and Training Industry Group, and a StudyNT, Certified Public Accountant and CDU Student Ambassador. “I was also promoted at my job at Navitas to the position of Student Services Manager,” Ben said.
Ben said the highlights of his time at CDU were winning the 2018 StudyNT International Student of the Year Award and being elected as National Secretary of the Council of International Students Australia, the peak national body that represents and advocates for 700 000 international students in Australia.
“I’m proud of everything that has happened here in Australia,” Ben said. “I cannot wait for my mum to come to Darwin this October and see me graduate from an Australian university.”
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