From Barcelona to a Career in Radio - Alum of the Month Bennett Wakenight

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IES Abroad
June 19, 2019

Meet Bennett Wakenight (IES Abroad Barcelona, Spring 2014), Executive Producer at WGN Radio in Chicago. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in radio, Bennett went from working at the station on the weekends to transitioning to full-time—following in the footsteps of his grandpa. Read on as Bennett shares how study abroad impacted his ability to look at stories from a different angle, and his full-circle moment when IES Abroad President and CEO Mary Dwyer was featured on WGN Radio’s morning business show, “The Opening Bell with Steve Grzanich” last month.

IES Abroad: As an undergrad at Loyola University of Chicago, what led you to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain?

Bennett Wakenight (BW): Studying abroad was a very common thing for students at Loyola. The only problem was that many students went to Loyola’s Rome Campus. I was studying Spanish, so I wanted to do a Spanish program. That’s where IES Abroad came in and provided everything I was looking for in a study abroad program.

IES Abroad: What are some of your most impactful study abroad memories?

BW: It seems insignificant, but my walks to school every day. Finding a different way to go each morning was a great way to learn the city, and now I walk all over when I’m in a new location. It’s a great way to get settled. I also enjoyed trying to learn the language with local students. It was difficult at first but got easier, and using the local phrases and sayings made for a much more intimate way to experience Barcelona.

IES Abroad: Where did your career take you after graduating? How did you get your start in radio?

BW: I was in sales initially after college, but I knew I wanted to end up in radio, so I worked at the station on the weekends. I eventually shifted over to radio full-time and felt great about it because my grandpa was in radio back in the 60s, so I get to follow in his footsteps.

IES Abroad: You are now Executive Producer at WGN Radio in Chicago. Tell us about your role.

BW: I oversee the prime-time business content at WGN Radio, so I decide what we will talk about on the morning and afternoon business shows each day. I also have to research what’s going on in the rest of the business world to make sure that what we’re talking about is relevant. I get to learn a lot and read every day, which is useful both in and out of the station.

IES Abroad: Last month, you invited IES Abroad President and CEO Mary Dwyer to be featured as “CEO Spotlight” on WGN’s morning business show, “The Opening Bell with Steve Grzanich.” What was this full-circle moment like for you?

BW: This was very cool for me because I do research on potential guests, and when I was researching Mary, all of these study abroad memories came flooding back to me. I thought to myself, “I’m sure other people who studied abroad would feel the same way,” so I knew we had to have her on the show.

IES Abroad: How have the skills you learned abroad transfered to your professional life?

BW: Learning to get out of my comfort zone every day is definitely something that has carried over. I knew nobody going into my study abroad program (which was already a challenge), so I got comfortable with doing things on my own and then, eventually, with local and IES Abroad students. Now, I try to always look at stories from a different perspective because I got to see Barcelona in a number of different ways, each one getting me out of my comfort zone—we try subjects that we may not know the most about, and meeting people is much easier.

IES Abroad: Do you have any advice for students considering studying or interning abroad?

BW: If any part of you feels like it may be the right thing to do, jump into it head first. You’ll surprise yourself. You’ll find yourself in incredible situations and you’ll get to see the world from a different perspective. We need that kind of outlook more than ever now.

Learn more about studying abroad in Spain, and check out all of our Alum of the Month profiles to see real examples of how study abroad changed the lives and careers of our former students. Give more students the opportunity to study abroad by supporting scholarships.

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