Daniel Smafield – Argentina
Global Education/Study Abroad Student: Argentina
Unfold a map and you’ll find many exciting places to study abroad. Unfold the story of a student’s life and you’ll find many creative pathways leading to a global education. And not every journey starts with a high school diploma.
Daniel Smafield, first-generation college student at the University of Colorado Denver, did not immediately graduate from high school; instead, he spent several years working in his small hometown in Michigan while he developed his growing interest in national and international affairs, in particular, in events impacting disadvantaged communities. After Hurricane Katrina hit the country, Smafield looked for a way to serve the larger community and joined AmeriCorps. (AmeriCorps NCCC/National Civilian Community Corp has a mission of providing opportunities for individuals to help others and meet critical needs in communities; it is funded by the U.S. federal government.) He was sent to Denver where he learned first aid, team building, cultural sensitivity, and budget management; and here he also received the Congressional Silver Medal Award for his service to the community.
Smafield found a number of ways to help that included organizing clean-up crews in New Orleans, creating summer educational programs for Somali immigrant youth in Minneapolis, park reclamation work in Big Bend National Park in Texas, and tutoring of youth in Boys and Girls Club in inner cities in California.
He especially liked Denver, and returned to enroll at the University of Colorado Denver. One of his first professors was from Argentina; which further intrigued Smafield with broadening his own world view. He studied Spanish and chose a major in International Studies.
CU Denver’s Study Abroad/Global Education program enabled Smafield to directly experience what he’d been learning about in the classroom. His first trip landed him in Argentina for the school year, where he learned more about the peoples and cultures of the region. “The family life and the way people interact are very different than in America. I saw extremes of poverty and learned about a different international perspective,” said Smafield.
He became an advisor for CU Denver students bound for Study Abroad programs, particularly ones to Latin America. As a recipient of a $5,000 Gilman Scholarship, Smafield also provides guidance on scholarship applications for overseas education.
“In the same way that my Argentinian friends made me feel comfortable, I like to be a good host, in a sense, to the international students on the Denver Campus. As our nation moves forward and economies become more globally interdependent, we can’t afford not to have a global perspective in each classroom.”
Smafield feels that learning about other cultures ignites a spark of interest that makes students want to learn more about their own American culture. In the future, he would like to continue on to graduate school and work with global non-profit organizations that assist in building small businesses in other countries.
“Especially coming from my background, and with my experience in service and learning work in America and abroad, I will always be involved in helping those who are underserved.”