Andrea Benitez Rojas: How my Dundee experience helps me shape lives and businesses in Paraguay
Published on 20 December 2021
Management and Entrepreneurship alumna, Andrea Benitez Rojas from Paraguay, shares how studying at the University of Dundee transformed her life
"I was 27 when I decided I was going to study abroad, and I had lived those 27 years at home with my family. I had travelled a little with work but only for a week or so at a time. Before I went to Dundee, I was a really shy person, but going there really helped me to overcome that.
"In Paraguay, less than 3% of the population finish university and have a professional career and less than 1% have the option to study abroad. I was the first person in my family to study abroad, so no one could give me any advice on what to expect. When I reached Dundee, I didn’t know anyone from South America, never mind Paraguay – I felt like a pioneer! It was a huge challenge, and I knew I was definitely going to be out of my comfort zone for the first while – but it was so worth it, I feel lucky to have been part of that 1%!
"I wanted to study Entrepreneurship because my family have a business. I wanted to learn the skills and abilities to be able to take control and manage it, in the future. My other main goal was to be able to speak fluent English by the end of the year. The University offers the option of starting courses in January, which fitted in with my life at the time too.
After reaching Dundee, it is safe to say that Andrea’s choice did not disappoint her.
"Dundee has a programme for international students that supports your English if it’s not your first language, and the University offers a lot of support for international students, through places like the Global Room. The University gave me so much diversity – I had the opportunity to meet people from so many different parts of the world.
"In class, I was doing projects and teamwork with people from different parts of the world too, we all brought such different viewpoints to the discussions – it was fantastic to have the experience to learn from others in such a way.
"The education that Dundee gave me was really different to what I had experienced before. The technology and the IT equipment, the space, everything really.
"Dundee not only helped me to develop my team-working skills, but also how to talk to others in a professional manner, and I learnt different ways to approach people too. I have a model about leadership and managing people that I still use most days. It showed me effective ways to manage different types of people to get the best out of them.
"I loved the Entrepreneurship classes too. We covered some really interesting topics such as looking at ‘How can you be better in what you do?’ and ‘How can you be an ‘intrapreneur’’ and develop new ideas within a company, when you are not the owner– it really motivated me.”
As well as finding her course extremely interesting and making lifelong friends when she came to Dundee, another highlight for Andrea was the internship through Pagoda Projects, which was part of her course.
"I went to Manchester for my summer internship to work with a company called Slade & Cooper. The internship was fantastic, everyone at the company was very welcoming and supportive – I visited lots of places in England, thanks to the job too. I learned a lot there, as well as picking up some pointers and information for my thesis that followed.
"Another highlight for me was being part of the handball society and touring with them in England.
"Coming to Dundee means I can truly say “I played internationally, I worked internationally, I studied internationally” and all of this is thanks to the University."
Now, back in Paraguay, as well as managing the day-to-day running of their family business, Andrea is developing her own business ideas.
"We have a family business that my Mum started, specialising in accountancy services. Since returning to Paraguay in September 2020, I have been trying to put into practice what I learned at the University of Dundee. I organise everything internally – the daily running of the company, ensuring client satisfaction with our service, developing our marketing plans, planning social media, and boosting connections through networking. I do a lot of workshops and seminars about taxes, reporting and finances too. I have even done some online interviews, including on one of the national channels in Paraguay.
"I’ve always wanted to develop my own business idea too. I have started a business that helps small organisations and enterprises and start-ups to develop their business ideas. It is similar to the University of Dundee’s Centre for Entrepreneurship. I wanted to develop a physical space where people can come for the help and information they need.
"I help other entrepreneurs with putting their ideas together. Looking at what they want to achieve in one year, three years, five years etc. and developing their strategy. As my undergraduate degree was in accountancy, I can offer financial support and advice too.
"Through my studies, I know that it’s not only about the business idea. It’s thinking about "is that feasible?" "is that sustainable?" "will it give you something in return?" "is the idea good for the market?" etc. too. That’s what I’m trying to teach people when they look at their business plans with them, guiding them with these types of questions, that I learned whilst studying at Dundee.
"I am now a member of Entrepreneurs Paraguayan Association too. Through this, I was given the opportunity to do a webinar interview with the Tax Minister of Paraguay, which was a huge achievement for me and my professional career."
Andrea very passionately explains the reason behind her business plan and why she is motivated to help others.
"In Paraguay, 97% of businesses are small and medium businesses. A lot of businesses struggle to make it through the first three years of being in business, because they don’t have enough information or the right knowledge or base to get them through those initial years. If I can help people to have more and better information on this, maybe they will make better decisions about their business, get themselves through those first few years, go on to be successful and then grow into becoming a medium business."
Using her Dundee experience, she believes she is helping to transform the lives of others back home.
"If we have more medium and large businesses here, then our economy will improve, and we will grow as a country. I know that I can’t change the entire system, but if I can change things for at least two or three companies, my work could go on to have some consequences, and some impact on the macro environment.
"The University of Dundee helped me a lot and it changed me personally – I am a different person since my time there. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to develop skills that I didn’t know I had – and now, I can apply all of these skills within my work. I look back now and think, “look at what I was like before Dundee, and look at me now" – it gave me the courage to try new things.
"Dundee is still helping me now, even although I am no longer there. It is helping me to grow my own business, through the skills, abilities and experiences I gained. I want to say thank you to the University for opening the door for international students and giving us the chance to grow."
Andrea, we wish you all the best in pursuing your business dream and we are excited to hear all of your successes to come!
Alumni Relations Officer
+44 (0)1382 firstname.lastname@example.org