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Travis Benaiges ’13


Age/Year: 20 years old, 2nd year
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Studying: Political Sciences and human rights
Miami or Chicago and why?
Well…both. My impulse is to say Miami mostly because Miami is the place I’ve known for so much longer and that I feel I can call home… Once you grow up there, it’s hard to find that same culture of warmth and unity in any other place. But by the same token, I would say both because Chicago has challenged me to change and reexamine my self because it’s so different from my home. The person I am is indebted to the city, and I can’t negate the time I’ve spent here because of how important it’s been for my development.
What do you do and why do you do it?
I’m an activist because I feel like I’ve been exposed to the strife of many people, but I’ve also been exposed and made privy to many resources that they may not have access to and I feel like I have a sense of obligation. Being a first generation American, I feel, has given me a sense of duty and obligation to my family so that they may have the satisfaction of knowing that even if their lives won’t be much improved, those of their children will thanks to their sacrifices. I also want to serve the cause of individuals that have sacrificed in hopes of improvement for the generations to come. All else aside, beyond all justification, we are human and therefore we all feel passion and pain equally, and whether or not you have been exposed to the same suffering, it is our duty to care. I currently work with Oxfam America and Chicago Youth Millennium Development Goals.
What factor or what person do you think has shaped you the most into who you are today?
UChicago. I would not have made the changes that I made here had I gone to a different school. I think that being placed into such an esoteric setting—this specific culture—had much to do with it. U of C has its own nuanced university culture that challenges you to reevaluate and reexamine yourself because you are being placed out of context daily, forcing you to redefine and clarify things you might have previously understood to be truths. I feel the way I approach people, myself, experiences, and situations has changed because of this new setting and especially learning how to react to differences.
What do you wish people on campus were more knowledgeable or aware of?
I wish people were more aware that they should never let school interfere with their education. Grades don’t equal intellectual prosperity or the life of the mind. The life of the mind by itself is an elusive term and trying to achieve it through concrete or measurable means is ironic. I wish people would see how to embrace the days as they come and learn how to appreciate the educational value of every experience. I feel that we would have a much more vibrant campus life if people became involved in things they wanted to be involved in rather than not becoming involved out of fear that it would interfere with their classes. If you follow what you care about you’ll learn more than you could ever learn in a classroom setting.
Worst and best moments at the U of C?
Worst: It was one Wednesday night when I had a lab, midterm, problem set for astrophysics, and a lesson plan due the next day. I had gone 72 hours without sleep. It was an incredibly stressful feeling that it was impossible to get everything done. I still could not give up teaching at Hyde Park Academy because that would by like giving into the system and becoming a typical UChicago student.

Looking back in terms of my goals and future, my best moment would be finding out I got into the Cape Town civilization program for next winter. The best day though, when I felt the happiest, was the second day of the blizzard. It was so great because I was overwhelmed with this group energy and synergized collective elation. I was in Max East in Alper House, and everyone went crazy when the official decision (about the snow day) came out. We all decided to scream through the hallways, bring out speakers, and run through all the hallways in Max East and then through all the floors in every building in Max P. We started with fifteen people and by the end we had picked up about one hundred people (Our RAs flipped out.). It was an unexplainable and unjustifiable happiness. It was just literally a moment frozen in time in which I felt I had no worries.
Your ideal date?
I’ve never really thought about it. It’s hard to describe it because you don’t know what your ideal date is until it happens. I think it should be spontaneous and that the person should also appreciate the spontaneity being shared with you. There’s just an excitement about doing something that wasn’t planned. 
What’s worse than a winter in Chicago?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maybe taking astrophysics during winter…and I had to think about that.

What’s next?
You tell me. Yo no se manana.

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