From Croatia to Canada

When Karla Beneta arrived in Halifax in 2009, she hardly spoke English. “I didn’t know anyone,” she says. “I worked as a nanny and I didn’t get many chances to make friends. It was really challenging.” Six years later, Beneta is graduating from the Bachelor of Commerce program, full of enthusiasm about her friends, professors and experiences at Dalhousie.

In Croatia, her home country, Beneta completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Zagreb, and then attained a master’s degree in rehabilitation. She taught elementary school, and helped in a variety of tasks to assist students within the Ministry of Education. As an undergraduate, Beneta got her first taste for travel. “I wanted to explore new opportunities,” she explains. She went to the U.S. for a year on exchange, and returned to North America a few years later, this time to Halifax. While working as a nanny, Beneta began to think about returning to school, and spoke about Dalhousie with Tammy Crowell, a friend of her host family and a lecturer of accounting in the Rowe School of Business.

Despite early cautions that her English was not good enough for university here, Beneta’s host family pushed her to apply—and she got in. “I had a really great support system, but I experienced a fear of failure, I have to admit,” says Beneta. Nonetheless, she became quickly involved in school and extracurricular activities. “When I joined Dalhousie I was an international student, so I was really grateful for Management Career Services,” she says of the centre that helped her achieve career success. She is also grateful to her advisors and professors, including Crowell. “The professors here are very supportive,” she says. “They go out of their way to help students succeed, and they actually prepare you for a future career in business.”

Beneta majored in accounting. “I’ve known I wanted to be an accountant since the first day I started at Dalhousie,” she says. Besides maintaining Dean’s List status since her second term, Beneta has participated in case competitions and has frequently worked as a teaching assistant. “I loved every second that I was working with professors and students while marking, teaching, and tutoring,” she says of this experience. “It really makes me happy when I explain concepts to students and they achieve better results.”

While Beneta loves teaching, it’s not on her immediate horizon. After graduation, she will take up a full-time accounting position with KPMG in Calgary, and will work towards her CPA designation. In the near future, Beneta is excited that her parents, who have never been on a plane, are coming to see her graduate. When she first moved to Canada, she explains, her family had mixed emotions, “but now they’re really proud of what I’ve achieved over here.”

Convocation will be bittersweet for Beneta, though. “I’ll probably lose some friends because we are going to different parts of Canada,” she says. For someone who arrived here a few years ago with no friends and little English, this is quite the change.