Staff Spotlight: Ben Finnegan

International Officer - North American Partnerships


Ben Finnegan has worked in third-level education for just under 7 years now and has a great passion for creating study abroad pathways and opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds. Ben himself studied abroad for a full year when he was in university and it is this life-changing experience that inspires him to try and make study abroad possible and feasible for all students.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory is from my study abroad year in Salamanca Spain. During the Saint Patrick's Day celebrations we managed to gather over 1,000 students, university staff and local Spanish residents from all parts of the world to celebrate together in the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca. The Mayor greeted us all and turned the lights of the square green for the entire day. This was an amazing experience where we celebrated Irish culture in Spain with study abroad friends from all over the world and also with the local people of Salamanca.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

By working directly with international students from across the world over the past 7 years I have gained an immense appreciation for the many challenges that study abroad students face.

During my time at Maynooth University in particular I have grown a great understanding of the importance of cultural appreciation among both staff and students when working/living/studying with people from so many different backgrounds. I have been inspired by how students see past nationalities and embrace each other for the individuals that they are and learn from one and another while studying abroad.

It simply cannot be denied that studying abroad pushes students out of their comfort zones and witnessing students encounter and embrace the various challenges and differences is truly inspiring.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I actually just heard a fantastic story early this October where a past student of the Maynooth University International Summer School contacted us to inform me that she has just landed her dream job and is almost certain that the experience she obtained by studying in Maynooth is what separated her from the rest of the candidates and was ultimately and significant factor in her being successful in the interview.

This to me is what it is all about as we create these study abroad opportunities for students to literally change their lives in some shape or form.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

That is an incredibly difficult questions as we have so many fantastic partners all across the world.
I love the United States and Canada and have been fortunate enough to visit many universities in both of these countries over the past number of years with my job. It would have been an amazing experience to study abroad in one of those universities. However I have also a great love for Australia and I think if I could go anywhere it would be to one of our partners near the Gold Coast of Australia!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

My favorite thing about Maynooth University is that despite having 13,000 students we are based in a small town just outside Dublin City. That town has an incredible community feel and spirit about it which spills over into the university campus. Everybody knows everybody at MU and we all look out for each other. There is a great team spirit and students can see that from the moment they set foot on our historic campus.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

In my opinion global perspective and thinking outside the box are the key ingredients that a company needs in order to stand out from the crowd and be truly successful. By studying abroad you are demonstrated to perspective employers that you have the ability and skills to do just that. Studying abroad enables you to see how things are done differently to home and to witness and alternative way of thinking and acting. These traits and characteristics are incredibly valuable for one to possess and essential for any company moving forward in this day and age.