A Whole New World…Beyond College

Jonathan Maddock, Staff Writer

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What would YOU wish for?

Imagine you’re walking down an empty hallway on campus, when something shimmery catches your eye. You look to see what it is and find a genie’s lamp standing out in the sunlight upon a desk.

At first you think to yourself, “That’s cute.”

But something strange then happens. Instead of turning away and continuing down the hallway, it’s as though some invisible force pulls you toward the lamp, and you move closer and closer. As you now stand next to it, you look to see if anyone else is there, and it’s quiet. So you shrug and say,

“Whatever.”

And you give into the temptation to rub the lamp. At first, everything stays the same, and you think, “Shocker, nothing happened.”

But then, much to your surprise, lightning, thunder and fog begin to fill the room as a magical genie suddenly emerges from the lamp and stands right in front of you.

He greets you by saying. “I am the college genie of the
lamp! I have the power to grant you three wishes.” He goes on to add: “The major rule with college genies, however, besides not being able to wish for more wishes, is that you are only allowed to make wishes involving college and life after it.”

After standing there in shock for a few minutes, because the sight of a real genie is too much to comprehend, you begin to contemplate about what your three wishes should be.

The genie then offers a friendly warning: “Be careful what you wish for, because these wishes have the potential to affect the rest of your life.”

Right now, as you’re reading this story, you might be thinking, “This is a weird fantasy piece to be in the middle of The Summit.” And to a degree, you’re correct.

But, what if I were to tell you that this isn’t a fantasy, but a reality? OK, besides the genie aspect, because as we all know genies are not real, as awesome as that honestly would be, hoping and wishing for great things to come from a college education is something a lot of students can relate to. And this reporter has traveled through the streets of Agrabah and has found someone who can attest to the fact that a college education does have the ability to make your wildest wishes a reality.

Zach Bencal, professional musical theater actor, has journeyed a far way from his college education at The Hartt School in Connecticut, to now starring as “Babkak” in Disney’s touring production of Aladdin, which played at the San Diego Civic Theatre from Feb. 20 to March 3.

Referring back to the college genie story that you just read, what would you, as the student, wish for? Perhaps your first wish would be, “I wish to work in the field that I’m currently studying.”

Well, Bencal, might have made the same wish, as he shared in an interview.

“I’ve always been a musical theatre performer and knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Bencal shared. “People around me kept on saying that it’s a difficult industry to get into. But if it’s something that you truly want to do, and can’t picture yourself doing anything else, you have to continue to go for it.”

No matter what industry you are studying for, whether musical theatre or not, in order to make this wish a reality
you have to fight for what you want. In life, there are going to be many doors that are opened and closed to you, and it’s your job to break through the ones you want.

“Your wish is granted,” the genie says. “And what is your second wish?”

After giving it some thought, your second wish might be:

“I wish for the strength to keep moving forward with my education, especially on the days when I feel like giving up.”

Let’s face it, college is challenging. You have papers to write, books to read and exams to take, and sometimes you
have to manage it while also still trying to juggle a job and other life responsibilities. This all can become overwhelming to the point that you don’t know if you can keep going.

Bencal shared in the interview just what he did in order to remain focused while he was in school.
“While in school, I was surrounded by a great support system” he recalled.“It was also what I loved and what I had a
passion for. It brought me joy.”

Maybe the trick to making this wish a reality of getting through the difficult times is being willing to open up to those around you, and find a way to support one another, especially if what you’re learning makes you happy.

Now your experience with the college genie is coming to an end as he asks, “What will your third
and final wish be?”

You take a long minute to truly think about what you want from your last wish. You now know how to work in the field you want and how to persevere through the difficult times, but you want your final wish to be just as powerful if not more.

After thinking it over you finally have it: “I wish to have the knowledge of knowing if what I’m doing is right for me.”
Bencal answered this exact question.

“If what you’re doing scares you, then that’s how you know your doing the right thing,” he said. Life is too short to live comfortably, and if what you’re doing scares you, but still sparks a fire in you, then that’s how you know you’re headed down the right path.

After the genie finishes granting your final wish, he instantly disappears along with his magic lamp, and you are now
back in the hallway, able to move forward with your new found knowledge. Bencal never imagined he would have
his first breakout role in Disney’s Aladdin.

“I’ve always loved Aladdin, and it’s my favorite Disney movie,” he said. “But if you told me that it would be my first major role when I started, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

The college experience was able to provide Bencal the knowledge and support he needed in order to make his dream
a reality. And if it can work for him, it can also work for you.

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