Gabe Canales

Study Abroad Programs Broadens World View

You would never guess that lack of motivation was ever an issue for the enthusiastically driven Gabe Canales, ’99, a liberal arts major.

Always on the go, Canales’ early professional victories encompassed creating a sought-after marketing and public relations company and writing for The Huffington Post and the Houston Chronicle. On the personal side, he has turned a brush with cancer into a full-time calling as a national advocate for prostate cancer awareness.

But Canales would be the first to tell you that, as a college student, he needed a nudge. He got it at University of St. Thomas and its study abroad programs.

“You’ve heard of students who think college is about having a good time? That was me,” Canales said. “I was immature.”

The late Dr. Gustavo Wensjoe, who chaired the International Studies Department, recognized that Canales had more to offer and steered the young man to life-expanding opportunities.

“He believed in me and encouraged me,” Canales said. “Dr. Wensjoe convinced me to get outside of my comfort zone and experience the world. He’s the reason I went on three study-abroad trips.”

One summer was spent taking classes at the University of Reading in Reading, England.

“It was an incredible experience where I saw things through the eyes of new friends from across the ocean,” Canales said, “ I was with students who, like me, were curious, and we explored. I went to Stonehenge and visited two cradles of higher education, Oxford and Cambridge. And I had the chance to see Auschwitz in Poland.”

Viennes, France was the young student’s next program abroad.

“I was developing a world view and becoming aware of basic needs and desires of people elsewhere. The levels of poverty in European ghettos made a big impression on me, but they also heightened my awareness of needs here at home. Those trips softened my heart.”

Next, Canales hit the bustling and intense TV studios of CNN in London, England, the stage for his third learning abroad environment.

“By then, I knew that storytelling would be my future. News is storytelling, and CNN was a fast-paced experience where I got to meet master storytellers like Christiane Amanpour,” he said. “Before I ever finished my travel programs and studies, I had an ambition to accomplish things in my life. I had learned to believe in myself.”

Today, Canales draws on the talents revealed by his University of St. Thomas education to raise prostate cancer awareness and save lives through his Blue Cure Foundation at www.bluecure.com.

The University recently established a fund in memory of Wensjoe to support study abroad scholarships. Learn more at wensjoefund.org.

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