• Junior international studies major Alex Benitez was able to spend the fall 2011 semester in Peru thanks to a Gilman International Scholarship. She is shown here at Machu Picchu, one of several places she had the opportunity to visit during her stay in Peru. Benitez has posted videos about her study abroad experience on YouTube.
  • Adriana Saad, a senior with a double major in international studies and Spanish, used her Gilman International Scholarship to study in Ecuador in the spring of 2011. She is shown here straddling the equator.
  • Senior Latin American studies major Daisy Mateus spent the spring of 2011 studying in Spain with the help of a Gilman International Scholarship. She is shown here standing in front of the Tower of Hercules, ancient Roman lighthouse in Galicia.

Anyone interested in learning more about the study abroad experience Alex Benitez had in Peru during the fall 2011 semester has to look no further than YouTube.

Benitez has posted five videos to the popular video-sharing website under the username “alexintheandes.” The videos document everything from her home-stay family to her experiences visiting Machu Picchu and swimming with dolphins in the Amazon.

Benitez is one of four Southwestern students who were able to study abroad in 2011 thanks to scholarships from the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education. Competition for the scholarships is intense.

All scholarship recipients are required to do a follow-up project that promotes study abroad. Benitez said she decided to make the videos as her project.

“I really wanted to do something creative and fun that would allow me to learn something new since I’ve never done any sort of video before,” Benitez said. “I thought since I was going abroad it was probably the appropriate time to push my boundaries and step out of my comfort zone.”

Benitez spent the fall semester in Cuzco, where she was in a program that focused on indigenous peoples and globalization. She spent the morning in language classes – including classes on the native language known as Quechua – and spent the afternoons doing fieldwork.

“This experience has allowed me to better understand myself and the things that are out there in the world,” said Benitez, who is a junior international studies major. “It has influenced my career plans because with this new understanding, I can really say that I would be interested in working with Latin American countries, and maybe even living in one someday.”

Two students who received Gilman scholarships for the spring 2011 semester gave a presentation to the campus community in November.

Adriana Saad, a senior international studies and Spanish double major, used her scholarship to study in Ecuador. She spent the first half of the semester studying public health in the capital city of Quito through a program offered by the University of Minnesota and spent the second half of the semester doing an internship at a hospital in Riobamba, Ecuador, that has sections where both traditional and alternative medicine are practiced. She plans to do her capstone project on what she observed at the hospital.

Saad said the semester provided her with her first opportunity to really speak the Spanish she had been studying since 6th grade.

“I forced myself to use the language,” she said. “Now I feel really comfortable talking in Spanish.”

Daisy Mateus, a senior Latin American Studies major, used her scholarship to study in Spain. She spent the semester studying at the University of Santiago de Compostela, which is located in a region in the north of Spain known as Galicia. She took five classes while she was there − three in history and two on Spanish philology.

Mateus stayed in a residence hall on the campus where she met students from all over the world. She and her new friends travelled all over Spain, and to other countries in Europe such as Portugal and France.

After graduating from Southwestern, Mateus hopes to attend law school and pursue a career as an immigration lawyer. She, Benitez and Saad are all members of Kappa Delta Chi, a new social sorority at Southwestern that focuses on service with the Latina/o community.