Graduating senior Alejandra Benitez has been selected to spend the 2013-2014 academic year teaching in France.

The Teaching Assistant Program in France is one of various cultural exchange programs administered by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Each year, nearly 1,500 American citizens and permanent residents teach in public schools across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion. 

Prospective candidates submit applications explaining their French-language skills, teaching experience, experience working with children or young adults, experience living abroad, and university studies. Program acceptance and placement decisions within the French Ministry of Education are done based on merit and ranking of the most qualified applicants. 

Benitez will be teaching at the secondary level in the Academy of Reims. She is the fifth Southwestern student to be selected for the program in the past seven years: 2006 graduate Kelley Mansfield taught in Aix-en-Provence, 2007 graduate Jacqueline Jeffcoat taught in Grenoble, 2008 graduate Aurora Aguirre taught in Nancy, and 2012 graduate Molly O’Hara taught in Versailles.

“Teaching Assistant Program in France awards are competitive because candidates must have leadership and cultural ambassadorship skills,” said Aaron Prevots, associate professor of French at Southwestern. “We have been successful in getting students into this program because they learn to apply these skills in building communities and acting as agents of change.”

Students selected for the Teaching Assistant Program in France are assigned a 12-hour per week teaching schedule. Classes are conducted in English. Duties typically include preparing class activities, leading class discussion, serving as a resource person in conversation groups, providing small group tutorials, and giving talks related to American studies.

Benitez is an international studies major with a minor in French. She said she applied for the program because she wanted her studies in French at Southwestern to culminate in an immersion experience.

“Dr. Prevots recommended TAPIF to me my junior year, and since he mentioned it, I’ve only heard good things about it,” Benitez said. “I’m passionate about learning French fluently and I’m hoping this opportunity will help me achieve this goal, as well as give me the opportunity to gain experience in a new profession.”

This is the second grant Benitez has received to spend time abroad. She was awarded a Gilman International Fellowship to spend the fall 2011 semester in Peru.