Rita Hess, a student in the Spanish linguistics and pedagogy master’s program at Illinois State University, has been selected by Spirit Cultural Exchange and the Fundación Bolivar Education to receive a scholarship for a service learning experience in Ecuador.

Hess has been extremely active in international studies and education throughout her time at Illinois State. During her sophomore year, she participated in a study abroad experience in Granada, Spain, where she attended classes on Spanish linguistics, culture, composition, and art history. She currently works as a graduate assistant for the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, teaching Spanish 111, and serves as president of Illinois State’s Sigma Delta Pi chapter (Spanish Honor Society). Through the organizations and experiences in which she has taken part, she has logged over 150 hours of community service and outreach.

As part of this new service learning experience, Hess will complete a week of advanced Spanish lessons in Quito and then spend two weeks volunteering at a girls orphanage in Cuenca. She will also assist in putting together recreational activities for the children, helping them with their classes, and sharing with them about her life and experiences in the United States.

“Once I got the scholarship, I was able to choose which of their volunteer programs I wanted to do and when,” says Hess. “I chose the girls orphanage because I wanted to do something that wasn’t teaching for once. I’ve always had a soft spot for orphans and adoption so it was just generally interesting to me, and I take it as my personal responsibility in life to help girls realize their potential and break through all barriers so, yeah, a perfect fit!”

As part of the program, Hess will be blogging about her experiences on the Spirit Cultural Exchange website. In exchange for her service, the scholarship will cover the cost of her Spanish lessons, as well as housing and meals while she is participating in the program.

More information on the Spirit Cultural Exchange scholarship can be found on its website.

For information about study abroad opportunities at Illinois State University, or other study abroad scholarships, please contact Study Abroad at studyabroad@IllinoisState.edu.