International affairs majors Eddie Andujar ’15 (New York, N.Y.) and Andy Muñoz ’15 (New York, N.Y.) have received Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to study in San José, Costa Rica, for the fall semester.
Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, the scholarships provide grants of up to $5,000 to help offset the costs of a study abroad experience. Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process and encouraged to choose non-traditional destinations, especially those outside Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
In Costa Rica, Andujar is hoping to gain a better grasp of speaking, writing, and reading Spanish. He grew up surrounded by the language as his parents are Spanish-speaking as well as some of his friends and six other students who live with Andujar in the Grossman House for Global Perspectives, but he never mastered the language himself.
“My goal is that by next spring, when I travel to Puerto Rico, I will be having dreams in Spanish,” he says.
This summer, Andujar received a Humanity in Action Fellowship to explore different national histories of discrimination and resistance to injustice, as well as examples of contemporary issues affecting minority groups, in Copenhagen, Denmark. He plans to continue his study of human rights in Costa Rica. San José is home to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which rules on cases regarding violations of the American Convention on Human Rights in the 23 countries that ratified it.
“Costa Rica is molding itself from a once-challenged Central American state to a developing and thriving Latin American ambassador to the world,” says Andujar, who serves as public relations officer for Hispanic Society of Lafayette. “I can’t think of anywhere better to begin my international studies of human rights and social justice than here. And I can’t wait to see if all the impromptu bachata dance lessons I got in the Grossman House will pay off.”
Muñoz, who will be living with a host family along with Andujar, is excited to study the correlation between political stability and economic growth. He views Costa Rica as a positive role model for other Latin American countries that are caught in a cycle of political violence and economic depression. Citing Costa Rica’s unofficial nickname as the “Switzerland of Latin America,” Muñoz wants to explore why unstable Latin American countries do not emulate their more prosperous and peaceful neighbor.
Muñoz believes his time in Costa Rica will be a stepping stone to his goal of securing a position with the World Bank after graduation. This summer, he is interning at Moody’s, where he will use his passion for writing and research to create solutions that will help make underdeveloped Latin American countries more attractive to investors.
“Though I could easily open up a textbook and learn about [how Costa Rica maintains political stability and fosters economic growth], the opportunity to be fully immersed in the Costa Rican culture and political atmosphere will give me a much more holistic experience,” he says. “I aspire to one day assist the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries on a more substantial level.”
The first in his family to attend college, Muñoz is inspired by his mother’s transition from living in a poor rural village in the Dominican Republic to raising a family in New York. The Gilman Scholarship, he says, enables him to seize a valuable opportunity.
“The scholarship will allow me to afford the opportunity to actualize my academic and professional goals, and hopefully one day assist in the transformation of each developing Latin American country,” he says.
Like Andujar, Muñoz is a Posse Scholar. He also is president of the College’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and secretary of Hispanic Society of Lafayette. He previously traveled to Honduras with EWB to continue work on a water treatment and distribution system in the remote villages of El Convento and La Fortuna.
For information on applying for scholarships and fellowships, contact Julia A. Goldberg, associate dean of the College, (610) 330-5521.