In May 2013, Becky Williams, B.A. Spanish ’09, took a leap of faith and moved to Cusco, Peru, to design and start a business focusing on social responsibility and authentic cultural encounters. Launched in January, Encuentros Andinos is a non-conventional tour company designed to support isolated indigenous communities while fostering pride in the communities’ ancient traditions. Through Encuentros Andinos, travelers have an opportunity to learn first-hand from indigenous people about their way of life.
Tell us about your career – what do you do on a day to day basis?
The beginning stages of the Encuentros Andinos project involved gaining the trust and friendship of local indigenous communities, which took time, patience and consistent effort. Now that the project has been established, I work with very specific responsibilities, which primarily include marketing, since we just launched recently. I designed our website completely from scratch, with not one bit of web design experience, so I work to maintain and update the website. I also work to put together different social media campaigns while working with specific target audiences here in Cusco. The best part of my work, though, is when I trek with clients through the Andes Mountains, and I see them smiling and sharing an extremely memorable, even life-changing, experience with our local indigenous families.
What insight would you give to current students and alumni who are searching for employment?
For the person looking to branch out on their own and explore the entrepreneurial path, I’d give two bits of advice. The first is to develop a skill or set of skills that you enjoy and to work hard and develop them well. That’s the only way you’ll be able to sell yourself. The second bit of advice would be to have faith in yourself! You can’t depend on other people always supporting you and approving of what you do; you have to believe in yourself first before anyone else will.
What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their time at Chapman?
I’d emphasize networking as much as you can. Looking back, I would have asked my professors for additional research opportunities or additional ways to immerse myself in different projects on and off campus. Networking is such an important factor in success. Work hard, make sure people see you working hard and coming up with creative solutions, and you have solid connections for life.
From your time at Chapman, which faculty member(s) made the greatest impact on you and why?
My advisor, Profesora Valenzuela, probably had the biggest impact on me, because she’s the one who suggested a peace studies minor. I didn’t even know peace studies existed when she suggested it to me. Peace studies gave me a better focus of what I wanted for my life and continues to inspire me every single day.
How has your Chapman degree helped you in your professional and personal life?
A degree in Spanish has always opened all kinds of doors, since I lived and worked in Southern California before I moved to Peru. Obviously, when you study a foreign language, you also study a foreign culture, or, in my case, many different Spanish-speaking cultures. Without that background, I don’t think I could have made the move down to Peru.
How were you involved on campus during your time as a Chapman student?
I was a Spanish major, so, naturally, I was part of Chapman’s Spanish club. I served the club in many ways during my four years, even serving as president at one point in time.
What is your favorite Chapman memory?
My favorite memory is Arabic class, during my last semester at Chapman. There was a lovely Egyptian Fulbright scholar who was in the States to teach students Arabic along with our professor, and we became very good friends. She is by far one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, and spending time with her in and out of class changed my life completely.
What was your favorite spot on campus as a student?
I loved the knolls, while they were there, and then after I’d go up and sit just above Attallah Piazza. Any place quiet and grassy was where I’d take naps between classes, read The Panther or people watch.
Have you been involved with Chapman since graduating?
No, I haven’t, but I’d definitely like to be involved more! Chapman is a fantastic resource and a place full of inspiration so you can keep dreaming bigger!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Chapman Family?
My many thanks! I’d especially like to thank my professors. I was a shy, quiet student in my classes, so I didn’t always participate much. But I soaked up every word my professors said, internally processing new concepts and perspectives. It took a little while for some of those ideas to really sprout and develop, but when they did, BAM! I was ready for more!
Becky Williams ’09: Then and Now