Bolivia | Semester Abroad | Spanish | Andes | Amazon | Film Studies

Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change

Explore how concepts of community well-being and cultural identity are being creatively redefined in Bolivia, a country with 36 ethnic groups and the first indigenous president in South America.

Study cultural identity and the concept of community well-being in Bolivia. Inquire into the social and psychological impact of globalization on Bolivian communities in Andean and Amazonian regions, asking why some communities seem to be depressed and at risk, while others find resilience and reaffirmation in their families, social networks, creative outlets, traditions, and other resources. On this program, you have the option to create a documentary film or write a children’s book as part of your independent research.

Major topics of study include:

  • Bolivia’s complex history and current realities
  • Systems of knowledge and indigenous cosmovisión 
  • Themes of community well-being (“vivir bien”) and resilience
  • Globalization and Bolivia’s contemporary sociopolitical and environmental struggles

Meet the program’s academic director.

SIT’s study abroad program in Bolivia offers a wide range of experiences in different communities and the opportunity to interact with families, community leaders, diverse experts, and organizations as you explore community well-being in Bolivia.

Consider social change and resilience in the unique context of Bolivia.

BoliviaWith the largest indigenous population in Latin America and the first indigenous president in the Americas, Bolivia provides a unique site in which to consider issues related to community well-being (or “vivir bien”). In two interdisciplinary seminars, you will explore Bolivia’s complex history and current realities, examining the psychological impacts of colonization and histories of resistance and resilience. Explore the influence of indigenous systems of knowledge on social change in Bolivia, and consider the interplay between multiculturalism and globalization and, in particular, critically examine Western models of “helping” or aid.

In addition, you will inquire into how different Bolivian communities are employing a range of resources to find new ways forward in the face of rampant change. In particular, explore Western concepts such as resilience, well-being, health, and happiness in dialogue with the Bolivian concepts of vivir bien and ayni (reciprocity), and examine how these understandings and interactions play out at both the community and the family levels.

Explore Cochabamba

The program is based in Cochabamba, located in the heart of Bolivia, nestled within a valley surrounded by the Andes mountain range. It is strongly influenced by indigenous Quechua culture and is often referred to as the "city of eternal spring" due to its pleasant temperate climate. The city is home to the largest outdoor market in Latin America, and, although its metropolitan population has reached one million, it is difficult to walk through the center of town or through one of its many beautiful parks and plazas without bumping into someone you know. 

homestayTake part in three homestays.

During the first six weeks of the program, you will live with urban host families in Cochabamba. As part of the seminar on community well-being and resilience, you will also have the opportunity to live for three days with an Aymara host family on the shores of Lake Titicaca and for two days with a host family in the rural Bolivian Amazon basin. Homestay locations may occasionally vary.

Engage with academic, professional, and community experts.

You will be exposed to a wide range of people and perspectives on this program. You will meet local families in Cochabamba, indigenous community members in the tropical and highland regions, NGO workers and aid experts, spiritual leaders, feminist activists, artists, government officials, and others. The program looks at issues from many perspectives to productively complicate your understanding of community well-being and resilience.

Develop your ability to work with communities.

La pazLearn how diverse local cultures perceive and live in communities. You will engage with the controversial question about what it means to “help” as an outsider and learn firsthand what is unique and important for community resilience. This aspect of the program helps prepare you for a possible career path in community work.

Take part in a workshop that synthesizes your learning and experiences.

The final workshop is tailored to linking these experiences in Bolivia with community work in other sites. You will consider a number of questions related to community work, including: How can one best enter into a community and try to be helpful by engaging in reciprocity and solidarity? How might the experience of having examined indigenous and Western concepts related to well-being affect the way you take on future work with families, community organizations, and others?

Develop your Spanish or Quechua skills.

Build your Spanish skills for use onsite and in the future, or add Quechua to your language learning. In addition to small-group language courses, almost all program components are conducted in Spanish. Students who place out of our advanced level course may choose to take advanced literature or Quechua courses instead.

Go on excursions throughout the country.

Travel to communities in the Andean Altiplano and the Amazonian lowlands. Learn more in the Educational Excursions section below.

undergraduate research projectComplete an Independent Study Project.

As the culmination of your learning, you will produce a final Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP offers you the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of your choice within the program’s broad concerns. The ISP can be conducted in Cochabamba or other sites in Bolivia, as approved by the academic director. You may choose to produce an extended research paper or employ a nontraditional format such as documentary film, dance, theater, photography, or bilingual children's book as part of your Independent Study Project.

Creative Project Options

There are a number of creative projects options available to you. One is to write a children’s book for Kids’ Books Bolivia, a series of bilingual children’s books written by SIT students. This reciprocity project contributes to the production of affordable books celebrating Bolivian reality and serves to raise international awareness about Bolivia’s rich cultures and pressing social issues.

Another option is to produce a documentary film. SIT students in Bolivia have produced more than 50 insightful documentaries about Bolivia’s reality. (See some of them here.) You can take advantage of the expertise of the program’s documentary film advisor Ismael Saavedra (see bio below) in producing ethnographic films. This is a very efficient way of having your experiences and investigation recorded in a media that will last. To do this option you will need to bring a digital video camera, external hard drive, and laptop with an editing program. You will be required to begin filming your assignments near the beginning of the semester.

Sample topic areas for the ISP include:

  • Systems of Andean community justice in rural communities
  • Integrating traditional midwives into rural community hospitals serving indigenous families
  • Using dance to raise awareness of discrimination against Afro-Bolivians
  • Decolonizing education within Bolivia’s rural indigenous universities
  • Psychology of children of Bolivian migrants
  • Women leading the fight against mining contamination in their communities


Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

Access virtual library guide.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.

Students on this program take two thematic seminars, a language course, and a methods seminar. They then engage in a full Independent Study Project as the final course of the program.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Historical and Contemporary Social Change in Bolivia – syllabus
(LACB3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
In this interdisciplinary seminar, students explore Bolivia’s complex history and current realities in order to contextualize the program’s theme of community well-being (or “vivir bien”). Students examine the encounter between indigenous groups and the Spaniards, the psychological impacts of conquest/colonization, and the extractivist mentality, as well as histories of resistance and resilience. With the largest indigenous population in Latin America (coming from 36 different ethnic groups) and the first indigenous president in the Americas, Bolivia provides a unique site in which to consider these issues. Students explore the influence of indigenous cosmovisión and systems of knowledge in the articulations of new visions of social change in Bolivia. As they move through the seminar, students consider the interplay between multiculturalism and globalization and, in particular, critically examine Western models of “helping” or aid. This course includes lectures from both leading intellectuals and leaders of social movements in Cochabamba, Sucre, and Potosí. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
Vivir Bien: Well-Being and Resilience in Andean and Amazonian Communities – syllabus
(LACB3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
While the first seminar outlines a larger context of struggle and grounds students in the social realities of the nation, the second seminar focuses on community well-being and resilience. Students inquire into how different Bolivian communities are employing a range of resources to find new ways forward in the face of rampant change. In particular, they explore Western concepts such as resilience, well-being, health, and happiness, in dialogue with the Bolivian concepts of vivir bien and ayni (reciprocity), asking how these different ways of viewing the world affect communities’ encounters with globalization and Bolivia’s contemporary sociopolitical struggles. They examine how these understandings and interactions play out at both the community and the family levels. Students consider the following questions: How does migration affect families, and how do they cope? How are childhood and adolescence changing in an increasingly globalized context? What is happening to gender roles? How do reaffirmations of cultural tradition, spirituality of different origins, healing, new ways of looking at education, harmony with Pachamama (mother earth), and the arts all provide potential routes to resilience? Do NGOs and government agencies play a positive or negative role in improving community lives and striving for suma gamana (living well)? Through the seminar lectures, experiential activities and direct engagement with a range of local community members in Andean and Amazonian communities, students begin to construct their own understandings of the complex psychology and socio-politics of community well-being in Bolivia. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
Quechua I – syllabus
(QUEC1003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Spanish for Social Sciences I – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Spanish for Social Sciences II – syllabus
(SPAN3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Based on an in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive intermediate or advanced Spanish classes, with further language practice in homestays, lectures, and field visits. Emphasis is on speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. In lieu of the Spanish courses, students already fluent in Spanish may choose either to study Quechua or to participate in the Guided Self-Instruction course. Students who choose the Guided Self-Instruction: Advanced Literature course will meet weekly with a prominent Bolivian author to discuss selected works. Quechua language instruction will be taught either by a private Quechua language teacher or by an instructor at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project, students learn how to organize and conduct a research project. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice a range of methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research and are guided through the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project related to the program’s themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
Conducted at any approved and appropriate location in Bolivia, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Students are also welcome to do creative projects along with the research paper with approval from the director. Sample topic areas include: the use of graffiti in Andean urban feminist communities in La Paz; systems of Andean community justice in rural communities; integrating traditional midwives into rural community hospitals serving indigenous families; using equine therapy in programs for marginalized youth; decolonizing education within Bolivia’s rural indigenous universities; using dance to raise awareness of discrimination against Afro-Bolivians; community organizing in women’s domestic workers unions; harvesting the Brazil nut as a community response to deforestation in the Amazon; community responses to intimate partner violence in Cochabamba; psychology of children of Bolivian migrants; examining identities of youth migrants through art and theater; and women leading the fight against mining contamination in their communities.


Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

You will spend extensive time traveling outside Cochabamba. Excursions will include the tropical lowlands; the Andean Altiplano; La Paz, the seat of Bolivia’s government; Potosi, the historical silver mining center of the Spanish colonial period; and El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America. These excursions provide you with the opportunity to study the complexity and variety of experiences as you explore the program’s core concerns. By interacting with communities employing a range of strategies and responses to crisis and by examining how larger crises play out distinctly in different local sites, you will engage in a highly nuanced analysis of the program’s themes.

La Paz, Altiplano, and Lake Titicaca

Village stay coordinatorThis excursion gives you the opportunity to interact with a tremendous breadth of local community members. You will begin the excursion with a three-day homestay with Aymara host families on the shores of Lake Titicaca, followed by a visit to one of Bolivia’s three indigenous universities where you will interact with Aymara students and learn about their unique model of higher education based on indigenous community values and traditional systems of knowledge.  

In La Paz, the seat of Bolivia’s government, you will engage in an intense and multifaceted set of exchanges with a wide range of local people and initiatives, including students, feminists, activists, NGO workers, government ministers, and officials from multilateral lending institutions such as the World Bank. You will visit the Comunidad Mujeres Creando Comunidad (Community of Women Creating Community), a feminist initiative with deep community roots and commitments. You will also visit Casa de los Ningunos (House of No), an activist living community where members are striving to disengage from capitalism and creatively combat climate change in an urban setting. You will eat at Gustu, a gourmet restaurant ranked seventh in Latin America, where you will interact with culinary students from low-income families who are part of this restaurant’s mission to “combat poverty with deliciousness” by using only local products, supporting sustainable agriculture and revitalizing Bolivia’s diverse produce and culinary traditions.

In El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America, you will have the opportunity to engage in conversations with members of Teatro Trono and to visit this fascinating project, which introduces street children to the performing arts. These experiences are then placed into dialogue with a lecture by a government minister and a visit to the World Bank or CAF (the Development Bank of Latin America) for a different perspective on how communities achieve well-being and what strategies should be engaged to do so. 

Potosí and Sucre

mines in SucreWhat does it mean to grow up in a mining community? Bolivia’s economic well-being and economic distress are intimately tied to the boom and bust cycles of mining that have shaped its development since the colonial period. The excursion to the silver-mining town of Potosí, the highest city in the world, brings these great contrasts to the forefront and illuminates the complexities of mining’s legacies and the current realities in Bolivia for today’s communities.

Miners have one of the unhealthiest and most dangerous jobs in the world, with a short life expectancy, which affects both community and family life. Mining is also one of the most environmentally damaging activities, which also affects the community in other ways. This visit provides a sobering look at how a national extractivist mentality impacts communities as well as revealing some more hopeful insight into responses of communities as they attempt to regain their health and well-being.

During this four-day excursion, you will interact with community members at a mining cooperative, in a mining family’s home, and at an educational center for widows and children of miners dedicated to identifying alternative work paths beyond mining for local youth. You will consider both community organization in general and education specifically as an essential resource for well-being, examining this within what you observe about the historical construction of dis-ease in the mining context.

You will then travel to the city of Sucre, home to the oldest university in Latin America, where the elite families of Potosí mine owners lived in the colonial period. During your time in Sucre, you will visit the Museo de Arte Indígena (ASUR), an indigenous textile museum and foundation, which works to empower rural communities and decrease rural-urban migration by recovering the textile techniques and designs of the region's ancestors. You will also experience a vibrant dinner performance and interchange with members of the award-winning Masis, an organization dedicated to educating marginalized children through the teaching of traditional musical forms. As you consider another example of a culturally based strategy for well-being, you will examine how now tranquil Sucre became a site of disturbance and racism several years ago when the new constitution was drafted here.

The Tropical Lowlands

Amboro national Park While most foreigners associate Bolivia with its Andean landscape and heritages, two-thirds of the nation is tropical, and the majority of Bolivia’s 36 ethnic groups are located in this region. The ecology and cultures here are dramatically different from those in Cochabamba and the highland area. On this weeklong excursion, you will explore some of the similarities between indigenous cosmovisión and emerging academic and activist concepts such as ecopsychology. You will question why people engage in environmentally destructive behavior, which certainly impedes well-being, looking at resource extraction practices and the effects of deforestation on communities. You will also seek to understand the issues tropical communities face as they decide whether to cease the cultivation of traditional crops and sell their land to the wealthy elite and transnational corporations looking to export genetically modified monocrops such as soybeans to feed cattle in Brazil and Argentina.

You will also consider one of the most controversial current issues in Bolivia, the decision to build a transnational highway through a national park and indigenous territory, which is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. You will look at both sides of the issue and at ways to effectively combine sustainable development and conservation efforts.

You will live for two days in an indigenous Chiquitano community. This homestay is followed by a visit to Santa Cruz, the largest city in Bolivia, where you will look at issues of environmental justice in marginalized urban neighborhoods in addition to visiting Bolivia’s first large-scale shopping mall to understand how many upper- and middle-class Bolivians pursue modernization and the concept “living well” vs. “living better”. You will critically explore the concept and practice of ecotourism, visiting Bolivia’s spectacular Amboró National Park, ending with a trip to Samaipata, a unique lowlands valley community that is part of the international “transition town” movement proposing creative ways to live alternatively and sustainably. 

Carnival in Oruro (Spring Semester Only)  

In the spring semester, you have the opportunity to travel to Oruro, the folkloric capital of Bolivia, to experience its world-famous carnival, declared by the United Nations as a Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. This spectacular parade of incredible costumes and magnificent music from hundreds of Bolivian communities provides you with an opportunity to consider how cultural heritage and creative life provide sources of joy. As you examine this, you will also ask how public performances of cultural identity serve both those involved and the state. Do they find here an argument for a creative outlet and the reinforcement of a sense of self amidst globalization? Or does carnival, as many have suggested in diverse sites around the world, provide an outlet for frustrations that might otherwise emerge in political action or violence? Or both? You will discuss these interpretations as you participate in the celebrations and study the diverse richness of Bolivian music, dance, and culture.

Heidi Baer-Postigo, Academic Director

Heidi Baer-PostigoHeidi Baer-Postigo received her MS in counseling from the University of Oregon in 1995 and her BA in psychology from Occidental College in 1991. Her previous experience in Bolivia includes working for several NGOs in La Paz, as a school counselor for S.O.S. Children's Villages, and as a volunteer for the Center for Development and Promotion of Self-Help (CEDEFOA). Ms. Baer-Postigo's interviews with Aymara women participants of the Centro Femenino Machaq Q'hantati were published in Women: Stories of an Experience (1993) by Silvia Salinas Mulder. In addition, Ms. Baer-Postigo's overseas experience includes living for four years in Germany and eight months in Mexico. From 1995 to 1998, Ms. Baer-Postigo  worked at the University of Oregon as an international student advisor and as an overseas study program coordinator. In Oregon, she also worked as a counselor at Lane Community College, where she founded and coordinated a Latino outreach project for English as a Second Language students. In 2008, she created Kids’ Books Bolivia, a reciprocity project that contributes to the production of affordable bilingual books written by SIT Bolivia students. This book collection celebrates Bolivian reality and serves to raise international awareness about Bolivia's diverse cultures and pressing social issues. Ms. Baer-Postigo  has been an academic director for SIT in Bolivia since spring 1999.

View Heidi Baer-Postigo's full CV.

Patricia Parra, Program Assistant

Patricia Parra has worked as program assistant for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 1996. She studied sociology at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon  and has been trained in project evaluation, union organizing, and NGO fundraising. She has more than 30 years of experience working for international organizations in Bolivia, including 15 years with the Canadian NGO CUSO, where she worked as assistant program analyst and as the coordinator of a youth leadership project. During this time, she was invited to China and Canada to give presentations about alternative economies, and she started the first international union for local employees. As project coordinator and analyst for CUSO, she also worked with regional development projects, directly supporting grassroots social organizations. 

Noemi Baptista Villegas, Academic Assistant

Noemi Baptista Villegas holds a master’s degree (thesis defense pending)  in democracy and political administration and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the Universidad Mayor de San Simón  (UMSS) in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In 2006, she studied abroad for a semester at the National University of Santiago del Estero in Argentina. She worked for the NGO Center for Services and Technical Accompaniment, participating on a team elaborating the municipal development plan for the rural town of Pojo, including developing workshops on information collecting. She also worked as a social technician in the area of human development for the state government of Cochabamba and worked as an assistant on a commission of the Cochabamba state legislative assembly. She also worked for the NGO Infante , designing a baseline for measuring gender and generational violence in Bolivia, traveling to three municipalities in all but one of Bolivia’s nine states. She has been the academic assistant of the SIT program in Bolivia since 2014.

Gladys Arandia de Palomino, Language Coordinator / Spanish Instructor

Gladys Arandia de Palomino serves as language coordinator for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba and has been a language instructor for the program since 1994. She has more than 35 years of teaching experience and has been invited to the US and Switzerland on various occasions to teach Spanish as a second language. 

Martha Coca, Spanish Language Instructor

Martha Coca has been an SIT Spanish language instructor since 1991. She holds master’s degrees from both Bolivia and France. Since 1987, she has been a professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon , where she has also served as director of the Department of Languages and Linguistics and dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences. She was the rector of the Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana  from 2004 to 2005. 

Mercedes Pérez, Language Instructor

Mercedes Pérez has been a language instructor for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 2000. She studied anthropology at the Universidad Católica de Cochabamba and has over 30 years of experience teaching Spanish and English as a second language. She is also an artist and musician, and sang for many years in a rock band.

Evelyn Quispe, Quechua Instructor

Evelyn Quispe holds a master’s degree in bilingual intercultural education and a BA in linguistics, with a postgraduate degree (diplomado) in Quechua textbook production. She is trained as a teacher of cultural empathy and articulatory phonetics and is currently a professor at Bolivia’s Indigenous Quechua University in Cochabamba. Her research includes “A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Use of and Linguistic Attitudes in Relation to Communication Processes in the Cochabamba Tropics” (2007–8)  and “For an Alternative Education Centered in Being, Protagonism, Community Living, and Nurturing: Pedagogy in the Kusikuna Ecoactive Community” (2012–2013). She is the author of an educational textbook in Quechua (2010) and co-author of a bilingual primary level school support textbook (2011). Evelyn describes herself as a quechua cochabambina who also strongly identifies with her northern Potosi-Andean ancestry.

Pochi Salinas, Homestay Coordinator

Pochi Salinas has served as homestay coordinator since 2005. She studied agricultural sciences at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon and education at the National Institute of Alternative Education “Pacifico Feletti.” She has worked for nine years at an educational foundation called the Cigarra, outside of Cochabamba, which has a center for creativity and expression, a program for pedagogical assistance, and workshops on topics such as ecological agriculture, conflict resolution, women in local development, climate change, justice, and more.

Alejandra Aguilar, Homestay Coordinator

Alejandra Aguilar has served as homestay coordinator since 2006. She holds a BS in social communication and has worked on numerous television, film, and publishing projects in Bolivia and Chile. She sings in a Bolivian choral group and has been in involved in numerous musical and cultural activities. 

Calixto Quispe Huanca, Village Stay Coordinator

Calixto Quispe is an Aymara yatiri (natural healer and spiritual leader) and a deacon in the Catholic Church, the only Bolivian to hold both of these titles. He is the president of the Ecumenical Commission of Inter-religious Dialogue and dedicates much of his time working to build respect and understanding between different religious groups in Bolivia. He has co-authored four books from the collection Indigenous Spirituality, published by Editorial Verbo Divino.

Faculty and lecturers typically include:

Ismael Saavedra, JD, Documentary Film Coordinator

Ismael Saavedra's experience and knowledge of Bolivia, his native country, was formed through his careers as, first, an Air Force pilot, then, a student of law and a law professor, and eventually through his film career. He received an undergraduate degree in law at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, in 1977 and a JD in law in 1980. He is currently a PhD candidate in security, defense, and development. After leaving Bolivia in 1980, he dedicated himself to his work in ethnographic and documentary film production. Among his many film credits are Panama Deception (Academy Award winner, 1992), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Academy Award nominee, 1984), Chuquiago (a classic Bolivian ethnographic film, 1976), and Landscapes of Memory (prizes at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, 1997). More recently, he produced a trilogy of documentaries about Bolivia´s process of change, focusing on identity and memory. In Mr. Saavedra's own words, he has always seen his work in film as an effort to educate the world about the problems of his own country, of Latin America, and of the world. Mr. Saavedra was also an academic director for SIT in Bolivia from 1999 to 2013.

Valentina Campos, Artist

Valentina Campos is a Bolivian artist. She has worked in Guarani, Chiquitano, and Ayoreo communities and, in 1999, founded Kunaymana, a totora paper-making cooperative for Aymara women from Copacabana. Her Siembra de Mamalas painting series—depicting sowing rituals, the role of women in Andean cosmovision, and the importance of biodiversity—has been exhibited internationally. She has worked at Uywana Wasi, a center for cultural affirmation in Cochabamba and for the Where There Be Dragons program in Cochabamba and has illustrated/authored a children’s book called Que Florecen Las Ayllus.

Kathryn Ledebur, The Andean Information Network

Kathryn Ledebur studied Andean history at FLACSO in Quito, Ecuador. She has collaborated with a series of human rights and drug policy organizations in the United States and Latin America. Since 1997, she has worked at the Andean Information Network (AIN), an organization dedicated to investigation, analysis, education, and dialogue on the impacts of US-funded counterdrug policy in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and has been AIN’s director since 1999. She is the author of numerous articles as well as the chapter on Bolivia in the book Drugs and Democracy in Latin America  (2003). She is the Bolivia program coordinator for SIT’s International Honors Program: Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy.

Dan Moriarty, Maryknoll Mission Center for Latin America

Dan Moriarty was born in New York City and raised in Seattle. He first came to Bolivia in 1996 as a Catholic lay missioner with Maryknoll. He lived in La Paz and Cochabamba, working with prison inmates and youth and was the national coordinator of prison ministry for the Catholic Church there and participated in Cochabamba's Water War in 2000. After several years in the US, he returned to Cochabamba to start the Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program, which he still runs. He was a member of the Colectivo Rimarikuna, a Bolivian working group on active nonviolence and the prevention of violence in social conflict. He has taught conflict transformation as an adjunct professor in the Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios (CESU) of the Universidad Mayor de San Simon. He received his BA from the College of William and Mary, majoring in sociology and minoring in religion, and his MA from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. A dual US-Bolivian citizen, Dan is married to a Cochabambina and has two young sons. 

Felix Muruchi, Lecturer and El Alto Excursion Coordinator

Activist Felix Muruchi studied law at the Public University of El Alto. He was born near one of Bolivia's major tin mining centers in 1946, began work in the mines as a teenager, and rose to become a union leader. He was imprisoned and twice forced into exile before returning to Bolivia in 1985, where he continues to be an activist as well as a social science researcher. He is the co-author of two books: Pochos Rojos and an autobiography of his life. He is currently leading a research team on the topic of indigenous community justice systems in Bolivia. 

Rafael Puente, History Lecturer

Rafael Puente is one of the most prominent figures in Bolivia’s intellectual, educational, and political arenas. He was selected by President Evo Morales to serve as interim governor of Cochabamba in 2008 and as vice minister of the government in 2006. From 1989 to 1992, he was a national congressman for the department of Cochabamba. He has over 40 years of experience as an educator in both formal and informal settings. He has served as professor, advisor, and evaluator for many prestigious institutions and organizations in Bolivia and abroad. He has written several books and has led many research projects, including founding and directing CIPCA, one of Bolivia’s most prominent centers for the research and promotion of campesinos in Santa Cruz. He is an active and passionate promoter of popular rural education and is currently responsible for the MAS government’s “Mobile School” for the political formation of social organizations.

Leny Olivera, The Democracy Center

Leny Olivera is a graduate of the University of San Simon in Cochabamba. Since 2000 she has been an activist with Bolivian youth organizations and social movements, in particular with the efforts of Bolivians to address issues related to water, gas, and natural resources. She has been active in international exchanges related to popular education in Bolivia, Sweden, and Tanzania. More recently she has been working to challenge the oppression experienced by young women in contexts like that of Bolivia.

Oscar Olivera, Activist and Author

Activist and former shoe factory worker Oscar Olivera was one of the main protagonists in Cochabamba’s Water War of 2000. This battle was one of Latin America’s first and most important victories against corporate globalization, during which the protests of ordinary Bolivian citizens pressured the Bolivian government to cancel Cochabamba’s water privatization contract with the Bechtel Corporation. Oscar Olivera has been executive secretary of the Cochabamba Federation of Factory Workers since 2000 and is the spokesperson for the Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Water and Life. He was awarded the Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Award in 2000 and the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2001. He is the author of the book Cochabamba!: Water Rebellion in Bolivia.

Julieta Paredes, Activist and Author

Julieta Paredes is one of Bolivia’s most well-known Aymara feminists and lesbian activists. She is a founding member of Comunidad Mujeres Creando and Asamblea Feminista. She is a poet and the author of the following books: Hilando finoDesde el feminismo comunitario (2008), Grafiteadas (1999), Con un montón de palabras (2000), and Porque la memoría no es puro cuento (2001).

Roberto Sahonero, Director of Los Masis

Roberto Sahonero is the founder (1969) and director of Los Masis, an award-winning Bolivian folklore music group, and of Centro Cultural Los Masis, an educational organization in Sucre centered on the premise of educating marginalized children through teaching traditional musical forms. Los Masis was named by the National Bicentennial Committee as cultural ambassador to Europe, where they performed in countries such as Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland. The group regularly tours throughout Bolivia, Europe, and the United States.

Walter Sanchez Canedo, PhD

Walter Sanchez holds a doctorate in archaeology from the University of Uppsala, Sweden; a master’s degree in development from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon (UMSS) in Cochabamba; and postgraduate degrees in geographic information systems, administration and evaluation of social projects, and Bolivian Andean ethnic studies. He is a professor and researcher at UMSS and the Archaeology Museum of the Institute of Anthropological Studies in Cochabamba. In 2009 he won a national award for an essay he wrote about culture. He is one of Bolivia’s most prominent ethno-musicologists, has conducted many research studies, and has published numerous articles in the field of ethno-musicology. 

Vivian Schwarz, PhD

Vivian Schwarz, a native Bolivian, has a PhD in political science from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon. She is currently the research coordinator at an NGO in Cochabamba called Ciudadania, a community of social science studies and public action. She also coordinates a women’s project called “Free without Violence” and conducts research on themes of violence, violence against women, citizen security, and access to justice. She has numerous publications and has done extensive research in the social sciences and on public opinion and political participation.

Jim Shultz, Founder and Director of The Democracy Center

Jim Shultz is the founder and executive director of The Democracy Center, based in Bolivia and San Francisco. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard University, Jim is the author of three books, including the award-winning The Democracy Owners' Manual (Rutgers University Press, 2002) and Dignity and Defiance – Stories from Bolivia's Challenge to Globalization (UC Press 2009). He is also the author of a variety of major reports on global public policy issues and his articles on globalization have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the US, Canada, and Europe. His reporting on the Bolivian Water Revolt was named the top story of 2000 by Project Censored. As a globally recognized expert in citizen advocacy, Jim has led advocacy training programs for thousands of activists across the US, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. He has also worked on staff for the California State Legislature, as an advocate with Common Cause and Consumers Union, and has taught public policy at San Francisco State University. Jim has lived with his wife and children in Cochabamba, Bolivia, since 1998, where he also served for many years as president of an 80-child orphanage.

Gaby Vallejo Canedo, Author

Gaby Vallejo is one of Bolivia’s most renowned authors and the recipient of numerous national and international awards. She is the author of four novels, a book of short stories, seven essays, and 12 children’s books. Her novel Hijo de Opa, set at the time of the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, was made into a well-known movie, Los Hermanos Cartagena. Ms. Vallejo has been a professor of literature and language for over 18 years at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and also teaches at the Catholic University of Cochabamba. She is the founder of Th’uruchapitas, Bolivia’s first children’s library. She has represented Bolivia at numerous international conferences, served as president of the Bolivian National Union of Poets and Writers, and been the president of Bolivia’s branch of the World Association of Writers.

Alejandra Ramírez Soruco, PhD

Alejandra is a sociologist with two master’s degrees, two postgraduate degrees, and a PhD in sustainable human development (Universidad Bolivariana de Santiago de Chile, 2012). She is the head of the Development Studies Center for Higher Education at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate level at three universities in Bolivia. Her areas of academic interest/research include human development, interculturality, cultural policy, and citizenship. She has authored numerous books, book chapters, and journal articles in Bolivia and internationally. Her most recently co-authored book is titled Brave Women: Women’s Citizenship and Sustainable Quality of Life in Cochabamba (2012). She has served as an Independent Study Project (ISP) advisor and co-instructor of SIT Bolivia’s Research Methods and Ethics course and is a member of the program’s ISP Local Ethics Review Board.

Olivia Román, MA

Olivia Román is a sociologist with an MA in Latin American studies and cultural policy from the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Ecuador. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate students and served as an advisor for research and development projects. Her area of expertise is qualitative methodologies for research and the development of social projects in the area of gender and multiculturalism. Olivia has presented her research on political participation and migration at a number of international university conferences (in Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, and Canada). She has coordinated development projects for indigenous women in several rural areas of Bolivia. She has ample experience in strategic planning, curriculum development, and strengthening civil society. Olivia has also taken on a number of roles for the SIT Bolivia program, including Independent Study Project (ISP) advisor, co-instructor of SIT Bolivia’s Research Methods and Ethics course, and member of the program’s ISP Local Ethics Review Board.

Andrés Visinoni, PhD, Ecologist

Andrés has a PhD in ecology with a specialization in tropical forests from the University of Venice, Italy, as well as a postgraduate degree and master’s degrees from universities in Central America and Bolivia. He has lived in Bolivia since 1988, working with academic and research institutions on topics including the environment, sustainable natural resource management, and the valorization of knowledge of indigenous groups in the Amazon and the Chaco. Previously, he held the position of coordinator of the Center for Environmental Studies in San Rafael de Amboró, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and has been in charge of many projects initiated by international organizations in numerous Latin American countries. Andrés has also published many works and collaborated on numerous research projects in Bolivia. He is currently the international technical assistant for a European Union program supporting the national conservation policy in the protected areas of Bolivia. He has collaborated with SIT Bolivia since 1996, as Independent Study Project advisor, lecturer, and coordinator of educational excursions in the Amazon.

William Powers, Lecturer and Tropical Lowlands Excursion Coordinator

William Powers has worked for two decades in development aid and conservation in Latin America, Africa, and North America. From 2002 to 2004, he managed the community components of a project in the Bolivian Amazon that won a 2003 prize for environmental innovation from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. His essays and commentaries on global issues have appeared in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune and on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. Powers has worked at the World Bank and holds international relations degrees from Brown and Georgetown. A third-generation New Yorker, Powers has also spent two decades exploring the American culture of speed and its alternatives in some fifty countries around the world. He has covered the subject in his four books and written about it in The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Powers is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and an adjunct faculty member at New York University.

During your time in Bolivia, you will have the opportunity to live with three different homestay families. Homestays form a cornerstone of SIT’s experiential learning model by offering you the unique opportunity to take knowledge from lectures and readings to the dinner table, as you engage your families in discussions about the topics you are studying. Living with a family also gives you an authentic and more intimate place in which to practice and refine your Spanish language skills.

homestayGiven the programmatic interest in the relationship between families and well-being, the homestay element provides particular insight here by offering you a place, however temporary, in these support systems. Furthermore, by living with three distinct families, you will productively complicate your emerging understandings about family and community well-being in three different sites, comparing urban to rural and Andean to Amazonian, allowing you to form a more elaborate understanding of each. Homestay locations typically include the following:

Urban homestay in Cochabamba

The first homestay allows you to live with a family in Cochabamba for six weeks, either in an urban or suburban neighborhood. While homestay families are mostly middle class, they are very diverse in terms of occupation, family size, region of origin in Bolivia, and location in the city. As a larger group, the families provide students with a more complex set of life experiences within the same city and general class definition.

Rural homestay with an Aymara family on Lake Titicaca

rural homestay in BoliviaYou will take part in a second homestay for three days in a rural farming area. The homestay takes place with Aymara families on the shores of Lake Titicaca. During the rural stay, you will share your host family's daily activities. If they are planting or harvesting, you will partner with your hosts to lend a hand. If there are sheep to tend, you will typically help with that as well. You will also share in a community meal called an apthapi and join in ayni, collective community work. Furthering your understanding of pluralism and continuing in your consideration of the role of spirituality and resilience, you will have the opportunity to engage with a unique Aymara shaman who is also a Catholic priest and who is building (with participating SIT students) an interfaith center on the edge of the village. 

Amazonian basin homestay

You will also participate in a two-day rural homestay with an indigenous group in the Bolivian Amazon basin. You will have the opportunity to share in daily village life, which might include activities such as farming, weaving, playing with children, or helping to cook meals. The experience of this homestay will vary for each student. As an example, past students have stayed in a Chiquitana community outside of Concepción originally founded by ex-slaves and have interacted with the last woman in Bolivia to speak one of the native languages of the area.

Other accommodations during the program include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Community Outreach Officer, Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, New York, New York
  • PhD Candidate in Linguistics (studying indigenous languages), Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Development Associate, CentroNía, Washington, DC
  • Photojournalist, National Geographic, Colombia
  • Doula (birthing coach) for Spanish-speaking mothers, Seattle, Washington

Program Dates: Spring 2017

Program Arrival Date:  Feb 7, 2017

Program Departure Date:    May 22, 2017

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Nov 3, 2016


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $15,645

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Historical and Contemporary Social Change
    • Vivir Bien: Living Well in Andean and Amazonian Communities
  • Research Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review
  • Intensive language instruction in Spanish or (if eligible) Quechua
  • All educational excursions to locations such as La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Potosí, and Sucre, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food) 
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $3,330

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Cochabamba), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay. 
  • All homestays (six weeks in Cochabamba, three days with an Aymara host family on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and two days with a host family in the rural Bolivian Amazon)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 400

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 130

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


Tap to display sub-menu choices,
press & hold to open topic in new page.


SIT, 1 Kipling Road, PO Box 676, Brattleboro, VT 05302-0676
802 258-3212, 888 272-7881 (Toll-free in the US), Fax: 802 258-3296 

SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

Accreditation | Privacy Policy | Site Map

Copyright 2016. World Learning. All rights reserved.

Back to top