Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change

Key Features

Students dancing with host families during the village stay on the shores of Lake Titicaca

In this program, students discover the social and economic development and cultural challenges shaping Bolivia. Students can expect to:

  • Learn from indigenous cultures about the role of Andean-Amazonian identity and cosmovision, artistic expression in social change, and communitarian responses to globalization.
  • Meet with Bolivian leaders making history. Former and/or current lecturers have included such prominent national figures as President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro García Linera; Rafael Puente, former governor of Cochabamba and former vice minister of the government; and Oscar Olivera, union leader and main protagonist of Cochabamba’s 2000 Water War.
  • Analyze development models and practices, including creative challenges to western economic policy in a country exploited for centuries by the exportation of natural resources and scrutinized for its tradition of growing coca. 
  • Examine Bolivia's new plurinational constitution and how the country is moving away from the legacy of colonization toward indigenous empowerment.

Program components
In addition to the in-country orientation and concluding period, the program consists of the following components:

  • A six-week homestay in Cochabamba during which students take intensive Spanish (or Quechua) language instruction and begin both the Research Methods and Ethics course and the interdisciplinary thematic seminars on multiculturalism, globalization, and social change
  • Three weeks of educational field excursions throughout Bolivia, including a five-day village stay with indigenous Quechua or Aymara families
  • A four-week Independent Study Project

Exploring 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. 

Students spend six weeks living with a host family in Cochabamba in either an urban or suburban neighborhood.

Intercultural and experiential learning throughout Bolivia
Bolivia is a spectacular multicultural country located in the central Andes Mountains in the heart of South America. The country is comprised of 36 ethnic groups and 42 ecological regions. It is the world's eighth richest country in biodiversity and yet is home to countless impoverished communities. These characteristics provide an incredible opportunity for intercultural learning.

The program takes students into the heart of Bolivian reality through multiple excursions.

  • Experience ancient Andean history written in the landscape of Lake Titicaca and Tiwanaku
  • See the diversity and roles of the indigenous and mestizo populations in El Alto
  • Hear from development agencies in La Paz
  • Visit the mine that played a crucial role in enslavement and impoverishment in Potosi
  • See the extraordinary ecological wealth and environmental destruction of the jungle in Santa Cruz firsthand, as well as insurgent indigenous communities

Learn more about the program's educational excursions.

Rapidly improve your Spanish or learn Quechua
Students receive intensive instruction in Spanish through the program's five-credit language course. Students are placed in intensive intermediate or advanced classes and obtain additional language practice during the homestays, lectures, and field visits. Students already fluent in Spanish may study Quechua in lieu of Spanish for an additional fee.

Student conducting an interview for her ISP

Independent Study Project
Students spend the last four weeks of the program focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP may be conducted in almost any region of Bolivia, if approved and appropriate to the project. While some students choose to produce an extended research paper, others students choose to produce an ethnographic video documentary or write a bilingual children's book for their Independent Study Project.

Sample topic areas for the ISP include:

  • Film and social change
  • Migration and family survival strategies
  • Graffiti and political expression
  • Role of women in Bolivia’s new constitution
  • Legacy of liberation theology today
  • Globalization and water politics in Cochabamba
  • The struggle between indigenous and multinational companies over environmental rights and the nationalization of natural resources
  • The effect of urban violence on women in marginalized communities
  • Traditional healing and modern Aymara society
  • Microcredit and the market of fair trade handicrafts
  • The effects of global warming on glaciers in the Andes

Learn more about the documentary film option. 

Learn more about the children's book option. 

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Cochabamba

Language Study: Quechua,  Spanish

Prerequisites: 3 semesters Spanish


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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