Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change


Student and host family in Cochabamba

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

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

Urban homestay in Cochabamba
The first homestay allows students 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.

Student with Quechua host mother during the village stay in the Cochabamba valley

Rural homestay with an Ayamara family
Students 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, students share their host family's daily activities. If they are planting or harvesting, the students partner with their hosts to lend a hand. If there are sheep to tend, students typically help as well. Students also share in a community meal called an apthapi and join in ayni, collective community work. Furthering their understandings of pluralism and continuing in their consideration of the role of spirituality and resilience, students 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 homestay
Students also participate in a two-day rural homestay with an indigenous group in the Bolivian Amazon. They 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. While the exact experience of this homestay will vary, 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.

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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