Bolivia

Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change

You will also expand your Spanish language skills related to social sciences through classroom learning, cultural immersion, homestays, and excursions. Advanced students may have the option to study Quechua or Bolivian literature.

At a Glance

Credits

16

Prerequisites

3 semesters Spanish

Language of Study

Spanish

Courses taught in

Spanish

Dates

Feb 4 ‎– May 18

Program Countries

Bolivia

Program Base

Cochabamba

Critical Global Issue of Study

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon

Identity & Human Resilience

Identity & Human Resilience Icon

Overview

Why study globalization in Bolivia?

Bolivia, home to Latin America’s largest indigenous population and first indigenous president, offers a unique setting in which to explore the influence of indigenous knowledge and the relationship between multiculturalism and globalization. You’ll have the opportunity to live with three homestay families, allowing you to compare urban to rural life, and Andean to Amazonian.

Excursions throughout the country—from Lake Titicaca to tropical lowlands to the high-altitude cities La Paz, Potosí, and El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America—will allow you to examine the impacts of colonization and investigate why some communities risk losing their identity while others find resilience and reaffirmation in their social networks, creative outlets, and traditions.

You will also expand your Spanish language skills related to social sciences through classroom learning, cultural immersion, homestays, and excursions. Advanced students may have the option to study Quechua or Bolivian literature.

Highlights

  • Study cultural identity and the concept of community well-being.
  • Explore the impacts of globalization on Andean and Amazonian communities.
  • Travel to Bolivia’s tropical lowlands, the Andean Altiplano, La Paz, and more.
  • Build your Spanish skills or add Quechua to your language learning.

Prerequisites

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

Excursions

La Paz, Altiplano, and Lake Titicaca

Start with a three-day Aymara homestay on Lake Titicaca and visit one of Bolivia’s three indigenous universities to learn about their unique higher education model. In La Paz, talk with students, activists, NGO workers, government ministers, and multilateral lending institutions officials. In El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America, visit Teatro Trono, a performing arts project for street children, and meet with students from a culinary school that promotes traditional Bolivian ingredients.

Potosí and Sucre

Bolivia’s economic health has historically been tied to mining. On a four-day excursion to Potosí, learn about the realities of life in a mining community and mining’s complex economic, environmental, and health legacies. Visit Sucre, home to the oldest university in Latin America and the Museo de Arte Indígena, an indigenous textile museum and rural community foundation. Meet members of the traditional music education organization Masis. Examine how Sucre became a site of social unrest when the new constitution was drafted here.

The Tropical Lowlands

Spend a week in Bolivia’s tropical lowland region, which is home to most of the country’s 36 ethnic groups and has very different ecology and cultures from those in the highlands. Examine the environmental impacts of resource extraction and deforestation and the controversial transnational highway project. You’ll also spend two days in an indigenous Chiquitano community, study urban environmental justice in Santa Cruz, explore ecotourism in Amboró National Park, and experience sustainable living in Samaipata.

Carnival (Spring Semester Only)

During spring semester, experience Bolivia’s most important annual festivity: Carnival. This spectacular parade of costumes and music from many Bolivian ethnicities is an opportunity to consider how cultural heritage and creative life bring joy. Examine and discuss how public performances of cultural identity mold external and internal perceptions. Students will participate in Cochabamba’s “Corso de Corsos” or Oruro’s world-famous carnival, which is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.

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

Academics

Coursework

Access virtual library guide.

This program will provide students with an interdisciplinary understanding of Bolivia’s complex multicultural society, history and current sociopolitical and economic realities, and evolving concepts of community well-being. Seminars are conducted in Spanish allowing students to develop their language skills. Students who place out of the advanced-level Spanish course may take advanced literature or Quechua courses. This program also prepares students to conduct ethical qualitative research in the field. During the final month of the semester, students complete an Independent Study Project on a subject of their choice.

The following syllabi are representative of 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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • 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 sociopolitical and environmental struggles

Historical and Contemporary Social Change in Boliva

Historical and Contemporary Social Change in Bolivia – syllabus
(LACB3000 / 3 credits)

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

Vivir Bien: Well-Being and Resilience in Andean and Amazonian Communities – syllabus
(LACB3005 / 3 credits)

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 sumaq kamaña (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.

Spanish for Social Sciences or Quechua

Spanish for Social Sciences I
Spanish for Social Sciences I – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits)

Spanish for Social Sciences II
Spanish for Social Sciences II – syllabus
(SPAN3503 / 3 credits)

Quechua I
Quechua I – syllabus
(QUEC1003 / 3 credits)

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 intellectual to discuss selected works. Quechua language instruction will be taught by a private Quechua language teacher.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

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

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

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 such as a children’s book for Kids’ Books Bolivia or a documentary video, along with the research paper with approval from the director.

Sample ISP topic areas 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

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

Homestays

Urban Homestay in Cochabamba

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.

Rural homestay with an Aymara family on Lake Titicaca

During your second homestay you will spend three days with Aymara families in a rural farming area on the shores of Lake Titicaca. You will share your host family’s daily activities, which may include planting or harvesting, sheep tending, or apthapi (community meals). You will enhance your understanding of pluralism and the role of spirituality and resilience, and you will have the opportunity to engage with a unique Aymara shaman who is also a Catholic priest and who is building an interfaith center on the edge of a village where we sometimes stay.

Amazonian Basin homestay

During 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 and activities such as farming, weaving, playing with children, or helping to cook meals. The experience of this homestay will vary for each student. Past students have stayed outside of Concepción, in a Chiquitana community originally founded by ex-slaves, and interacted with the last woman in Bolivia to speak one of the native languages of the area.

Other Accommodations

Hostels, private homes, and small hotels

Career Paths

Students on this program represent many different colleges, universities, and majors. Many have gone on to do work that connects back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Photojournalist for National Geographic, Colombia

  • Community outreach officer with Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, New York, NY

  • PhD candidate in linguistics (studying indigenous languages) at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA

  • Development associate at CentroNía, Washington, DC

  • Doula (birthing coach) for Spanish-speaking mothers, Seattle, WA

Faculty & Staff

Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change

Heidi Baer-Postigo, MS
Academic Director
Alejandra Aguilar
Homestay Coordinator
Aliya Ellenby, MA
Kids’ Books Bolivia Project Coordinator
Gladys Arandia de Palomino
Language Coordinator, Spanish Instructor
Pochi Salinas
Homestay Coordinator
Martha Coca, MA
Spanish Language Instructor
Mercedes Pérez
Language Instructor
Patricia Parra
Program Assistant

Discover the Possibilities

  • COST & SCHOLARSHIPS

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

    See Full Breakdown
  • ACCESSIBILITY

    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Aborad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact disabilityservices@sit.edu for more information.

    Accessibility Overview
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    When I initially chose to go abroad with SIT on their program Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change in Bolivia, I accepted that I would be putting my psychology major “on hold” in order to improve my Spanish and live in South America.

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