Explore how concepts of community well-being and cultural identity are being creatively redefined in a country with 36 ethnic groups and the first indigenous president in the Americas.
Study cultural identity and the concept of community well-being.
With 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”).
Look into the social and psychological impact of globalization on communities in Andean and Amazonian regions.
Examine the psychological impacts of colonization and histories of resistance and resilience. Explore the influence of indigenous systems of knowledge on social change, and consider the interplay between multiculturalism and globalization. Investigate 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.
Have the option to create a documentary film or write a children’s book as part of your independent research.
You can turn your research into a picture 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 raises international awareness about Bolivia’s rich cultures and pressing social issues. Or you can take advantage of the expertise of the program’s documentary film advisor to produce ethnographic films. SIT students in Bolivia have produced more than 50 insightful documentaries about Bolivia’s reality.
Prepare you for a possible career in community work.
Learn how diverse local cultures perceive and live in communities and take a critical look at western models of “helping” or aid. Learn firsthand what is unique and important for community resilience.
Build your Spanish skills or add Quechua to your language learning.
In addition to small-group courses, almost all program components are conducted in Spanish. Those who place out of our advanced level Spanish course may choose to take advanced literature or Quechua courses.
Travel to tropical lowlands; the Andean Altiplano; La Paz; Potosí, one of the highest cities in the world; and El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America.
Dine at one of the top restaurants in Latin America, where culinary students from low-income families promote the celebration of Bolivia’s spectacular culinary diversity and local ingredients.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Migration | Identity | Resilience
Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- 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
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. 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 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.
- 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.
La Paz, Altiplano, and Lake Titicaca
Begin this excursion with a three-day homestay with Aymara host families on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Visit 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 the capital, La Paz, talk with students, feminists, activists, NGO workers, government ministers, and officials from multilateral lending institutions such as the Development Bank of Latin America. Visit Casa de lxs Ningunxs (House of No One), an activist community where members are striving to disengage from capitalism and creatively combat climate change. Eat at Gustu, a gourmet restaurant ranked twelfth in Latin America, where culinary students from low-income families promote the celebration of Bolivia’s spectacular culinary diversity 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, talk with members of Teatro Trono, a project that introduces street children to the performing arts. Hear from a government minister on a visit to the World Bank or CAF (Development Bank of Latin America) for another perspective on how communities achieve well-being.
Potosí and Sucre
Both Bolivia’s economic well-being and its economic distress are tied to the boom and bust cycles of mining that have shaped development since the colonial period. Learn what it means to grow up in a mining community on this excursion to the silver-mining town of Potosí, one of the highest cities in the world. Examine the complexities of mining’s legacies and the current realities for today’s communities.
Working at one of the unhealthiest and most dangerous jobs in the world, miners’ short life expectancy affects both community and family life. Environmental damage from mining also affects the community in other ways. This four-day visit provides a sobering look at how a national extractivist mentality impacts communities and how communities are seeking to regain their health and well-being.
Interact with community members at a mining cooperative, and at an educational center for widows and children of miners dedicated to finding other types of work for local youth. Consider the roles of community organizations and schools as resources for well-being.
Visit Sucre, home to the oldest university in Latin America, where the elite families of Potosí mine owners lived during the colonial period. Visit the Museo de Arte Indígena (ASUR), an indigenous textile museum and foundation that empowers rural communities and decreases rural-urban migration by recovering the region’s historical textile techniques and designs. Dine with members of the award-winning Masis, an organization dedicated to educating marginalized children through traditional music. 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
Although Bolivia is well known for its Andean landscape and heritage, two-thirds of the country is actually tropical, and the majority of the country’s 36 ethnic groups are located in this bioregion. The ecology and cultures here are dramatically different from those in Cochabamba and the highlands. On this weeklong excursion, you will explore the similarities between indigenous cosmovisión and emerging academic and activist concepts such as ecopsychology. You will question why people engage in environmentally destructive behavior that impedes well-being, look at resource extraction and the effects of deforestation on communities. You will also examine the issues tropical communities face as they decide whether to stop growing 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 issues in Bolivia, the decision to build a transnational highway through a national park and indigenous territory, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. You will look at both sides of the issue and at ways to combine sustainable development and conservation efforts.
Live for two days in an indigenous Chiquitano community and visit Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz, to learn about environmental justice in marginalized urban neighborhoods. Visit a large shopping mall to understand how many upper- and middle-class Bolivians live, and explore ecotourism on a visit to the spectacular Amboró National Park. In Samaipata, a unique lowlands community that is part of the international “transition town” movement, see the creative ways people are seeking to live alternatively and sustainably.
Carnival (Spring Semester Only)
During spring semester, you will experience Bolivia’s most important festivity of the year: Carnival. This spectacular parade of costumes and music from a variety of Bolivian ethnicities is an opportunity to consider how cultural heritage and creative life bring joy. Examine how public performances of cultural identity serve both those involved and the state: Are they a creative outlet that reinforces a sense of self amidst globalization? Does carnival provide an outlet for frustrations that might otherwise emerge in political action or violence? You will discuss these interpretations as you participate in the celebrations and study the diverse richness of Bolivian music, dance, and culture. Students will either participate in Cochabamba’s “Corso de Corsos” or travel to Oruro, the folkloric capital of Bolivia, to experience its world-famous carnival, which is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
Why study in Bolivia?
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Heidi Baer-Postigo, MS, Academic Director
Heidi received her MS in counseling from the University of Oregon in 1995 and her BA in psychology from Occidental College in 1991. She has been an academic director for SIT in Bolivia since spring 1999. Her previous experience includes working for 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. Her 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. From 1995 to 1998, Heidi worked at the University of Oregon as an international student advisor and overseas study program coordinator. She also worked as a counselor at Lane Community College in Oregon, where she founded and coordinated a Latino outreach project for English as a Second Language students. In 2008, she created Kids’ Books Bolivia, a project that contributes to the production of affordable bilingual books written by SIT Bolivia students. This book collection celebrates Bolivian reality and raises international awareness about Bolivia’s diverse cultures and pressing social issues.
Patricia Parra, Program Assistant
Patricia 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 as the coordinator of a youth leadership project. 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 the Canadian NGO CUSO, she also worked with regional development projects directly supporting grassroots social organizations.
Noemi Baptista Villegas, MA, Academic Assistant
Noemi has been the academic assistant of the SIT program in Bolivia since 2014. She 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 in Cochabamba. 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 on the municipal development plan for the rural town of Pojo. She also worked as a social technician in the area of human development for the state government of Cochabamba and as an assistant on a commission of the Cochabamba state legislative assembly. With the NGO Infante she designed a baseline for measuring gender and generational violence, traveling to three municipalities in all but one of Bolivia’s nine states.
Gladys Arandia de Palomino, Language Coordinator / Spanish Instructor
Gladys has been a language instructor for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 1994. She has more than 35 years of teaching experience and has been invited to the United States and Switzerland to teach Spanish as a second language.
Martha Coca, MA, Spanish Language Instructor
Martha 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 also served as director of Languages and Linguistics and dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences. From 2004 to 2005, she was rector of the Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana.
Mercedes Pérez, Language Instructor
Mercedes 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 more than 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.
Pochi Salinas, Homestay Coordinator
Pochi 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 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 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 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 president of the Ecumenical Commission of Inter-religious Dialogue and dedicates much of his time working to build respect and understanding between religious groups in Bolivia. He has co-authored four books from the collection Indigenous Spirituality, published by Editorial Verbo Divino.
Aliya Ellenby, MA, Kids’ Books Bolivia Project Coordinator
Aliya holds an MA in performance studies and a BA in theater and community-based performance, both from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Aliya is a 2006 SIT Bolivia alum, and during her ISP she started her longstanding work with Títeres Elwaky, part of a larger collective of independent artists called Colectivo Katari. From 2009 to 2013, she was an integral member of the collective, organizing and participating in international theater and puppetry festivals, creating, performing, writing, and teaching. From 2013 to 2016, she worked as a public middle school language arts teacher in Miami. In 2016, she moved back to Bolivia and is currently the project coordinator of Kids’ Books Bolivia, a project she has been supporting since 2009.
Faculty and lecturers typically include:
Valentina is a Bolivian artist who 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 harvest rituals, the role of women in Andean cosmovisión, 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 she has illustrated/authored a children’s book called Que Florecen Las Ayllus.
Gaby Vallejo Canedo
Gaby is a well-known author 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 during the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, was made into a well-known movie, Los Hermanos Cartagena. Gaby has been a professor of literature and language for more than 18 years at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and also teaches at the Catholic University of Cochabamba. She is founder of Th’uruchapitas, Bolivia’s first children’s library, and 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.
Walter Sanchez Canedo, PhD
Walter 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 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.
Kathryn studied Andean history at FLACSO in Quito, Ecuador. She has collaborated with 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, and has been AIN’s director since 1999. She is the author of numerous articles and the chapter on Bolivia in the book Drugs and Democracy in Latin America (2003).
Dan Moriarty, MA
Born and raised in the United States, Dan 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. He first came to Bolivia in 1996 as a Catholic lay missioner with Maryknoll. He worked with prison inmates and youth in La Paz and Cochabamba as the national coordinator of prison ministry for the Catholic Church, and he participated in Cochabamba's Water War in 2000. He later returned to Cochabamba to start the Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program, which he still runs. He was a member of a Bolivian working group on active nonviolence and has taught conflict transformation as an adjunct professor in the Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios of the Universidad Mayor de San Simon.
Sonia Virginia Matijasevic Mostajo, MS
Sonia is a zoological veterinarian with master’s degrees in natural environment management and conservation. She has been a professor in Santa Cruz at the Universidad Ecologica and La Escuela Militar de Ingenieria since 2012. She has worked on sustainable development projects with indigenous groups including the Chiquitano and Guaranie Pueblos and has been the director of protected areas in Bolivia since 2010.
Karina Mariaca Olivera, MS
Karina holds a master’s degree in environmental management and ecotourism from the University of Costa Rica. She is co-director of Quinta Consciencia, an experimental permaculture and ecotourism farm in Paradones, Bolivia. She is currently in charge of strategic planning for the municipality of Samaipata.
Felix Muruchi leads a team researching indigenous community justice systems in Bolivia. He 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.
Leny 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.
Activist and former shoe factory worker Oscar Olivera was one of the main protagonists in Cochabamba’s Water War of 2000, one of Latin America’s first and most important victories against corporate globalization. The protests of ordinary Bolivian citizens during the Water War pressured the Bolivian government to cancel Cochabamba’s water privatization contract with the Bechtel Corporation. Oscar 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.
William has worked for two decades in development aid and conservation in Latin America, Africa, and North America. 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. He has worked at the World Bank and holds international relations degrees from Brown and Georgetown. He is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and an adjunct faculty member at New York University.
One of the most prominent figures in Bolivia’s intellectual, educational, and political arenas, Rafael 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 formal and informal settings. He has served as professor, advisor, and evaluator for 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.
Cecilia is a Cochabamba native who grew up in various cities in the US and decided to move back to Bolivia to study Quechua and deepen her connection to the land. She received her degree in architecture at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Currently, she teaches middle school at Kusikuna Communidad Ecoactiva and is founder of Bike Art Tour. Her work in education focuses in intercultural communication and bridge building. She believes life is the best teacher and that politics, spirituality, and art have everything to do with each other.
Alejandra Ramírez Soruco, PhD
Alejandra is a sociologist with two master’s degrees, two postgraduate degrees, and a PhD in sustainable human development from the Universidad Bolivariana de Santiago de Chile. She has served as an SIT Study Abroad 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. She heads the Development Studies Center for Higher Education at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and teaches undergraduate and graduate level classes at three universities. Her areas of academic interest/research include human development, interculturality, cultural policy, and citizenship. Her most recent co-authored book is Brave Women: Women’s Citizenship and Sustainable Quality of Life in Cochabamba.
Ismael Saavedra, JD
Ismael’s experience and knowledge of his native country was formed through his careers as an Air Force pilot, a law student and 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 was an academic director for SIT in Bolivia from 1999 to 2013. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in security, defense, and development. After leaving Bolivia in 1980, he dedicated himself to his work in ethnographic and documentary film. Among his many credits are Panama Deception (Academy Award winner, 1992), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Academy Award nominee, 1984), Chuquiago (a classic ethnographic film, 1976), and Landscapes of Memory (prizes at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, 1997). He produced a trilogy of documentaries about Bolivia’s process of change, focusing on identity and memory.
Roberto is the founder and director of the award-winning Bolivian folklore music group Los Masis, and of Centro Cultural Los Masis, an organization in Sucre that promotes the education of marginalized children through traditional music. Los Masis was named by the National Bicentennial Committee as cultural ambassador to Europe, where they performed in Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland. The group regularly tours throughout Bolivia, Europe, and the United States.
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 research coordinator at the Cochabamba NGO 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.
Gustavo Deheza Ugarte, PhD
Gustavo holds master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from the Catholic University of Lovaina, Belgium, where he was also a professor. His previous positions include rector of Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana; director of Universidad Católica Boliviana’s Sociology Department; doctoral dissertation advisor at Universidad de Lanús, Argentina; professor at private universities in Bolivia; evaluator for Canadian University Services Overseas; coordinator of the Intermón-Oxfam (Spain-England) program in Bolivia; and external consultant of graduate studies for Bolivia’s Ministry of Education. Gustavo has worked in rural development projects and has published extensively on and lectures in sociology, rural development, education, culture, and research methodology. He is currently president of the MARES Foundation. Gustavo has been an advisor for many SIT students over the past 15 years. He is currently co-instructor of the Research Methods and Ethics course and is a member of SIT Bolivia’s Local Ethics Review Board.
Andrés Visinoni, PhD
Andrés has a PhD in ecology with a specialization in tropical forests from the University of Venice, Italy, and a postgraduate degree and master’s degrees from universities in Central America and Bolivia. He has collaborated with SIT Bolivia since 1996 as ISP advisor, lecturer, and coordinator of educational excursions. He has worked with academic and research institutions in Bolivia on topics including the environment, sustainable natural resource management, and indigenous groups in the Amazon and the Chaco. He was coordinator of the Center for Environmental Studies in San Rafael de Amboró in Santa Cruz and has led many projects initiated by international organizations. He is currently the international technical assistant for a European Union program supporting national conservation.
Program in a minute-ish
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
During your time in Bolivia you will have the opportunity to live with three different homestay families, allowing you to compare urban to rural life, and Andean to Amazonian. Homestay locations typically include:
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, with participating SIT students, an interfaith center on the edge of the village.
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 during the program include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
During the final four to six weeks of this program, 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. It 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 ISP.
There are a number of creative projects options available. 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. (See some of them here.) Take advantage of the expertise of the program’s documentary film advisor, Ismael Saavedra [link to his bio] to produce ethnographic films. This option requires that you bring a digital video camera, external hard drive, and laptop with an editing program. You will begin filming your assignments near the beginning of the semester.
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
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
This information is provided to assist you in identifying possible accessibility barriers and preparing for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad. You should be aware that while in-country conditions and resources vary by site, every effort is made to work collaboratively with qualified individuals to facilitate disability-related accommodation. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact SIT Disability Services at email@example.com for additional information related to access abroad and to discuss possible accommodations.
During the coursework phase of the program, you will generally be in class three to four days per week for six to eight hours per day. For a three-hour class, you will typically have a 20-minute break. Learning is typically assessed through take-home assignments, in-class assignments, written assignments/exams, oral presentations/exams, individual assignments, and in-class quizzes/exams. Course readings and in-class materials are typically available in a digital format.
If you have questions about alternate format materials, testing accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
The SIT program office is accessed by two exterior steps. The building’s entrance, classrooms, and study/library space have doors that are at least 32 in. (82 cm.) wide. Interior pathways/hallways are not this wide. There is a threshold bump leading into the classroom. All program spaces (including the restroom) are located on the ground floor.
The program typically spends extensive time outside Cochabamba, traveling to the tropical lowlands, the Andean altiplano, and El Alto. You should expect to stand, walk, and hike for long periods of time. A pair of comfortable, rubber-soled, waterproof trekking shoes is recommended. Program excursions may occasionally vary to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities.
The program’s homestay coordinator will be responsible for placing you in your homestays. These placements are made based, first, on health concerns, including any allergies or dietary needs, to the extent possible. Urban homestays offer regular access to electricity to charge devices, Wi-Fi, cellular service, and a refrigerator for storing medication. Electricity is not available during rural villages stays. Homestays with some accessibility features (first-floor rooms, no exterior steps, and raised toilets) are currently available but limited. Most homestays have at least two exterior steps. If you have questions about homestay accessibility, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
The local diet in Bolivia is centered on meat and potatoes. However, many seasonal vegetables and fruits are available year-round. Although vegetarianism is not common in Bolivia, previous students have been accommodated. Classes on how to cook for vegetarian students have been provided to homestay families in the past. Advanced notice of special diets is required. Kosher food is generally not available in Bolivia.
SIT Study Abroad works with students, program staff, homestay families, home colleges and universities, and others to accommodate dietary needs whenever possible. For more information on dietary needs and dietary preferences, please review the Student Support section of the Student Health, Safety, and Support web page.
The general routes of travel in Cochabamba have limited accessibility. Cobblestone paths, streets, and sidewalks are uneven and not well maintained. Few curb cuts exist, and there are no auditory signals. You will typically travel between your homestay, classes, and/or placement sites by walking, bus (20 minutes), and/or taxi. Buses are generally not equipped with wheelchair lifts or ramps and do not have room to stand or stretch. Buses, taxis, and airplanes are used for program excursions.
Most students will have internet available at their homestays. For students who do not have internet available at their homestay, arrangements will be made to have internet at the program office. In Cochabamba there are also internet cafés. The program does not have a computer space or technology for student use, and it is not possible to rent a laptop locally. You are advised to bring your own academic technology, including laptops, recording devices, adapters, and assistive technology. It is also recommended that you fully insure your electronic property against loss or theft.
If you are planning to do your Independent Study Project in video format, you are strongly encouraged to bring a Mac laptop computer with a video editing program (the program uses Final Cut Pro). Video students are required to bring a digital video camera and an external hard drive with proper connections/cables that are compatible.
If you have questions about assistive technology, note-taking accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
Good medical services are available in La Paz, Cochabamba, and other major Bolivian cities. The program has standing relationships with medical doctors and bilingual mental health professionals. Payment for medical services is covered by your health insurance if the provider is notified prior to or during the medical service.
Some students experience soroche (altitude sickness), as much of Bolivia is higher in elevation than many parts of the US. To reduce symptoms, drink lots of water, avoid rapid movements and unnecessary exertion, eat easily digested foods, avoid alcohol, and give your body several days to adapt. You may want to consider talking to your primary care provider about altitude sickness medication.
Admitted students are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns about accessing health services or medication while abroad during the health review process. Read more about the health review process and the summary of benefits for student health insurance.
Requesting Disability-Related Accommodations
To request disability-related accommodations, admitted students should contact the Office of Disability Services. For more information about the accommodation process, documentation guidelines and a link to the accommodation request form, please visit the Office of Disability Services website.
Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact Disability Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802 258-3390 as early as possible for information and support.
Additional Support Resources
MIUSA (Mobility International USA) is a cross-disability organization serving those with cognitive, hearing, learning, mental health, physical, systemic, vision, and other disabilities. It offers numerous resources for persons with disabilities who wish to study abroad and/or engage in international development opportunities.
Abroad with Disabilities (AWD) is a Michigan nonprofit organization founded in 2015 with the goal of promoting the belief that persons with disabilities can and should go abroad. AWD works diligently to empower clients to pursue study, work, volunteer, and/or internship opportunities outside of the United States by creating dialogue, sharing resources, and spreading awareness.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and 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.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
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:
Airfare to Program Site
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: $450
Books & Supplies: $130
International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
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.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.