Service-Learning in Cochabamba Bolivia Past Review

By (Political Science, West Virginia University) for

Amizade: Bolivia

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Being abroad is sometimes challenging but in the end it makes you a flexible, confident, and independent person. After my experience in Bolivia I am confident that I could travel the world and not have a problem. I have always been interested in Latin American Politics but my experience in Cochabamba gave me the confidence to apply to Political Science PhD programs so that I can one day became a professor of Latin American Politics.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

While in Cochabamba I took 1 1/2 hours of Spanish each morning, two Political Science courses, and one service-learning course that related to my service job. My Spanish class provided the one-on-one attention that I was missing in my larger university classes. I went to Cochabamba with minimal Spanish and by the time I left I could hold full conversations with the locals. The Political Science professor is young and excited to teach her students about Bolivian politics. She did a great job of taking the things we learned in the classroom and relating them to what we saw around us. The service-learning course was an opportunity to reflect on my daily service work. It helped me put into perspective what my work really meant to the community, the organization, and myself.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

This program provides the students with an amazing support system. Each week we (the students) had a dinner with our program director to discuss our experiences that week. She really cared about us and made sure that we were having a great experience. The program director also had weekly phone meetings with our homestay families and our service sites.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in an amazing house in a nice part of Cochabamba. My homestay was only a short walk to my Spanish class, service site, and my friend's houses. My family provided me with two meals per day. My host mom treated me like her daughter and even had a little party for me the night before I left. I really connected with my family and we still keep in touch via email. In general the people of Cochabamba are really caring, friendly, and generous.

* Food:

I am a vegetarian and the program worked to place me with a vegetarian family. I never went hungry in Bolivia. Actually, Cochabambino women show their love through food so my friends and I were always being offered something delicious by our host moms. The restaurants are really great as well. Sole Mio is a great pizza place on Avenida America that we went to frequently because it was close to our homes. Everyone will tell you not to eat the street food, but we ate street yummy street tacos and never got sick.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Our five day trip to Solar de Uyuni was one of the best experiences of my life. Just google pictures of it and you will be blown away! Traveling through Bolivia is a lot of fun because we got to meet people from all over the world. For example, in the middle of the Bolivian desert at a little lodge we spent a night playing cards with a group from Israel. I also enjoyed our weekend trip to stay with families in the countryside. I stayed with a friendly family that produces soy milk. I got to help them package it so that they could deliver it the next day. The countryside was a great place to practice my Spanish because absolutely no one spoke English there.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Cochabamba is a safe city as long as you follow the advice of the program director. We were always cautious about taxis. Even when we were out late on the weekends it was possible to call a reliable taxi and get home safely. You must have a yellow fever vaccine before going to Bolivia. I did not have any problems in Bolivia that required medicine. My friend had a cough and our program director helped her get some medicine. I was sick only one weekend and my host mom took care of me like a real mother. Our program director always made sure that we were feeling healthy and did anything to help us. An added bonus is that medicine is really affordable.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

My host family did not speak English so I was really motivated to learn the language so that I could talk to them. I had to use Spanish in everyday interactions anytime I left the house. I certainly encountered people that spoke English but a lot of Bolivian's do not speak English.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program is amazing because you spend part of your time learning Spanish and about Bolivia in the classroom and then the service component allows you to take that knowledge and apply it to real life. The thing you will learn the most about on this trip is yourself.