Amazing cultural and linguistic experience! Past Review

By (Anthropology., Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/30/2013 to 05/14/2013 with

SIT Study Abroad: Bolivia - Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Absolutely worthwhile. This program and my time in Bolivia truly did change me for the better as corny as that sounds. I feel so connected to the country and have so many Bolivian friends that I care for so deeply. I learned so much about Bolivia, South America, Spanish language, and myself. 100% worthwhile - a part of my heart will always belong to Bolivia. A really special country that so many ignore.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The classes were interesting, but at times way too long and a bit boring and not as interactive as I would have hoped for.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The directors Ismael and Heidi are really great and are always willing to help. But, to be honest, the program secretary Patty is the person who holds the whole show together. She helps out in almost every aspect of the program. She is an absolute wonder woman and I have the utmost respect for her.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Overall, housing was great. Initially I was placed with a host family and it just wasn't working out. The program really stresses that if you are not happy with the host family you were placed with, you should absolutely switch. So, after a month, this is exactly what I did. This turned out to be the best decision I made the entire semester. My new host family was amazing, I built great connections with them, and they have become an extension of my family.

* Food:

I loved the food, but very meat heavy. I especially loved the street food: anticucho (cow heart), trancapecho, choripan, etc. There were vegetarians on my program, but not sure how easy it would be.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Completely. I really understood the complexities of Bolivia and Bolivian culture. This was achieved from a combination of class time and just talking with Bolivians, particularly with my host family.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The program was absolutely amazing with health issues. Various people got sick and everything was completely taken care of. The program was well-prepared for everything. In order to enter Bolivia with a student visa, you must have the yellow fever vaccine, but I think that is it.

* Safety:

Cochabamba is not super safe, but with common sense, you will be fine. Flashing expensive jewelry in the city is never a good idea. Once you get to Cochabamba, it seems a little bit overwhelming, but the program does a good job of explaining the safety situation and how to stay safe. I generally felt safe, but you can't be complacent walking around at night.

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)

Very easily. Prices in Bolivia, and Cochamba in particular, are very reasonable compared to American prices. In Cochabamba, you can get a taxi and go pretty much anywhere in the city for absolutely no more than the equivalent of $5 (usually more in the range of $3). Also, food is really cheap. Transportation is really, really cheap - 1.70 bolivianos (or $.25). Because the host family takes care of all meals, you can get away with spending very, very little.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? maybe $30 (but I did tend to frequent the candy store a bit...;))
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? For Cochabamba, you don't have to be that careful. It's kinda difficult to overspend.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

There was a strong emphasis on speaking Spanish, which is partly why I chose this program. All of our classes were in Spanish and we spoke Spanish everyday with friends, host family, and teachers.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? HISP 105 at Brandeis, but I have been taking Spanish almost continuously since 3rd grade
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? It's easy to revert back to English with other program participants, but try to speak Spanish more often. When you reunite with the other program participants, it is undoubtedly nice to have a break from the Spanish, but I noticed that after a lot of time speaking English, it would be so hard to switch back wholly to Spanish with my host family and other people.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Cultural Immersion
  • Spanish language
  • Host family!
* What could be improved?
  • Academics
  • Schedule of classes (classes were too long)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I don't know - not sure.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'