Though I arrived in Bolivia only six days ago it could as well have been more than a year. After 18 hours of travel from DC I dropped my bags early Monday morning in a small hotel in the middle of Cochabamba. At over 8,000 feet this city of 700,000 just south of the equator is known as the city of eternal spring due to its continuous temperate climate. The weather in the city was much warmer than La Paz where I spent early Monday morning huddled over cups of coca tea and espresso in an attempt to ward off the cold of the Bolivian Capital situated a half hour north and over 5,000 feet above Cochabamba.
I spent Monday (my 20th birthday) and Tuesday exploring the city and awaiting the arrival of the 21 other students in the Multiculturalism, Globalization and Social Change program. Orientation started Wednesday morning with introductions and a hearty Bolivian breakfast before the class dove into three days of discussions ranging from safety and security , to cultural norms and academics. On the final night of orientation we were treated to a formal dinner where we were introduced to our host families through a multi course meal and hours of dancing.
Saturday, the final day at the hotel we began working on our independent study projects (ISPs) which is a fundamental pillar of all SIT programs. For the final month of the semester the class will depart to various parts of the country and complete a research project culminating in a paper, video or short book. The opportunity to complete a research project was a major factor in my decision to attend this program and I was incredibly excited to begin the planning phase.
I plan on researching and comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of western and indigenous emergency medicine programs in metropolitan Bolivia. I am looking forward to the opportunity to explore how Bolivia’s medical establishment has incorporated both traditional and western practices into their emergency medicine programs. I will spend the next two months exploring the emergency health systems of Cochabamba before moving to La Paz in order to gain a different perspective in the city of El Alto which is one of the largest majority indigenous cities in South America.
Before I am able to explore this specific topic I must better understand the history, development, colonization and decolonization of a country that has in many ways been neglected and abused for centuries by both global powers and regional neighbors.
I am excited to see what classes, excursions and life in Cochabamba will teach me ahead of my research and look forward to sharing my discoveries with you all ASAP.
Until next time!
September 1st: Discuss what study abroad program you are attending and why, what type of volunteer work/research you plan to do abroad.