In the Fall 0f 2015, I studied abroad through the School of International Training in Bolivia. It is difficult to summarize all the experiences which have contributed to my development as a student and worker, but I have a few highlights of tangible experiences below.
Quechua: a native, pre-Columbian language of the Andes. During my semester in Bolivia, I was one of two students that decided to take Quechua classes, in Spanish, on top of our normal course-load. While I couldn’t hold a conversation with any indigenous speakers in Bolivia, I learned a lot about the Quechua perspective in Bolivia. I also enjoyed the challenge (and brain-hurt) of studying a third language in a second language.
Volunteer Translation and Social Media: During my month-long research project time, I volunteered at ASUR (Anthropologists of the South Andes). There, I revived their Facebook page and gave them suggestions for using the account moving forward to increase attendance at their events. I also contacted many travel books to correct information about their museum and provide information in English about their museum.
While working at ASUR, I also ran into a couple translation opportunities. One of them included translating for a New York Times reporter, which turned into this article. I also wrote about the experience on one of my personal blogs. I also helped the local police department by translating some of their signage and pamphlets for tourists.
Research Project: Besides volunteering during my allocated month of research time, I also completed research (!). My topic was the relationship between tourist agencies, non-profit organizations, and the government in Sucre, Bolivia, in terms of sustainable tourism. I conducted research by walking around the city, interviewing (in Spanish) workers at tourism agencies, the director of tourism in Sucre, non-profit organization workers, outside actors that work in local villages, and visiting local villages. My research question was: “How does the relationship between tourism actors in Sucre affect the outcome of sustainable tourism efforts?” Ultimately, I found that the lack of coordination between actors did not negatively affect sustainable tourism efforts, but left many more opportunities to fail in the future.