Bo’living in Cochabamba

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Juliet Baires, International Business ’20

Before coming to Cochabamba, I constantly told myself, my peers, Professor Dana, my friends and family that I had no expectations for Bolivia. I came to this new country with only the knowledge learned from class, an open mind, and excitement to begin my journey. As I approach week 5 and establish myself here in Bolivia, I am learning that immersing myself in a different culture has been both challenging and inspiring. I encountered a few unexpected ordeals the first three weeks: my health, navigating transportation, adapting to my new host nonprofit organization, host family and the food. I got sick in all types of ways: my eye, stomach, weight loss, and getting the flu was a challenge the first few weeks.

My host family is comprised of three generations: nine people including myself, two cats, and two dogs. I thought I would get home sick since I am very family-oriented, however, my host family is incredibly similar to my family at home: traditional. The dynamic of living with three generations in a household is interesting because I have been able to witness the various different perspectives politically and socially across the family. The middle-child, Jamil, hosted a talent show where Anahi, the youngest, performed a poetry piece where she won first place. Both are such extraordinary host sisters. The younger girls remind me of how I acted when I was their age. They’re so vivacious, sassy divas.

My work organization is called Pro Mujer, a nonprofit that recognizes that in order to develop a community of agents of change, they must provide their clients with comprehensive services to ensure long lasting sustainable impact for women and families in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I had a week to explore the various aspects of my organization. Then I designed my project to build supportive capacity trainings for women, while increasing capacity building opportunities for current and future clients. The regional director, regional finance director, the Pro Mujer staff, and the clients all have contributed to such an amazing first internship experience. Each person I have interacted with has been created a mutual and reciprocal learning experience. I have been able to learn how these business women have worked to get to where they are: their struggles and their strengths. They have given me wise advice that has helped me explore my own future aspirations. Interacting, engaging, and speaking with the clients and visiting the five locations of Pro Mujer across Cochabamba has exposed me to the way people live here: their struggles, their successes and so much more.
With all the travels, I’ve come to love Bolivia. So far, I’ve been to a festival in Sucre, the mines of Potosi, and hiking in Tunari and Apote. This past weekend, we went to ToroToro, a national park in Bolivia. Never in my life would I have said, “I walked on mountains” but I did. I have never seen anything so beautiful; quite frankly I think it is more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. It was an experience that had the most breathtaking scenery. Also, it was my birthday weekend. Our entire group including the people from other universities threw me a surprise birthday party. I’ve been able to create some interesting relationships with the people in my group. We have all been able to connect with the fact that we are working towards creating sustainable change. Everyday, I see all of us making it happen for ourselves, these communities, and organizations.

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