A landlocked nation in the heart of South America, Bolivia is often overlooked as a potential destination for high school programs abroad. Yet, this small country of 10 million people packs a big punch; it encompasses one of the most linguistically, ethnically, and geographically diverse regions of the entire continent. High school programs in Bolivia are a fantastic way to delve deeply into the local culture and language, while having the adventure of a lifetime. From the Andes to the Amazon, the opportunities for exploration in Bolivia will not disappoint.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is Bolivia’s largest city and and main node of economic activity. Straddled along the banks of the Pirai River in the Eastern reaches of the country, Santa Cruz is one of the world’s fastest growing cities and a magnet for ambitious business-minded people from all over the continent. With many impressive museums, theaters, and art galleries, it is a thriving cultural hotspot as well.
While Santa Cruz may officially be the country’s largest city, La Paz has an even larger metropolitan area of over 2 million inhabitants. It is also the seat of the Bolivian government, despite the fact that Sucre is the official capital. La Paz is settled at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet in the Altiplano of the Andes, providing an unparalleled amount of scenic beauty. It also happens to be the highest administrative capital in the world!
Many high school programs in Bolivia will include travel throughout several regions of the country, so you will not necessarily have to settle on just one location. Other destinations that may be on your high school program itinerary may include cities such as Cochabamba and Sucre. It is also quite common for high school programs in Bolivia to include travel to more rural areas of the country, to give students a taste of the quieter side of Bolivian life away from the big cities.
High School Programs in Bolivia
Language programs are the most popular form of high school program in Bolivia. If you are a student of Spanish at any level, then there is no better way to improve your comprehension than by traveling to a native speaking country and immersing yourself in the language. Some high school programs in Bolivia even offer students the opportunity to learn Quechua, an indigenous language family that is still used by nearly 10 million speakers in the Americas.
Cultural Exploration programs are also a popular option among high school programs in Bolivia. While students may not receive academic credit during cultural exploration programs, these programs are a great way to experience a broader segment of the vibrant and diverse Bolivian culture. Students will usually travel throughout the country during this type of program, while engaging in a variety of activities, ranging from community service to trekking in the Andes.
Most high school programs in Bolivia last between two and eight weeks (although academic programs are generally longer than adventure programs). Safety will be a major priority for local staff, so you can rest assured that you will have a fun and worry-free experience traveling in Bolivia. Lastly, don’t hesitate to make the effort to engage with locals as much as possible!
Scholarships & Costs
While Bolivia has a somewhat mid-range ranking in terms of development, it remains one of the poorer countries in South America. Therefore, most on-the-ground costs will not take too heavy a toll on your wallet. The local currency in Bolivia is the Boliviano, which fluctuates around 7 BOB to $1.
High school programs in Bolivia can be expensive however, incorporating the costs of transportation, food, housing, and tuition into upfront fees. While programs vary in affordability, it is a good idea to take advantage of all the fundraising and scholarship opportunities that are available for high school students interested in going abroad. It certainly can’t hurt to apply!
Accommodation & Visas
If you are living in one city for the duration of your high school program in Bolivia, then homestays are the most popular form of accommodation that will be available to you. This can be a great way to immerse yourself intimately into the local culture, while experiencing the warmth of Bolivian family life. Adventure travel programs that move around throughout the country will likely utilize a variety of different accommodations, ranging from hotels to dormitories.
Bolivia’s visa situation varies quite significantly between countries, so it is a good idea to get the ball rolling on this early by talking with your program provider. Most students will either be permitted to enter the country visa free, or else need to purchase a visa upon arrival. For more information regarding your specific situation in the interim, you can check out GoAbroad’s Bolivian Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Off the Beaten Path. Many students who decide to travel to South America end up choosing the larger more populous and popular countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. However, Bolivia is a unique destination which is equally enriching and definitely worth considering.
Language Immersion. Whether you are just beginning to learn Spanish or have been studying the language for several years, high school programs in Bolivia are a great opportunity to improve your fluency. Make an effort to speak the language as much as possible while abroad!
Unbeatable Scenery. From the high reaches of the Andes to the low lying basins, it is hard to beat the geographical diversity of this landlocked South American country. Safe to say it will be a breath of fresh air adventuring amidst Bolivia’s beautiful landscape!