Kailey Ulland - 2014 Program Participant

Volunteer with kids in Bolivia

Kailey (Second from left) striking a pose with the kids after a hat juggling workshop

How did you get connected with FSD and your specific program?

There were a couple of different organizations that contributed to my international internship. First, the McCarthy Center at the University of San Francisco already had an established relationship with the Foundation of Sustainable Development (FSD). Together, those organizations oversaw the details of my experience from preparation beforehand to safety concerns while I was in-country to reflections afterwards. When I was in Bolivia, I worked with a social circus in Quillacollo called Performing Life or Enseñarte. 

Why did you decide to intern abroad?

As an International Studies major, going abroad gave me a personal connection with the political and economic issues we had been studying. For me, it was about seeing the day-to-day realities that textbooks gloss over. With that goal in mind, I thought an international internship would allow me to immerse myself a bit better than studying abroad.

Why did you choose the Foundation for Sustainable Development?

Honestly, I went to Bolivia with FSD because of their existing connection with my university. Fortunately for me, my school had already researched what organizations have the most well thought out programs and now has worked with FSD for years. I also had multiple friends and professors backing up that the organization really did live up to their missions and objectives.

What made your program in Bolivia one of a kind?

In a single word: possibilities. What I mean is, at least for me, that the internship was really open. FSD was not holding my hand to show me what I should do. With Performing Life, there were many possibilities for where I could have taken my work. The interesting part was that even though there were many options, my choices were guided by community desires, time limitations, and how I developed my role within Performing Life. Until the very end, I was not exactly sure where my experience would take me or what obstacles would pop up.

What is the best thing about completing an internship with FSD that future participants need to know?

The best thing about the FSD program is the support and resources that are at your disposal. Looking for a group to go hiking with? Boom: the site team had a connection. Trying to formally improve your Spanish? They have the name and number for a certified instructor. Whether it was for your intern project or a part of your cultural immersion, you could always count on FSD to help, if you asked. 

What was your favorite part about your internship in Bolivia?

My favorite about the program is the sense of family that grows between all of the project interns. In general, you are on your own with your organization and host family, but for any of the rough days there is this unit of people that are going through something similar.

What's one thing you would have done differently?

I wish I had taken more initiative earlier on in my internship. The 10 weeks went by way faster than I had anticipated and by the time I had a clear idea on how to be effective, it was almost time to go. I wanted to be sensitive to the fact that I was an outsider and only a temporary employee, but I may just be saying that to hide the fact that initially I was too shy to share and act on my ideas.

Describe a day in the life of an intern in Bolivia.

  • 7:30 a.m. - wake up, run, ate breakfast (fresh squeezed orange juice from the backyard and some toast)
  • 9 a.m. - hopped on a trufi (public bus) to Quillacollo, worked at Performing Life (my work varied everyday, but consisted of marketing work visiting OTBs, leading circus/sport/language classes, editing the website, writing the blog, visiting the local markets for equipment prices, etc.)
  • 1 p.m. - Almuerzo with the family (Biggest and best meal of the day!)
  • 2 to 5 p.m. - Back to Performing Life
  • 6 p.m. - Watching futbol games during the world cup, Spanish lessons, dance classes, visiting museums, meeting people, or exploring the city
  • 9 p.m. - Dinner
  • 11 p.m. - bed

The weekends consisted of more futbol, markets, discotecas, hiking, or weekend trips. 

Did you experience culture shock when you arrived in Bolivia? How did you overcome it?

I don’t think this exactly constitutes as culture shock, but for me the hardest part about being abroad for that long is that I missed important events back home. One of my best friends got married and another friend was going through a really rough patch, but I wasn’t there for either of them. In the end, I just had to focus on what I was doing and trying to accomplish because you can only be in one place at once.

Honestly, spending time with my host family and really investing into Bolivian culture helped me appreciate my experience as fully as possible.

Now that you're home, how has interning abroad in Bolivia impacted your life?

Now that I am home, I did not want to act like that three months I spent in Bolivia was just a nice little side project. To keep the adventure alive, I am currently an intern at the San Francisco FSD office and continually look for cultural events in the city (they are not that hard to find) to practice my spanish and eat the amazing South American cuisine. I am also continuing to work on my community building skills at the Mission Community Market and the Cyprian Center. If nothing else, I still constantly am looking up international news (and flights) to stay connected with the global community.