Natalie Myking writes for The Channels:
SBCC Spanish students to study and live with families in Bolivia
City College’s most affordable study abroad program will host students during the 2018-2019 Winter intersession in Cochabamba, Bolivia to study Spanish language.
Any level of Spanish speaker is welcome to embark on this adventure in Bolivia as students will be fully immersed in a Spanish speaking country and have the opportunity to take grammar level or conversation classes taught by native speakers from Bolivia.
“The immersion is not only linguistic immersion, it’s also cultural immersion, you know, you feel you smell, you touch, a totally different reality,” said Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, the director of the program. “It’s also about the immersion in the culture and everything that goes with it, foods and smells and colors and music.”
Bolivia holds a strong pre-hispanic component. The streets are seen with the lives of an indigenous people that is still very alive and present today.
Tanja Reutimann, a Spanish major at City College and former travel counselor for American Express has already bought her ticket for the trip.
“I went to Peru, and I loved Peru, and Bolivia is even more indigenous, and it’s so beautiful, it’s got so many natural wonders,” Reutimann said.
Another major component of the indigenous culture is the music. The traditional flute of the Andes, known as quena, holds a very strong identity with the Andes and the mountains and can be heard in Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa”.
“Bolivia has very distinct music, people normally don’t identify with it, the instruments are special,” Rodriguez said.
The cultural immersion is a strong part of the trip because students will be living within walking distance from the school with a Bolivian family. The families are middle class and students will benefit from learning to adapt in a Spanish speaking home.
“Living with a family is a wonderful opportunity, I did that in Nicaragua with the Unitarian Church, it was fantastic,” Reutimann said. “
It was deeply personal compared to staying in a hotel.”
Three meals a day are provided as these families will cook for the students.
“These families will sometimes take you out, take you to the street markets, so you bond with them,” Rodriguez said.
The program costs $1,900 (airfare not included) and is the most affordable program as the cost of living in Bolivia is so low compared to the United States. Moreover, the program is run by the school instead of an outside organization.
The deadline to apply is October 26th but students are encouraged to apply early as spots may fill up and airline prices will increase.
The program includes 2 flights inside the country. Students will spend New Year’s Eve and Day in Santa Cruz Del Valle, a three day trip to Santa Cruz and Chiquitania, and a two day trip to La Paz and Lake Titicaca.
“I like that Carola Smith said that she wanted to give students the opportunity for culture shock, because that is really what shakes you, what makes you think, what opens your mind,” Reutimann said.
Having traveled a lot and studied abroad before, Reutimann believes that studying abroad is the best way to learn about the people that live there and their culture. She also believes that as an ambassador of this country that she is able to convey that not all Americans are as they are portrayed in the media.
“The best feeling ever comes a few years later when a student comes up to you and is now speaking in fluent Spanish,” Rodriguez said. “That is the best reward for those of us that do this.”