Program: UMD-Summer: Bolivia (EPIB/MIEH)
Term: Summerterm 2019
Major: Master of Public Health
What I enjoyed learning about most was [the Bolivian people’s] wealth of knowledge in and use of the nature and environment. The communities we visited are extremely remote (we traveled on dirt paths and rivers to most communities). As such, it takes a great effort to accomplish just about anything, and I found a lot of their techniques/methods to be extremely clever. Some examples include use of various tree species for specific parts of the housing structure (i.e. mahogany, palm) and for cooking (i.e. palm leaves, bamboo) as well as medicinal use.
I learned a lot about myself, too. I now understand resilience. I have a better understanding of how vast and complex the world is. I’ve learned that curiosity will always lead me to a fulfilling adventure.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: The chance of getting sick is a possibility that you have to accept before studying abroad. Unfortunately, I had the pleasure of being that person, but it by no means defined my experience in Bolivia. I had to make a conscious effort to keep perspective, reminding myself that this period of illness was temporary. A whole new level of resilience came from that experience. Being ill in a foreign place, especially off-grid, can be anxiety provoking. But with a little perspective, as well as support from your classmates, professor and even the community, you will be just fine!
What stood out most was the warmth and compassion of the indigenous Tacana people. I find it difficult to put into words the hospitality and graciousness that community members radiated. They were always willing to do anything in their power to ensure our comfort and safety, especially when we weren't feeling well! The community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas welcomed us with a beautiful ceremony, and bid us farewell with a feast and with local dance and music, which from what I am told only happens for special occasions. We were a very diverse group of students. We were all treated like members of their community. That community now holds a very special place in my heart.
It is apparent that Dr. Carter-Pokras put her heart into this trip. She has roots here in Bolivia and a wealth of knowledge that she is always willing to share. She gave us an abundance of resources prior to the trip, including visa, vaccine, and packing information, as well as educational resources, among other things. The itinerary was extremely detailed (not to mention exciting!) and there was never a time when we didn’t know what to expect. I would go as far as to say that this trip was flawless.