Summer Internships in Bolivia - On Site

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Bolivia — Primary Care and Rural Medicine

Bolivia is a geographically diverse country home to both the Amazon jungle and Andes mountain range. This land-locked country in the heart of South America was formerly part of the Inca Empire and borders Brazil, Peru, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. It is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in Latin America.

This program is based in Tarija, a modern city in southern Bolivia known for its wineries, pleasant climate, and relaxed atmosphere. Residents identify more with the State of Tarija itself than the rest of Bolivia.Tarijeños have their own unique customs and way of life, influenced by Spanish and various indigenous cultures. Students will be in Tarija during a couple of well-known festivals, including the Virgen of Chaguaya and Festival of San Roque. Tarija offers universal health insurance, which can create high demand for services and strains on the system due to lack of personnel and equipment. Understand cultural and socioeconomic barriers patients face in accessing healthcare services and witness treatments for pathologies not commonly seen in North America, including parasitosis, tuberculosis, and Chagas. In addition to clinical rotations, participants can choose to volunteer at a local children’s shelter providing vocational training and social services for underserved youth.

Accommodations

Participants in Bolivia will be housed in a homestay with a local family. Homestay families live in middle class neighborhoods in close proximity to one another in the center of town. There are many shops, restaurants and cafes in the area. There will be two to three students per homestay (own room), depending on number of students at program site. Specific details about accommodations will be provided approximately 3 weeks prior to departure.

Homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. UC Davis reserves the right to change the accommodation location. Should this be necessary, we will arrange comparable lodging. Please note that elevators, air conditioners and other modern conveniences may not be available in all locations.

Meals

Two meals a day are included in the program: breakfast and a late lunch (2 PM).

Clinical Rotations

Sample schedule

Clinical rotations will start on Monday of the second week and usually take place in the mornings for 4 to 6 hours usually Monday through Friday for the remaining four weeks with Spanish language classes held in the afternoon (total 30 hours). Once a week students will meet with the Medical Director to discuss experiences at the clinics and hospitals. A lecture on a health related topics will also be provided. Students can use this time to discuss particular issues of interest, review their progress in clinic or bring up any concerns they may have. Clinical rotation sites include:

Regional Teaching Hospital

Offers services to the entire state, including people with limited resources and indigenous groups. Students will rotate with local physicians through specialties including pediatrics, surgery, cardiology, and internal medicine. There is high prevalence of Chagas in this region and cases are treated at this facility.

Primary Healthcare Centers

These clinics accept all patients regardless of ability to pay. Physicians and Nurses provide health education, family planning, disease detection, and basic primary care services including vaccinations and well child checkups. Students will learn about common diseases, seeing firsthand how poverty affects families’ access to health care, and rotate at one of two clinics or travel to a rural facility and conduct outreach and home visits within surrounding communities.

Chagas Clinic

Participants will rotate through three areas over the course of four days or more and learn the symptoms and progression of Chagas disease, observe the diagnosis and treatment, and identify the parasite under a microscope. The facility also conducts research on new medications and treatments.

Tertiary Government Hospital

Participants will rotate in internal medicine, OB/GYN, surgery, pediatrics, and oncology. The facility provides high quality care to working, middle class, and retired populations with government health insurance.

Center for Children & Adolescents (Optional)

This NGO provides underserved youth with meals, counseling, and job training in cooking, gardening, and electrical repair. Participants can volunteer teaching English, tutoring in reading and writing, and organizing art, music or sport classes depending on interests and personal skills.

Excursions and Day Trips

Short excursions and day trips will be included during orientation week.

Orientation Week Sample Schedule
  • 15 hours of Spanish classes
  • Walking tour of La Paz
  • Welcome dinner and cultural show in La Paz and Tarija
  • City tour of Tarija and site visit of main clinical sites Lecture about Bolivian culture and history, including overview of Tarija’s unique cultural identity
  • Full day tour of wine region, including lunch at regional winery

Study Abroad Advisory of Student Risk

Participation in this UC Davis Study Abroad program requires travel to and extended living in a foreign location(s) abroad. UC Davis Study Abroad endeavors to reduce and mitigate risk wherever possible.  However, the environments and risks associated with living in these locations are substantially different than those found during a regular course of study at UC Davis. All participants must download and review the following information prior to departure. Any questions should be directed to the Program Coordinator.

Study Abroad General Risk Advisory

Program Specific Risk Advisories (PDF)

About Tarija, Bolivia

Tarija's biggest drawcard is the vineyards on its doorstep and the city makes a great base for visiting the surrounding wineries in El Valle de la Concepción, home to the world´s highest wines and the throat-tingling singani (distilled grape spirit).

Tarija has some interesting colonial architecture and grows on those who stay a while to enjoy the pleasantly mild climate and take in the chilled atmosphere; the little city is as laid-back as they get, with palm-lined squares, sizzling Argentine barbecues, sprawling bar and cafe terraces, and tight streets with narrow pavements.

Source: Lonely Planet

Bolivian Currency: Bolivianos
Language Spoken: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara are the most common of Bolivia’s 37 official languages

Weather and Climate

Research Your Destination

Keeping in Touch

Since communication options can vary dramatically from country to country, Summer Abroad advises checking with the instructor or the Program Specific Guide for advice about what might be the best option for your particular program.

Calling the U.S. from Abroad

Many U.S.-based long distance phone companies provide special services that make it easy for you to phone home from abroad. Some provide toll-free access numbers that connect with an operator in the U.S. Some provide the means to charge long distance calls to a credit card or to a third party. Some provide better long distance rates. Others provide access to emergency, medical, legal, translation, and entertainment information. Students are encouraged to investigate these options before departure and to shop for the best services and rates.

Global Cell Phones

Most cell phone companies can sell you a special global cell phone with the option to add more minutes as needed. Also, most cell phone companies can unlock your cell phone for global use, but this requires a trip to a provider at your destination who will give you a SIM card and sell you minutes. Check with your cell phone provider for more information. Global cell phones are also available through travel agencies and online. Be sure to check the policies for both incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.

Cell Phone Rental

Some students choose to rent a cell phone that works at their destination. Some companies will ship the phone directly to the student in advance of the program dates—and include a packet for sending the phone back when they return. Interested students can locate service providers via the Internet.

Phone Cards

Many travel agencies and specific phone providers carry great options for phone cards. Check the rates available from your long distance provider. You can often buy phone cards on site.

Skype

Skype is a computer program that you can download for free that allows you to talk (for free) on the phone over the Internet with anyone else who has Skype. Go to www.skype.com to download the program. For an extra fee (as low as .02 cents/minute) you can enable your Skype to call land lines instead of just other computers. You will need a microphone and headset so that you can talk to the person on the other line. Skype also includes a chat option for instant messaging.

Instant Messaging Systems

Instant messaging systems are also a great free way to communicate with people back in the states. There are numerous options for messaging systems from AOL Instant Messenger to Yahoo Messenger. Just about every messaging program can be downloaded for free online.

Internet Access

Computer and internet access varies by program. Information for your site will be listed in your Program Specific Guide.

Internet access is offered in all the countries we go to, but the reliability of it differs from program to program. Internet can be accessed through internet cafes. Some programs also offer access through the dorms or on-campus computer labs. Internet cafes are very reasonably priced and often times have various instant messaging programs installed and headphones available to chat with loved ones. Relying on internet cafes may reduce worry of bringing your own laptop with you. You can upload pictures at most internet cafes, but remember due to the speed of some connections, it may be a better idea just to bring multiple memory cards to avoid spending your whole day on the computer.

Cultural Learning

Living in a new culture can be exhilarating, rewarding, and stimulating. It can also be frustrating. It is one thing to tour a country, but it is quite another to live and function according to different norms. It is important to be open toward a new culture, to try to discard stereotypes, and to learn as much as possible about the culture before departure. If you educate yourself about the country you will be visiting, you will better understand and appreciate your new surroundings!

Even with preparation it is likely that you will experience "culture shock." Recent studies show that there are distinct stages of culture shock. Some of these stages include: awareness of the host culture and preparation, initial euphoria and excitement, irritability phase during acclimation, gradual adjustment, and adaptation to culture. Upon return to the United States, many students face "reverse culture shock."

There are some things you can do to minimize your cultural adjustment. Keep a sense of humor! Treat yourself to an occasional U.S. indulgence like a favorite food, or purchase a U.S. magazine or newspaper. Avoid other Americans who are overly negative or who complain a lot. Keep healthy. Above all, don't be afraid to try new activities!

Resources for Further Study

Ethical Considerations in Study Abroad