Bolivia’s economy mainly relies on manufacturing and agriculture, and its services industry is minimal in comparison to other South American countries. Landlocked and by no means wealthy, it relies on imports from neighboring nations, particularly Big Brother Brazil, for many products. The most common areas for interning in Bolivia are in journalism, development and health.
Photo credits: Matthew Straubmuller.
Bolivia’s unique multiversity and status as a still developing country in South America is what sets it apart from other countries as a destination for your internship. Obviously, it cannot be compared with mammoth centres for business like China or France, but there are still a multitude of opportunities to work in this fascinating country. The current bourgeoning areas for internships in Bolivia are journalism, development and health.
Media within Bolivia is a booming industry, and the number of independent magazines and journals in particular is growing at an unprecedented rate. Photo-journalism is similarly thriving, and in a country as beautiful as Bolivia, why not? There are also (fewer) opportunities within radio and local television stations (however, these are predominantly in Spanish and therefore less available to foreign interns).
The majority of journalism prospects are in Cochabamba, partly because there are higher numbers of English-speaking audiences for international journals, but openings exist in La Paz and Bogota as well. Because Bolivia’s tourism levels are relatively low, there are large fields of study which are relatively undiscovered, leaving plenty of material for reporting. On top of the diverse pile of information to write about, working for independent journals affords interns much more freedom to be actively involved in all stages of publications – rather than doing coffee runs for head honchos of commercial newspapers!
One of South America’s poorest countries, 54% of Bolivia’s population lives below the poverty line. Industry and manufacturing in particular have boosted the economy in recent times, but the standard of living for most of the population still has a long way to go. Interning in development could range from teaching English to disadvantaged youths, working on development building projects such as schools or hospitals, to volunteering in childcare and more. Potential interns should be aware that development internships in Bolivia involve working closely with local people in hands-on settings. Programs such as these are a great starting point for a career in development, or simply to experience volunteering in communities radically different from your own.
Health internships within Bolivia are widespread and cover a vast range of different areas: nursing, dentistry, pediatric and adolescent health are but a few. Openings in animal health and veterinary science are also (less) available. Opportunities vary according to your experience; for untrained candidates, it is best to apply through a program such as CFHI rather than directly to a hospital or health centre. Again, hands-on experience is common in these opportunities, and although most programs are very well run, untrained volunteers could feel out of their depth. However, if being thrown in the deep end is your learning style, go for it!
Need to Know
As always when you’re planning on diving into a foreign place, some pre-departure planning is necessary! While you won’t truly know what you’re in for until you arrive, a lot of research can be done from home. Try to look into everything you’re going to need to ask before you get there (an impossible task, we know) – as getting help after you’ve arrived could be more tricky than you think: the language barrier is one example of a potential obstacle for interns in trouble!
When And Where To Look For An Internship
Unless you have useful contacts who are willing to take you on as an intern (in which case you probably won’t be reading this), by and large the easiest way to secure yourself an internship is through a third-party program such as Projects Abroad, FSD, or CFHI, to name a few. Almost all of these organizations can help you with visa arrangements, accommodation, and even the little details such as airport pickup and orientation of your new city. Internships in Bolivia run all year round, and can range from four weeks to twelve months: it’s really up to you. As such, programs are used to interns needing flexible dates and therefore they can work around your plans, in the main. Many internship opportunities can be found right here on the GoOverseas website – this is the best place to start!
Cost Of Living
Bolivia is significantly cheaper than many of its neighboring, much more touristy countries. Some internships require a fee which generally covers accommodation and often language lessons, and these can range from USD$125 - $900 per month. Food and drinks are available for next-to-nothing, with a huge lunch available for less than $2 in some places. If necessary, it is possible to find work as an English teacher on the side of your interning duties – usually, however, a TEFL qualification is necessary. Additionally, LIVFund offers scholarships to students planning to study or intern abroad in Latin America.
Bolivia is quite old-fashioned and traditional in terms of its etiquette, so be aware of certain values of politeness and courtesy before entering the workplace. It’s normal to greet everybody with a “good morning/afternoon/evening”, and your pleases and thank you's should be overused rather than forgotten! Respecting your elders is paramount, so address those older than you with a senor or senora.
Business relationships in Bolivia are typically cultivated within personal circles such as family or close friends; Bolivians rarely do business with strangers whom have not earned their trust, so be aware of this within the workplace. Gift-giving commonplace within personal and business relationships, but watch out – it is rude to open your gift in front of the giver! Internships in English are widespread, but interacting with locals will require some level of Spanish. Many programs offer an attached Spanish course to help you out.
Work And Labor Laws
Bolivian work and labor laws don’t offer too many potential problems for interns. It’s interesting to note that Bolivia has recently made child labor legal, by lowering the legal age for child workers in an attempt to protect the rights of working children. The question remains whether they should be advocating child labor in the first place.
Contributed by Ella Parkes-Talbot
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