Home

 

Getting Experience

- # of # Filtered -

Getting Caffeinated In Bolivia

Q&A with Tara: Volunteered in Bolivia
Share this
Print this
Tara
Volunteered in Bolivia
Her thoughts on Homestays
While staying with my host family, the housekeeper Petro became one of my closest and favorite friends. I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to become friends with such a beautiful soul!
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
My favorite festival was a guinea pig festival in Cochabamba. North America's beloved house pet is one of Bolivia’s edible delicacies!
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
Anyone trying to communicate in a different culture should try their best to “fake it till they make it.” Mimicking is the best way to learn.

When and where did you volunteer abroad? What was your position?

I volunteered abroad for 10 months in Bolivia with the international development agency Crossroads International. I worked as a Fair Trade Marketing Specialist with the microfinance organization FONCRESOL. I successfully mobilized the exportation of a container of direct fair trade organic coffee. This project not only gave local families a higher economic return for their labor, it also gave the cooperative the opportunity to invest in new equipment, improve their capacity and the quality of their beans. Building a relationship with many of the farmers, particularly their wives, made the fair trade loan project even more satisfying to be involved in.

What made you want to volunteer abroad?

I wanted to volunteer abroad because I was driven to make a positive contribution to communities that do not have the luxuries or privileges I was accustomed to in Canada. With the desire to influence even just one individual’s life, I chose to volunteer with Crossroads International. I applied with Crossroads International because I believe in their mission of “One World”: where women have the opportunity to make their own choices, have equal opportunities and where communities work as a team to improve the quality of their lives.

What made you successful in the application process?

I was given the position with Crossroads International because I had previous experience living abroad, mixed with my extra-curricular experiences during my undergraduate degree. I have a degree in international business with a major in marketing and economics. In my last year of studies I did an exchange in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I learned Spanish and Latin culture. With an academic background to make the right decisions in the project planning and implementation, matched with my entrepreneurial attitude, I was fit for the position.

Did anything happen in your volunteer placement that gave you particular insight into your host culture?

During my mandate I had many opportunities to gain insight into the local culture. I lived with a local host family for the duration of my 10-month mandate. Living with a family gave me the opportunity not only to practice my Spanish, but it also allowed me to see how Bolivians live on a day-to-day basis. While staying with my host family, I spent a lot of time with their housekeeper Petro. Petro became one of my closest and favorite friends in Bolivia. She is of Aymara ethnicity and lives with her family in the city of El Alto, just outside of La Paz. Petro would often share her personal stories with me and gave me in-depth explanations of the cultural and political aspects of Bolivia. She was there for me and made sure I ate my potatoes when I got numerous stomach infections and was in and out of the hospital. I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to become friends with such a beautiful soul and to gain a deeper cultural understanding.  

Describe an experience from your time abroad that made a particularly strong impression on you.

Aside from the friendships I made, I lived some unforgettable experiences. Bolivia is full of amazing cultural festivals and touristic attractions, which I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy. An interesting event was Alasitas, a festival that offers everything in miniature form! Every year Bolivians buy miniature figurines that depict their desires for the year ahead, ranging from miniature bags of rice to a miniature colorful hen if a woman wants to attract a young mate. After collecting items that would fit perfectly into a dollhouse, a Yatiri (Bolivian witch doctor) blesses the objects for good luck for the next year. Bolivia is famed for having one of the largest carnivals in the world, where the costumes elaborately interpret different indigenous gods and myths. It is the party of a lifetime, and full of kids throwing water balloons and silly string in the city of Oruro. My favorite festival was in Cochabamba, where I went to a guinea pig festival. Canada’s beloved house pet is one of Bolivia’s edible delicacies. As the only foreigner, I was offered many times to eat the high protein meat, but gracefully declined, as I couldn’t shake or forget the perplexed look on the fried pigs’ faces.

What was the most important thing you learned about communicating in a foreign culture while volunteering abroad?

While in Bolivia, not only did I learn in detail about cultural traditions, but I also learned how to effectively communicate. I took private Spanish lessons twice a week for the duration of my mandate, and hit the books hard to improve my language skills. This allowed me to have a better understanding of the coffee farmers’ needs and how to address them. I also had to learn patience and how to speak and do things at a different pace. Anyone trying to communicate in a culture different from his or her own should try their best to “fake it till they make it.” Mimicking locals’ body language and communication methods is the best way to learn. I spent a lot of time with locals and started understanding local slang and nuances.

What is your number one tip for anyone hoping to follow in your footsteps?

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who is thinking about going abroad, I would say: do it now! The adventure and life changing experience that exploring a new culture provides is well worth leaving the convenience of 24-hour drive-throughs behind!

What are your future plans for going abroad and for your career?

I will continue to live and travel abroad, working to help empower women and communities through entrepreneurship and capacity building. Currently I am living in Kathmandu, Nepal, working with local fair trade handicraft producers, designing new products and developing marketing strategies. I am not sure what is next, but I do know it will be an adventure.

Advice from MyWorldAbroad
Jean-Marc Hachey, Publisher

Tara has taken her own advice: "Do it now!"

She has packed many career-building international adventures into a relatively short span of time, and for that we commend her. She is also maximizing the career experience of her adventures abroad by tapping into her business training and entrepreneurial spirit. The volunteer work she undertook has major career value, and she continues to work in the fair trade industry in Nepal which is helping her to build a strong global resume and a solid basis for a potential career in international trade and development.

We'd recommend that Tara takes some time to think about specific career goals over the next few months, as planning your next steps (at home or abroad), can be much more effective when you have one or more specific goals in mind. Whatever Tara chooses to pursue, we're sure it will combine the creativity and business savvy she has already demonstrated in her many trips abroad.

  • Tara is building some great work experience overseas, and with a little work, these experiences can help her craft a fantastic international resume. The International Resumes section offers multiple articles discussing the difference between an international resume and a domestic one. 
  • An Inventory of Cross-cultural Skills will also help you isolate which skill sets you are building abroad. 
  • It's clear that Tara is keen on making a positive change in the world through her work, and many do gooders find career satisfaction working in the area of NGOs & International Development.

Tara's Next Steps
Advice from MyWorldAbroad
by the founder of MyWorldAbroad
Jean-Marc Hachey
Want to Have the Same Experience?
Sample Application Documents: See How Others Did It!
Get inspired by actual documents that real students used to apply for internships, volunteer positions and other go abroad experiences.
In a Rush? Read These Articles First
These carefully chosen articles will lead you to our most important go abroad strategies!
Discover the Career Value of Going Abroad
Get the facts! See surveys and stats linking your experiences abroad to future career success.
Quick Guides! Our Most Popular Go Abroad Topics
View, print or share our easy-to-use guides available in English, French and Spanish.
The World Online
Want to stay in touch with the world? Check out these top (and sometime quirky) links!
Do You Have Enough International Experience?
Have you maximized your international experience? Are you ready for the international job search? Find out!
What's Your International IQ?
How much do you really know about living and working abroad? Take this quiz to find out!
Are You Prepared for the International Job Search?
How much do you know about international jobs in your field? Get ready for a targeted job search!
Quizzes: Your Master Scorecard
Check your scores for all quiz categories: international skills, experience & the job search.
Earn $50 Gift Card & Submit Your Story From Abroad
Been abroad? Want to share your story? Submit your Q&A today to see your experience online!
Self-Evaluations: Think Analytically About Going Abroad
Keep track of your evolving international skill set before, during and after your international experience. Be ready to apply for jobs in the global economy.
Career-Boosting Strategies for International Students Studying in North America
What does it take for an international student to succeed in North America? We’ve got tips to help you thrive!
Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to all your questions about MyWorldAbroad by diving into our Frequently Asked Questions section.
Top Tips on Going Abroad & Your Career
Scan our top tips in 40 go abroad subject areas: international skills, getting experience, finding work, and the professions.
Your International Resume & LinkedIn
Write your international resume first, and then create that all-important LinkedIn profile.
International Skills: Be More Than Just a Tourist!
International people have a unique skill set. Learn the terminology and get professional about describing your time abroad.
100+ Career-boosting Strategies While Abroad
Discover enterprising, innovative ideas for how to demonstrate your international skills to future employers.
10230
- # of # Filtered -
  • 83
83
14594
Growing Abroad: Hong Kong & South Korea
1
9770
Contributing To Change In Ghana
2
9760
Getting In Sync In Nairobi
3
9799
Getting Settled In Seoul
4
10258
Encountering Cultures Across Europe
5
9772
Learning To Go With The Flow In France
6
10218
Adaptation And Appreciation In Japan
7
9776
Soaking Up Japanese Culture
8
9785
Motivated In Madagascar
9
9786
Kids And Culture In Korea
10
9748
Adventure In The Alps
11
9742
Take-Charge Travel: Germany And Beyond!
12
9788
Business And Pleasure In Australia
13
9744
Food, Fun And Festivals In Germany
14
9747
Fun And Friends In The Netherlands
15
9750
Host Hospitality In Morocco
16
9754
Building Memories In India
17
9775
A Year Of Feeling French
18
9752
Giving In Guatemala
19
9777
Into The Wild In Alaska
20
9759
From Cold Feet To Confidence In Germany
21
9779
One Summer, Two Internships!
22
9753
A Season In Sweden
23
10230
Getting Caffeinated In Bolivia
24
10923
Insight And Education In Korea
25
11467
Stepping Outside the Box in Sweden!
26
11557
Un stage au Cambodge (Français)
27
9812
Caring And Career Skills In Belize
28
11468
Learning While Teaching in Beijing
29
10157
Changing Course In China
30
9740
Sports, Study And Fun In France
31
10204
Across Europe In A Caravan!
32
9787
A Spring Semester In London
33
10145
Real Stories And Real People In Mexico
34
9778
Study And Adventure In New Zealand
35
9766
Short-Term Trips For Long-Term Gain
36
9771
Learning To Love London
37
11645
A Love Affair with Shanghai
38
9755
People, Places And Passionate Volunteering In Peru
39
9738
Living For The Moment In Valencia
40
11845
Hospitality and Hosting in the DCR
41
11850
The Warmest Welcome in Guatemala
42
9783
Off The Beaten Path In Africa
43
9781
A Hospital Helper In Costa Rica
44
9757
Teaching And Learning In Tanzania
45
11996
Daring to Go Solo in Ireland
46
12058
Architectural Adventures in Australia
47
9773
Independent In India
48
9741
Adapting To Work In Peru
49
9746
A Cross-Cultural Co-Op In West Africa
50
9789
Loving Life In Lyon
51
9762
American Freshman In London
52
9784
Skill-Building In Bonn
53
9774
Gaga For Ghana!
54
9745
An Unforgettable Adventure In Nanjing
55
9792
Rolling With The Punches In Seoul
56
10188
Now Or Never In Colombia
57
11904
Enthusiasm, Education and Experience in Greece
58
9807
Fast Friendship In Korea
59
10851
Tips From Tasmania
60
9790
Design And Dining In Korea
61
9769
Getting Sporty In Switzerland!
62
9758
Learning The Local Ways Of Addis Ababa
63
10163
English Teaching In Eastern Europe
64
9768
Going Solo In Spain!
65
14483
Finding Home, By Teaching Abroad
66
9743
Hooked On Volunteering!
67
9791
Making Contacts Count In The UK
68
10153
China, South Africa And Beyond!
69
14088
An Eye-Opening Experience Teaching in South Korea
70
9751
A Canadian Globe-Trotter Visits The US
71
9737
Passionate About Panama
72
10192
Out And About In Paris
73
9780
A Year In Marvelous Mexico!
74
9782
Making The Most Of Milano
75
9803
Ten Years Teaching In Seoul
76
9756
Springtime In Spain
77
9767
Beyond The Call Of Duty In Africa
78
9765
Simpatico In Florence
79
9764
Do It Yourself! A Proactive Intern In Rome
80
9763
A Professional Visit To Vietnam
81
9761
Communicating Creatively In Spain
82
10143
A Warm Welcome In Mexico
83
10230
All Job Boards
427
All NGOs
1433
Au Pair Resources
41
Awards and Grants Resources
51
Business and Finance Job Boards
61
Business Directories
19
Canadian Federal, Provincial and Territorial Government Profiles
60
Canadian Government Resources
27
Children and Families Abroad
18
Country Guides
71
Cross-cultural Skills
79
Engineering Job Boards
56
Engineering Resources
80
Expatriate Networking Sites
30
Foreign Students Working in the US
9
Freelancing Abroad
29
General Job Search Books
18
Global Education and Social Action
42
Health and Medicine Job Boards
48
Health Career Resources
51
International Associations With Clubs on Campus
43
International Development Career Resources
75
International Internship Job Boards and Advice
44
International Internship Organizations
250
International Internships and Student Programs With Canadian Governments
34
International Internships With the US Government
40
International Job Hunting Resources
13
International Law Careers Resources
108
International Law Job Boards
28
International Studies in the US and Canada
14
International Trade Resources
25
International Volunteer Organizations
491
Internships With the UN and Other IGOs
155
Language Careers
31
Learn a Language
100
Licensed Teacher Abroad Job Boards
30
Licensed Teacher Abroad Resources
32
Loans for Studying Abroad
19
Low-cost Travel
59
NGO Directories
34
NGO Job Boards
49
Re-entry
12
Regional Job Boards
103
Relocating Abroad
26
Resources for International Students Studying in the US or Canada
51
Stories From Abroad
83
Study Abroad Resources
187
Teach English Abroad Job Boards
90
Teach English Abroad Resources
63
Tools for Travelers
74
Top International Blogs & Podcasts
74
Travel Health and Safety
41
UN and Other IGOs
255
UN and Other IGOs Job Boards
26
UN and Other IGOs Resources
69
US Government Profiles
76
US Government Resources
32
Visas and Passports
25
Volunteer Job Boards and Advice
53
Women Living and Working Overseas
16
Working Vacation Resources
61