Every day I woke up happy and excited, not only for where I was in that moment, but also for everything that lay ahead in my future.
I was immersed in a group of 21 peers that made me see the best in the world around me and gave me the strength of mind to take on the worst. The people I was with made me smile and laugh constantly. They brought out my best self. I couldn’t believe how people from all over the country and the world could become so close. I gained some of my closest friends in life on this trip. We shared incredible adventures in sickness and in health. They taught me how to go forth fearlessly, proud of who I am. They made me see that the friends you share the journey with make all the difference.
This experience would not have been the same without my host families. They allowed me to see their cities in an intimate way. They allowed me to experience delicious home-cooked meals. Most importantly, I gained a wonderful relationship with the families and connections to the community.
In Bolivia, I lived in Cochabamba with my host mother Maritza, her mother, her daughter, her sister, and her nephew. The family spoke very little English so I picked up a lot of Spanish while living with them. We discussed pop culture and traditional Bolivian dances. We baked homemade cheesy bread, made delicious strawberry jam, and visited Christo (the world’s largest statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the city from a central hilltop) and went to watch a parade in the center of the city.
My host mother walked us to the bus stop in the morning when we were new to the city and taught us how to ride the “trufi” or microbus to class. I felt like I was back in grade school riding the school bus with my buddies. Without seat belts we were crammed with each other and the citizens of Cochabamba we picked up en route. We discussed our latest ventures with our host families and or our digestive system woes.
My host families shared so much with me. They welcomed me into their homes and sincerely welcomed me to return in the future. I certainly hope to return. One day I would even like to host students from other countries.
Through a semester-long research project, I was able to delve into an issue I am truly passionate about. I studied the impact of neoliberal agricultural export policies on food security and food sovereignty through a comparative case study of Vietnam’s rice market and Bolivia’s quinoa market. Through literature, site visits, guest lectures, and personal interviews, I got an in-depth look at my research topic along with energy and water policies.
Though climate change and environmental issues can appear to be overwhelming. I must remember that it is not a challenge for one person to take on. Instead, passionate people around the world can focus on an aspect, issue, or sector they are most passionate about and move forward whole-heartedly. The challenge will be applying all that I have learned in future semesters at Lafayette and throughout my career; however, following through and taking these lessons to heart will be incredibly rewarding.