My name is Gabrielle Schust, but I usually go by Gabbi, and I am originally from Columbia, Missouri, home of the Mizzou Tigers. Last year I opted out of being a “townie” and made the seven-hour trek down to Ole Miss for my freshman year. I am a rising Sophomore, double majoring in International Studies and Spanish with a minor in World Health; or at least that’s the plan as it stands right now. I was introduced to this trip in Dr. Kate’s Latin American Studies class this past semester and thought it might be a valuable alternative to spending my summer working at a local fast food restaurant. As the semester progressed, that class really affirmed my interest in Latin America, and my desire to go on this trip grew as well. I have done quite a bit of traveling, including spending a year in Kenya, but aside from a brief family vacation in Peru, I have yet to spend much time in Central or South America, so I felt this would be the perfect way to whet my appetite for travel in the region.
The main thing I hope to gain from this program is an understanding and genuine experience of Bolivian culture. I am very interested in being exposed to what life is like in Bolivia, and particularly in La Paz, and I can’t wait to experience the rich culture, food, heritage, religion etc. of Bolivia. Additionally, I look forward to improving my Spanish skills. I just returned last week from a trip to Spain, and although I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to navigate linguistically in a Spanish speaking country, I did find myself “muddling through” in anything more than quick exchanges or brief conversations, and doing a lot of nodding along politely to things that I did not fully understand. I really hope that this trip will give me the opportunity to improve my Spanish and that by the end of it perhaps I won’t be doing quite so much guessing what was just said to me and hoping for the best.
As for my apprehensions about this trip, they are mostly small and insignificant. I am a little concerned about experiencing altitude sickness, simply because my mother experienced some symptoms during our trip to Peru, and watching how terrible it made her feel instilled in me a healthy fear of experiencing the same. Additionally, I am very – VERY – pale skinned, so much so that in the summer I mostly just avoid going outside in order to prevent sunburn. It follows that I am not particularly looking forward to slathering on sunscreen every day to combat the harsh Bolivian sun. Finally, I am slightly anxious about the language barrier, especially the possibility of experiencing it with my host family, but I’m sure that issue will resolve itself after a few days of being in the country. Other than that, I am mostly just excited to get down to La Paz and start what I am sure will be an amazing experience. ¡Nos vemos en Bolivia!