Bolivia is a land-locked country in the continent of South America. Located in western-central South America, it is considered as one of the most remote countries. It has its capital located at Sucre, whereas the government sits at La Paz. The country’s largest city and its financial centre is however Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The country has borders with Brazil to its north and east, Argentina in the south, Paraguay in the southeast, Chile to its southwest and Peru on its northwest.Geography
Bolivia has a varied topography. Located in the west central zone of South America, the country extends from the Andes Mountains on its west to the Amazon basin in the east. Just like its climate, a variety of terrains can be seen here. There are the Amazon rainforests, dry valleys and the tropical savannas. Variation in altitude is also enormous in this region. There are some locations that are more than 6,500 metres high and some that are just 70 metres from the sea level, especially those along the Paraguay river. Almost one-third of the country is Andean region. South America’s largest lake is located in this region. Also located is the world famous Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats. The Llanos region, which comprises the lion’s share of Bolivia, has flat lands and low plateaus that are less than 400 metres in height. The region is extensively covered with the tropical rainforests and is the source for Bolivia’s rich biodiversity.
The climate here varies depending upon the region. The Llanos region has a typical humid tropical climate. There is significant rainfall in this area. The Andean regions mostly have a polar climate with dry and cold winds. Snow is quite frequent here.Historical aspects
Much before the Spanish conquistadors had arrived, a large part of Bolivia, especially the Andean region, was under the Inca Empire. Those areas that were not ruled by the Incas were under the control of local tribes. It was in the 16th century that Spanish colonizers started taking control of the region. Without much of a fight from the natives, soon the entire region was under the control of the Spanish Empire and remained so till early 19th century. It was in 1809 that the first call for independence was given. Finally, after sixteen long years of war, a republic was established, named Simon Bolivar. The 19th and the early 20th century saw Bolivia embroiled in numerous wars with its neighbours. In one of these wars, codenamed ‘War of the Pacific’ from 1879-83, Bolivia lost several of its resource-rich territories and its only sea coast to Chile. The country thus became a land-locked country. Subsequently, in other wars, including that with Brazil and Paraguay, the country lost more of its territories, reducing Bolivia to half the size of what it was during independence.Politics and governance
Ever since 1982, Bolivia has been ruled by democratically elected governments. It is a multiparty democracy and a unitary presidential republic. Just like other major democracies in the world, the power is shared among the executive, judiciary and the legislators in a balanced manner. The electorate too has major powers, considering the fact the two of the country’ s presidents had to step down bowing to popular protests from the people. Elections to the post of President are held every five years through popular vote. The country’s Legislative Assembly or the National Congress has two chambers. The chamber of Deputies has 130 members and the Chamber of Senators, 36. The members are elected for a term of five years. The Vice President is the titular head of the National Congress. Before Bolivia had taken to the democratic form of government, it was more of a dictatorship.Economy
Bolivia is a lower middle income country. However, in recent times since the early 21st century the economy has picked up steam and is progressing quite rapidly. The economy as a whole is in good shape because of abundant reserves of natural gas and other rich minerals like zinc. Not so long back, Bolivia was one of the poorest countries in the world. The economy was in shambles because of political instability, corruption, inflation and lack of labor. The natural gas reserves are one of the largest in South America. The country is also blessed with rich reserves of Lithium that is as good as 50-70% of the world’s entire reserves. It’s because of its rich mineral resources that vast areas of the country have been annexed by its neighbours in the 19th and early 20th century. Other than the natural gas reserves, mining activity also adds to the country’s wealth. Historically, Bolivia has been a single commodity focused economy. Earlier it was silver, then tin and then coca.International relations
Bolivia is a member of the United Nations. It has also held membership of Non Aligned Movement, WTO, Andean Community, Latin American Integration Association and many more. Except for Chile, it has cordial relations with every other country. Relations between the two were put to strain when during the War of the Pacific, Bolivia lost its coastal territory to Chile. Ever since, the two countries have strained relations.Tourism and travel
Bolivia is an amazing country for those who love Mother Nature. With such a varied terrain, with the majestic Andes Mountains on one side and the sprawling Amazon rainforests on the other, the country provides for one of the most exotic locales for the vacationer. The famed Salar de Uyuni salt flats are located in Bolivia. The salt flats cover around 4000 square miles of land. There is no other land in the world that is as flat as Salar de Uyuni. During the rains it becomes much more magnificent, when the salt surface starts reflecting the sky. So is Titicaca, at 3812 metres from the mean sea level, the highest navigable lake in the world and South America’s largest is the pride of Bolivia. Madidi National Park is another famed tourist attraction of Bolivia. Since the country has a very rich history, including its Inca past, there are numerous architectural monuments, religious structures and places of tourist interest to visit in Bolivia.
- In terms of land area, Bolivia is the 5th largest in South America and 27th largest in the world.
- Even though Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, it is La Paz where the government sits.
- The official currency of Bolivia is Bolivian boliviano, where one US dollar equals to around seven Bolivian boliviano. A single Bolivian boliviano equals to ten Indian Rupees.
- Bolivia has a population of around 11 million.
- The country is a multiethnic nation. There are the Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Africans and Asians.
- Bolivia is among the very few countries that has most of its population as indigenous. Almost 70% of the population is indigenous.
- Bolivia is predominantly a Christian country. Around 78% of the population is Roman Catholic. Among the remaining, 19% are protestants and the rest belong to different other beliefs in Christianity.
- Other than Spanish, which is the official and most popular language in Bolivia, there are 36 other indigenous languages, all of which have official status. Among them Guarani, Aymara and Quechua are the most spoken ones.
- During Spanish colonization of Bolivia, it was the silver extracted from Bolivian mines that helped Spain build its empire in great part. Bolivia is one of the very few countries in South America to have rich mineral resources.
- Bolivia has a lease signed with Peru that allows it to use a small part of the sea coast of Pacific Ocean for a period of 99 years.
- The oldest university in Bolivia, University of San Francisco Xavier in Sucre was established as early as 1624.
- Much of Bolivia is located at such heights that the water there boils at 88 degree centigrade instead of 100 degrees.
Admission Process in Bolivia
For applying for a study program at a university in Bolivia and subsequently for a Bolivian student visa, you need to prepare well in advance of the program. Your preparation should start at least 10-12 months prior to the start of the course. You may begin with researching the requirements for studying in Bolivia and obtaining a student visa. Once you are satisfied with the requirements, you can do further groundwork by reviewing the different universities and colleges that you may apply. It is to be kept in mind that all education in Bolivia is in Spanish. Either you should have a good grip on the language or you may decide to enrol for a Spanish language program in Bolivia itself.
Once you have selected the university or college, based on your academic credentials, directly apply to the same for the undergraduate or postgraduate program you may be interested in. Once your application is approved, the university will send you a letter of acceptance duly signed by the college head on an official letterhead. On receipt of this letter of acceptance you become eligible to apply for the Bolivian student visa. While you wait for the acceptance letter, you should gather all the necessary documents as mandated by the immigration authorities of Bolivia. The details of the documents required for applying the student visa are given above. Once you have gathered all the necessary documents, including the acceptance letter, filled in application form, police certificate and yellow fever vaccination report, head to the Bolivian embassy and submit the documents along with the necessary fees. If the documents are all in order and the information provided by you are all correct, it takes only 3-5 days to issue you with the visa. At times, it may take a longer time to process your visa application. While applying for the visa it is advised that only refundable flight tickets be purchased for the to and fro travel to Bolivia. This will save you from losses due to ticket cancellation, in case your visa application is not approved.
Student Visa Application Process
Foreigners staying more than 90 days in Bolivia require a resident visa and a valid passport. It is also applicable for international students taking up study programs of duration more than 3 months. There are two kinds of visa applicable to foreign students. One is for students who come through university exchange programs for which an exchange student visa is issued for a period of 180 days. The other is the long-term student visa for courses ranging from one to three years. Therefore, if you are applying for a course other than that of the students exchange program, then you need to apply for a long-term student visa. The student visa is to be applied at the country of your origin at a Bolivian consulate or embassy. The Bolivian student visa is just an entry visa for you to enter the country. Once you enter Bolivia, you will have sixty days to apply for residency permit for up to 3 years in Bolivia. If your course is of more than 3 years in duration or you are not able to complete the course within the stipulated period, you may then apply for extension of your residency for a further period of 3 years or less, as needed.
For obtaining a Bolivian student visa you will have to visit the nearest Bolivian consulate or embassy in your home country. There you will have to submit your visa application along with all supporting documents and payment of visa processing fees.
There are no major work opportunities after finishing your studies here in Bolivia. Bolivians do not generally encourage foreigners to work in their country, as it may result in a Bolivian being deprived of a job opportunity. However, one may take up English language classes that are very much in demand in Bolivia.
Most Bolivians, especially in the rural areas, lead a spartan and simple life. It is only in major cities like La Paz, the government seat for the country, does the people lead a modern lifestyle, something akin to the western world. Even though rapid developments are taking place in the Bolivian economy, parts of the country is still very poor. Western cultural ideas are yet to percolate down among the rural and the working-class population. Age old Indian and Inca traditions still persist in a large majority of them. It is mostly in the upper and the middle class population that the effect of westernization is most pronounced. All modern amenities, as in the western world, are these days easily available to those who can afford them. Just like any other modern civilization, cell phones, tablets, computers, internet cafes, cable TV and satellite communication are part of modern life in every city and town of Bolivia. The rich and the upper middle class population love to do their shopping in malls and supermarkets, whereas those from economically weaker section prefer to purchase goods from the open markets, where things are a lot cheaper.
Among sports and recreation, soccer is the most loved game in Bolivia. The country has often gained recognition in soccer tournaments featuring the top teams from South America. There are soccer clubs in every city and the fans; both men as well as women are very passionate about the game. Other sports like golf, horseback riding and tennis are popular with the middle and the upper class people. Few other games like boxing, cycling and automobile racing are also quite popular with Bolivians.
Like most other South Americans, the Bolivians too are very fond of music, dance and festivals. Various folk and religious festivals are organized in the country. During these times people simply love to revel by dancing, singing, drinking and celebrating.
Cost of Living for Students
Compared to many other countries, Bolivia is considered as cheap in many aspects of living. It costs around 17 US dollars a day for making a decent living in Bolivia. At the most, your entire budget may come to 600-800 US dollar a month for a single person. Most of the expenses will be on accommodation, food, utilities and travel. And these are not too expensive in Bolivia. As you go into the outskirts of the cities, accommodation becomes cheaper. In fact it is easy to find accommodation here in Bolivia. The universities here don’t have on-campus dormitory facilities, so students are forced to find accommodation elsewhere. You may look for studio apartments or single rooms through the local newspapers, websites or real estate agents. A typical studio apartment can be had for as low as 250 US dollars a month.
Tuition fees are also on the lesser side. The tuition costs, however, depends upon the course you enrol for. The most expensive ones will cost you around a few hundred dollars a month, whereas the cheaper ones could be as low as few hundred dollars a year. There aren’t too many scholarships for international students to study in Bolivia.
Documents for University Admissions in Bolivia
Following are the documents you need to submit to a Bolivian consulate or embassy in your country while applying for the student visa.
- Your original passport that should be valid for at least six months beyond your stay in Bolivia. Additionally there should be at least two blank pages to affix Bolivian visa stamps.
- The visa application form is to be downloaded from the website of the consulate office. The form is to be filled in completely and deposited along with other supporting documents at your local Bolivian consulate or embassy.
- Two recent passport size photos are to be submitted along with the application form. The photos should be in colour and with a light background.
- Before applying for the visa you need to first obtain the letter of acceptance from the concerned college or university you will be attending at Bolivia. The letter of acceptance should have details such as your full name as given in your passport, the course that you will be attending, the full dates of the course and the accommodation details during your stay in Bolivia. The acceptance letter should be signed on the official letterhead of the college or university.
- You will need to provide all your academic documents, such as, certificates, school transcripts, report cards, etc.
- Your flight itinerary is also to be provided to the consulate authorities, where your flight details and date of journey as well as return ticket particulars are to be provided. The name provided in the tickets should match with that provided in the passport.
- An original and notarized police verification report from the local police station with due seals and stamps. This is to check on your good conduct and law abiding values.
- A medical or vaccination report for yellow fever issued by a licensed medical practitioner is also to be attached along with the documents. The report should not be more than three months old.
- Evidence of sufficient funds by means of submitting your latest bank statements or other financial documents.
- For minors, there should be a consent letter by parents or guardians, duly signed by them.
- Receipt of visa processing and application fees