Study Abroad in Potosi, Bolivia

Universidad Autónoma "Tomás Frías"

Tomás Frías is a public university of approximately 8,000 students located on the outskirts of Potosí. The university offers degrees in the arts and sciences, engineering and various technical fields. It is particularly strong in geology/geological engineering and mining technology.

All courses are taught in Spanish. Students are recommended to take between 3-4 semesters of Spanish before departure.

Accommodations and Public Transportation

Residence halls are available through the university however most students will be provided with off-campus accommodations close to school. There is a cafeteria on campus and a number of restaurants nearby. Public transportation consists of buses which are inexpensive. Taxis are also available and affordable.

Academic Calendar

The academic year is divided into two semesters. The first lasts from late July to mid-December and the second from early February to early July.

Type of Exchange

This exchange is a tuition, fee, room and board exchange. WCU students pay all of the above to Western Carolina University in addition to a vacation meal stipend and health insurance before departure. Room and board are provided free of charge at Potosí.


For the adventurous student interested in language and multicultural immersion, look no further than Bolivia. Nicknamed "Rooftop of the World" and called the "Tibet of the Americas," Bolivia’s varied landscape boasts the Andes mountains, high plateaus and lowland tropical rain forests. Its capital, La Paz, is the highest in the world, rising 2 miles above sea level.

Bolivia is a landlocked country located in the heart of South America. Despite Bolivia’s tropical location, the climate varies between cool and dry to hot and humid depending on the elevation.

The population of about 8.3 million people is ethnically divided between Quechua Indian 30%, Mestizo 30%, Aymara Indian 25% and European (predominately Spanish) 15%. Bolivia is a mostly indigenous country rich in cultural diversity. The official languages are Spanish, Quechua (language of the Inca) and Aymara (pre-Incan indigenous language). While Catholicism is the country’s main religion (95%), it is often combined with indigenous beliefs. The Boliviano (BOB) is the currency used, however the United States dollar is also widely accepted in Bolivia.


Potosí is the highest city in the world with an elevation of 4, 090 meters (13,418 feet). The temperature can be quite cool at night, even dipping below freezing (in the winter) yet becoming very hot during the day. Potosí is a beautiful mountain city known for its colonial architecture, churches and silver mines. The city of Potosí was born soon after silver was discovered in the Cerro Rico (rich hill/mountain) in 1545 by the Spanish. Students can take tours of this mine which helped to make Potosí an extremely wealthy city in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Miners can still be found today mining for tin in the Cerro Rico. Potosí celebrates a weeklong Miners Carnival in February as well as many other religious and political fiestas throughout the year.


Learn more about the Bolivian cultural events.


Get more travel information about Bolivia.


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