The travel grant experience helped shape Chatupron-Lacayo’s capstone project and deepened her interest in Latin America, but she says her most memorable experience was witnessing activists advocate for the protection of human rights defenders.
“I was able to stand on the Palacio de Justicia with other observers from my office to observe a large-scale, peaceful protest,” said Chatupron-Lacayo. “It was a beautiful moment where the nation came together and peacefully manifested their right to protest in one of Bogotá's most iconic locations, the Plaza de Bolívar.”
Because they can be applied to an array of academic pursuits, the travel grants give recipients a large degree of flexibility. Julie Walsh McMurtry, associate director of CLAS, remarked,
“The grant gives students freedom to pick the experience that works best for their personal goals and objectives, rather than choosing the opportunity that is most accessible financially.”
Receiving a grant allowed Claudia Soliz Castro (G’19), a graduate student pursuing a master’s in Latin American studies, to conduct three months of fieldwork in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, her native country. The fieldwork gave Soliz Castro access to formal and informal sources that were only available in-country, allowing her to further develop her thesis.
“Being able to travel and do research on the ground was perfect for [researching informal markets] because it is such a multidisciplinary study,” said Soliz Castro. “While there is available anthropological and economic data on informal markets, it’s often old and not as relevant as the findings I can access by directly experiencing and studying the informal market sector in Bolivia.”
Soliz Castro found that it is especially valuable to get information from different voices because informal market research is prone to author bias.
“Being able to find research by Bolivian authors and written for Spanish-speaking readers was very helpful, because I was able to get a new perspective on what I was studying,” Soliz Castro said.
Recently, CLAS added a travel blog component to their grant program, where students can post about their experiences abroad.
Posts vary in their topics and approaches, reflecting the wide array of interests within the center. Some explore inequality, conflict, or culture through a linguistic or economic lens, while others are more personal, detailing museum visits and giving advice to future CLAS travel grant recipients.