Graduate operates company in Bolivia


Alexis Wieczorek

Bolivian children attend class at the Centro Educativo y Recreativo Fundacion Casari, an education center in Cochabamba.

Victoria Grattan, Features Editor

A former Pitt-Johnstown student has been operating her own business in Bolivia since 2013.

Alexis Wieczorek, a 2010 communication and political science graduate, is the co-founder and director of Connect2Bolivia, a United States- and Bolivian-based study abroad program development company, located in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

According to Wieczorek, Connect2Bolivia acts as a liaison between the Bolivian people and outside students from across the globe.

“In an effort to achieve lasting intercultural relationships through this study abroad program development, we offer a wide variety of services including housing, transportation and excursions,” she said.

In addition, the program offers private classrooms, exchange programs and volunteer work centers, as well as internships and classes with local Bolivian professors and social entrepreneurship, Wieczorek said.

Wieczorek said she first came to Bolivia in 2008 as a Vira I. Heinz Scholar, a program for women in global leadership. That same year, Wieczorek was involved with a business and entrepreneur summer program in Austria at the International Summer University Carinthia.

Wieczorek said she worked with local Austrian companies and created business plans to help expand their services throughout Europe.

“This experience was truly a big help in that it taught me how to work with other cultures around the world,” she said.

“It enabled me to understand how communication and business varies, and how it is transitioned and translated through culture norms and differences.”

Connect2Bolivia was officially opened in 2013 when Wieczorek was 24, she said.

Wieczorek said she always had the idea of creating a program development company in Bolivia, but had no idea where to start.

In 2012, Wieczorek said that Raymond Wrabley, political science professor and social sciences division chairman at Pitt-Johnstown, contacted her asking if there were any study abroad program companies in Bolivia related to business and internships.

“That’s when things started taking off. I created a business plan and a program outline,” she said.

“Dr. Wrabley really helped me get my foot in the door.”

Wrabley said obstacles and hurdles constantly emerged for Wieczorek, but she was relentless in pushing through them.

“I am confident that her company, Connect2Bolivia, will be successful,” he said.

“Alexis is a great example for students that taking chances, creating your own opportunities, being nimble and adaptive, being persistent and doing what you like will lead you to success.”

Wieczorek said without Wrabley’s help, she doesn’t know if she would be where she is today with her company.

Wieczorek said that after living in Bolivia for five years, she has adapted well to the culture.

“It is odd, but when I visit the United States, I find myself saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s how it works,’” she said.

Wieczorek advises students who are interested in starting their own businesses that it is important not to listen to self-doubt and to continue moving forward.

“When starting a company, there are many setbacks, but you just have to keep working and working in order to see results,” she said.

“It isn’t a day-to-day win; sometimes it can take years to see the results.”

Pitt-Johnstown senior Jacey Hunter was a student in the Pitt in Bolivia 2015 program.

“(Wieczorek) had everything organized and planned out from the moment we got to Bolivia,” Hunter said.

Hunter said that students who are thinking about studying abroad should consider Bolivia.

“(Wieczorek) is a kind-hearted person who has a love for Bolivia that inspires you to want to learn about their culture,” she said.