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Colombia, Colombia, Colombia!

Posted: September 01 2019

Sidney, Brunel Business School

Where do I begin with one of the best experiences I’ve ever had?

Colombia was more than what I expected. If you are chosen to take this summer school, I guarantee you it will be one of the best gifts life has to offer! Not only did I meet a group of amazing, crazy, hilarious people, but I also met a culture that gave me tons of life lessons. I was so enriched with knowledge by top university professors but also just as much by the beautiful local people, this summer school is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am already looking at flight tickets to return next year!

I want to jump straight into the action, let’s talk about the food… being from the Caribbean I had certain expectations on what the food would be like since South America is closely related to Caribbean countries, I thought tastes would be similar. I always regarded Latinx countries as having very spicy food. It is the complete opposite, their food has so much flavour that spice would ruin a lot of the taste you naturally get. Everything I had eaten I would often find myself saying, “This is a real mango” or “This is a real egg”, the produce was clean and fresh and tasted how food is meant to be - unlike GMO products in the UK.

Our lovely host Angelica took us to the most amazing cafés and restaurants, one of my personal favourites was ‘Dos Gatos y Simone’, the owners were so welcoming, they made the best juice called Limonada Hierbabuena. I returned one evening with a fellow student and started to converse with one of the owners. He was actually Venezuelan, he went on to discuss his views on the current refugee crisis, shedding a lot of light for what it’s like for Venezuelan’s living in Colombia - and he is very happy to be there. Many people shared their stories whilst I stayed here, I spoke to people in markets with the little Spanish I knew and had learned out there.

Furthermore, we tried traditional breakfasts which involve a cup coffee or Panela which is sugar cane in English. It has an acquired taste which I found for a few dishes here, I am very fussy, but I got used to the different tastes and textures quickly and I am now in love with Colombian food! My favourite being Empanada’s and Granadilla, which is a type of passion fruit. Did you know there are enough exotic fruits in Colombia, that you can try a different one each day, for the whole year!

Moving forward, another aspect of Colombia which is so important is their Art. I discovered there, that one of my favourite artists Fernando Botero is Colombian and his art is all over Bogota. Graffiti use to be deemed as offensive and a crime in Colombia however, I learned on our amazing bike tour that graffiti is now legalised and is used as a way for the people to express current political issues. One piece I found intriguing was the representation of Black Latinos in Colombia. The art contains words that spoke about Afro-Latina women and their beauty.

Other aspects of Art in Colombia that I fell in love with is their Emeralds, I am a big fan of crystals and found that they are very popular in Bogota, unlike London. It’s hard to obtain crystals especially jewels such as emerald’s which are so popular here and at affordable prices. Many things in Colombia are extremely cheap, gifts are under a pound, meals are about two pounds, so I often felt myself giving more to people because I was so grateful for their gifts and felt bad paying such a cheap price! Another part of Colombian art is their Música, we were taught Salsa and Bachata lessons which were so fun. Our group had the chance to practice our dancing in local bars and clubs on our weekends off. Music is just one way I saw how Colombian’s expressed themselves.

Speaking about forms of expression, I never knew how expressive Colombians were, we learned in one of our language classes that when you speak Spanish you must open your mouth very widely and become very expressive with your body language. When I walked down the streets every day, locals were greeted with kisses and hugs. There were a large number of couples which I found very amusing, it’s like everyone was in a relationship here. It further shows how affectionate this country is and defies any pre-expectations I had about this country being a place of notorious crime. The cultural experience I had, is by far one of the best in my life, I felt extremely safe despite their being pickpockets and whatnot, I feel London is more dangerous than where we stayed in Bogota. (As long as your street smart and aware of your environment).

I also had the expectation that religion was a big thing here, however, yes Catholicism is around and there were many shops that had figurines of Jesus and Angels - I took the liberty of purchasing some. We also went to the Salt Cathedral which I can only describe as heavenly. Although not everyone in Colombia is religious and it's definitely not forced onto you, I’ve realised that the history of Christianity in Colombia is involved in a lot of their art. I also had the pleasure of seeing aspects of the indigenous culture in Colombia, there were children in native clothing celebrating one morning. We learned in lectures how Colombian people are moulded into one, a term they use is Mestizo which roughly translates to being mixed. This includes being mixed in their history, culture, food and language- it is not just related to skin-tone.

There is so much more that I can talk about, all the professors gave us so much insightful knowledge, the tour guides were amazing and very patient with such a big group of us. If you choose to go to Colombia, you will not regret it. I am so thankful for this experience and our lovely host Angelica went above and beyond for our university, Mario our Brunel supervisor was just as great. Colombia, until we meet again.

¡Hasta Luego!