My name is Albert García, a third-year student of Marketing at University CEU Cardenal Herrera.
When I started with my university, I never considered going for an exchange program to another country to get to know other cultures, I always thought that going for an exchange program could delay my studies. The truth is that this way of thinking changed when I met an exchange student that really made me think that it was a good opportunity to enhance my learning in another university and another country.
From here, I was interested in studying in Latin America, as thanks to the scholarships provided by the Santander bank through the University CEU Cardenal Herrera, it makes our stay much easier. In addition, there are no difficulties with the language, which allowed me to take a greater number of subjects and I did not get behind in my studies.
When I had to choose the country of destination to do my exchange, it was not a difficult decision since I had it clear that I was going to choose Colombia because it is a country with a lot of biodiversity, it has a very striking culture, and the destination university, the University Santo Tomás persuaded me with its academic program and its fabulous experiences for the students that they did during the semester.
“Undoubtedly, I would repeat a semester abroad anywhere and I encourage the students who are thinking about it to do this enriching experience”.
On 27th July I arrived in Bogotá and the first thing that caught my attention was how green was the landscape that I could see from the plane. The first days were full of activities to get to know the city where I could see the most beautiful parts of Bogota. In the first week I was able to visit places like: el Chorro de Quevedo, Monserrate, the city center and I could even see the change of guards that takes place daily near the presidential palace.
As days passed by, I got used to this “crazy” but pleasant city, I say “crazy” because I was not used to things like crossing the main avenues without going through the traffic lights or being invaded by the street traders to buy some kind of product.
As for the food, the truth is that it was difficult for me to adapt because the change of diet is quite big and the schedules for eating are very different from Spain. In Colombia they have breakfast at 8 AM, lunch at 12 noon and dinner at 7:30 / 8 PM. In this regard, it took me about 3 weeks until my body got used to it.
In my destination university I enrolled in a degree called social communication and, throughout the month of August, I adapted very well to the University Santo Tomás because thanks to a tutor that was assigned to me, I was able to understand how work the evaluation methods that are quite different from those of University CEU Cardenal Herrera. For example, there is a project called modular, in which you develop and apply what you have learned in all the subjects within an organizational diagnostic project with real companies that we had to look for.
I also had the opportunity to participate in an international mobility fair, where all the exchange students participated by bringing typical items from their countries of origin. During that fair, I met many people who came from different countries, especially from Latin America.
My first trip through Colombia was to a coffee area called el Eje cafetero, particularly in the areas of Pereira, Manizales and Salento. It was a great experience, since I could enjoy beautiful landscapes, as well as meet many exchange students from other countries and immerse myself in the culture of coffee cultivation, I could see how it is grown and how is the process from planting to packaging.
Regarding the prejudices, that people say it is dangerous there, I will give my opinion: I think Bogotá is not a dangerous city, but it also has nothing to do with a European city. I personally never experienced any tragic episode during my stay in Colombia; however, I do have friends who have been robbed on the street. I think that if you go to a city like Bogotá, you do not have to be afraid, but you have to be very careful in the areas that you pass through, about the time you go out, the people you go out with. If you are a foreigner I give you one advice, do not trust anybody that you just met in non-university environment.
I was also very surprised by the culture that Colombians have of taking advantage of tourists, because depending on where you come from, they charge you a different price. However, Colombia is a very joyful country, where people usually treat you with kindness and respect. For example, the language is much more affectionate than in Spain. The truth is that it is very nice to get up on a Monday morning, enter in a cafeteria for breakfast and hear that endearing accent that makes you forget that it is Monday.
One of the trips that impressed me the most was the tour we did in Medellín. This magnificent city is characterized by its people, the paisas, who are more optimistic and more talkative Colombians. During my stay, I visited the Piedra del Peñol in Guatapé (one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in my life), Medellín city, and especially what I liked most was visiting the Hacienda Naples where lived the drug trafficker Pablo Escobar.
Thanks to Santo Tomás University, I was able to complement my studies with trips to get to know this beautiful country. In addition, with regard to my academic training, I was able to obtain knowledge about organizational communication from a different perspective, more focused on the social and the sustainable aspect.
The truth is that I never thought that taking part in an exchange program could bring me so many positive things and, in addition, I could grow personally and get a vision of life that I did not have before.