Colombia has a bad reputation and I would be lying if I said I didn’t fall into believing many of the negative stereotypes surrounding this country before I went on exchange. It is safe to say I was scared to leave Australia and enter a presumably ‘dangerous’ country where no one spoke English. However the Colombia I have visited and experienced stays true to its tourism slogan ‘the only risk is wanting to stay’. Having the opportunity to live, travel and experience this country first hand is something I hold very close to my heart.

From the beaches on the Caribbean coast in the cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta to the metropolis city of Medellin, drinking cups of freshly brewed coffee in the coffee triangle and learning to salsa in Cali. During my time on exchange I was lucky enough to travel and experience the diversity that Colombia has to offer. One of my favourite experiences was a 5 day trek through the Colombian jungle to visit La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City). On top of these things I was able to immerse myself and fall in love with the culture, the lifestyle and the people of Colombia.

My first week at Javeriana was shaky at the least. I had timetabling issues as well as a big shock on how unprepared I felt due to my level of Spanish. However once I got over the language barrier, these issues were quickly resolved by the exchange team at Javeriana and UQ Abroad, then I was well on my way to a full semester of study. I ended up taking 3 subjects taught in Spanish and 2 taught in English in the areas of Political Science and Arts. Learning about the history, culture and political issues in Colombia, among other subjects, were by far some of the most interesting, rewarding and challenging classes that I have taken in my 3 years of study. I strongly recommend having an intermediate to advanced level of Spanish to study at Javeriana but despite this most professors and students are more than accommodating and happy to help out exchange students. 

Bogota can seem a little overwhelming at the start which is exactly how I felt. I have never lived in such a large city therefore everything was new and exciting to me. Once you get used to the ‘colectivos’, exploring the city becomes easy and it is something I definitely recommend taking the time to do. I rented an apartment within walking distance to the university in an area called ‘Chapinero’. This suburb is decorated with student filled bars and cafes, restaurants where you can get $5-7 daily menus, music stores, clothing boutiques and everything a student would want and/or need. If you can score accommodation here I promise you will love it!

Before you ask, yes I did find it hard, I did stress over assignments and the significantly larger workload at Javeriana but I would not have changed my choice for exchange for anywhere else. One thing to remember is that when you look back on an exchange experience you don’t remember how hard the exams and assignments were, you remember the friends you meet, the experiences you have and the memories you made. My time in Javeriana, Bogota and Colombia are some of the most valuable and memorable experiences I have had and I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity during my studies. I highly recommend anyone to go on exchange in Colombia or anywhere in the world because it will be an experience you will hold in your heart forever.

Top Tips:

  • Choose subjects you know you will be interested in
  • Have an umbrella because it rains almost every second day in Bogota
  • Join ‘Out of Town Javeriana’ a group of students that organise parties and weekend trips for exchange students
  • Try ‘Crepes & Waffes’ and ‘Wok’ the restaurants that took most of my money on a weekly and almost daily basis!
  • Don’t be scared to speak Spanish (students are more than eager to practice their English)

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