When planning my exchange I really didn’t think much about the place I was going I thought more about what was closest to the places I wanted to visit or re-visit in South America. Thankfully I was able to find a compromise in La Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota DC Colombia. Not only did I get everything I wanted not only in regards travel and budget limitation but also had the opportunity to undertake some truly amazing courses. I decided to go on exchange in order to gain the kind of knowledge in Spanish that I probably wouldn’t gain in Australia. I really wanted to learn more about academic writing in Spanish and about the mentality or opinions of South Americans towards some of the topics I have studied throughout my Spanish major.

To complete my eight units of study here in Australia I had to be enrolled in 5 courses and I was lucky as the Javeriana has a wide range of literature and social sciences subjects which I could use towards my Spanish Major. I ended up with three literature subjects; Colombian Literature; which used mostly short stories and only two long novels, which I really enjoyed but in all honesty for much of it I was at a bit of a disadvantage as the Professor didn’t really take into account my lack of local history etc. If you don’t have a good base of knowledge about South American history and culture recommend not taking this course (I did really enjoy it though). I also studied Latin American Literature which covered, again with short stories, most of the major Latin American writers. Narco-traffic and literature was also a great subject and I would highly recommend it as it really showed a different story to Colombia’s recent history and about the present day issues in the Americas. Urban life and Culture was another hood subject which really taught about the history and growth of Bogota so was great for my general knowledge about the city. However as much as I enjoyed the other subjects my favourite was definitely Culture and Sexual Morality in Colombia, this subject was really very enlightening and touched on everything from adoption in homosexual partnerships to the effects of conflict on women. This was a real eye opener and I really gained from taking this course.

Probably one of the most amazing experiences I had in Colombia was on a university course field trip to a village in the south of the country to visit a group of Indigenous people who had taken a really unique stance against the conflict and violence in their area. They are very unique in that they are anti-violence and fight guns with no weapons. This was a really incredible thing to hear about, from the people themselves.
In terms of costs I didn’t live as cheaply as I thought but I lived VERY Well. I rented a room out the front of the university (no on-campus accommodation) and had my own refrigerator, cable tv, internet and all water, electricity etc included for about 350 a month. I ate out pretty much all the time. For between $3 and $4 you could buy a meal which includes soup. A main and juice. Entertainment expenses was really dependent on where I went as Bogotá is divided into zones but usually throughout a whole weekend I would spend between $40 and $60. Colombia is a place where you can live on the cheap but also spend a lot of money if you feel like it.

5 Tips for a semester in Bogota

  • Always bring an umbrella- depending on the seasonit may or may not rain at 3pm EVERYDAY
  • Live close to the university, it’s great; there are always heaps of people around and everything you need is close by
  • EAT OUT- take advantage of the more ‘normal foods’ it’s a great way to try most of the local dishes
  • CARRY CASH; most places don’t take card and just as a general safety precaution
  • TAKE A JACKET WITH INSIDE POCKETS it’s a great way to carry money. Phone etc without worry about your bag

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