Colombia – First Impressions
Exactly one week ago I arrived in Colombia – the first week of many has passed. Some of you might know that I’ll be spending some months in Bogotá studying at one of the country’s best (and most expensive) universities.
I’ve already lived in neighbouring Venezuela a couple of years ago, so much is familiar and I’ve felt somewhat home right from the beginning. Most of that “feeling home” I owe to my lovely abuelita, my host granny. But let’s start in the beginning.
I’ve told you that I missed my flight from Mexico back to Austria on purpose, and stayed a week longer in Mexico with my best friend. On January 16th I took a flight from Cancún to Bogotá and that’s where the adventure begins:
Green, greener, the greenest! The first gaze from the plane onto Bogotá and its surroundings calmed me. I don’t like big cities very much, so I was more than content to see the mountains, lush greens and even cows and some fincas. These greens are intriguing and will surely help me cope with the busy city life.
A Host Family with 24?!
I didn’t want to live with other international students – mainly because I wanted to further improve my Spanish and sharing a flat with other non-native speakers would not have helped. Therefore I tried to find a Colombian family that would have a spare room to rent. The biggest challenge, of course, was to find them. I’ve combed through all major platforms and I was about give up and just rent a room in one of the halls for students (but this was just a bit too expensive).
But then, finally, I did find a family – after a couple of messages, I was super happy and very sure that it was a perfect fit. So here I am, at the age of 24, living with a host family – like back then when I was 16 in Venezuela. AND I LOVE IT!
My host granny’s name is María Teresa and she owns a lovely house, where I rent a room. I’m sharing the bathroom with her daughter, but she isn’t at home very often. Every night we have dinner together and talk for about an hour or sometimes even more about what happened during the day. That’s how I can practise my Spanish and she is super kind and helps me when I’m stuck. Only after one week living with her, I’m proud to say that I’ve surely found the right host family for me!
María Teresa took me for a walk on the first day to get to know our Barrio and showed me how to use the Transmilenio (the local buses here in Bogotá).
Fantastic fruits and veggies and where to find them
On the second day, María Teresa showed me her favourite fruits and veggies market. The local farmers sell their goods there and I’ve never seen such a big variety of fruits and veggies at once. Most of the species I had never seen before. I can’t even remember most of them! That variety of colours and shapes was incredibly overwhelming!
In Colombia they have so many sorts of bananas: there are plantains, that you can find in some smaller stores in Austria – here they are called Platano; then they have those baby-sized bananas that are much sweeter than their bigger siblings – here they are known as Bocadillo (in Spain that same word means snack); and of course the bananas that we know, here named Bananos. And that’s only the three that I remember!
But the oddest thing is the shopping and paying: everyone simply grabs what they desire and put the fruits and veggies in their bag. Of course, there’s no checkout counter, but you simply look for the merchant, he then takes a look at your bags and names a price. Not a single item is being weighted. We had about 15 kg of fruits and veggies and paid 19,000 Pesos – that’s roughly 6€.
First Days at University
I fell in love with my university right on the first day. My university here in Bogotá has several campuses, one’s in the centre and the other one is in the Northern part of the city. For most of my classes, I need to go to the campus in the North.
So the first day was already super exciting; a rough and bumpy road leads from the highway to the campus, all surrounded by green meadows. There are even cows on those meadows, and they don’t seem being bothered by all the vehicles passing. In the back the green mountains rise and you can’t hear any noises from the highway once you enter the campus.
On the first day, the university welcomed all new students from abroad as well as the fresher. They put so much thought in this day! The rector held a motivating speech, in the breaks, there were fresh fruits, drinks and empanadas (filled dough). After that, we had a picnic on the lawn. That picnic area was surrounded by tents that housed different student clubs and info points. There I got to know IBSA, which is an organisation for international students and Colombian students that have studied abroad already. They organise a bunch of events each semester so we’ll get to know Colombia even better.
I mentioned in the beginning that my university is one of the most expensive ones in Colombia. Eventually, I found out how much it really is. Students enrolled in the medicine programme pay 7000€. Each semester!
My first two days of lectures were already pretty tough since we started at 7 am and finished at 5 pm. This might seem a lot for the first two days, but most of my classes will be like that. And I prefer this a lot over having just a few hours every day. Some weeks I’ll have some days like that, and some weeks I’ll only have a language course (I picked Portuguese!). It doesn’t even bother me getting up at 5 am on those days to be there on time.
My colleagues at uni are 10 to 20 years older than I am. Reason being that I’ve enrolled in MBA classes. Although they’re a different generation and many already have children, they are very helpful and curious about Austria. And I’m curious about Colombia!
First Weekend – First Trip
IBSA has organised a trip to a small village an hour from Bogotá for the first weekend, of course, I joined! But that “one hour from Bogotá” thing is something that can and cannot apply – depending of course where you leave from and how heavy the traffic is. You can easily drive in Bogotá for two hours and not leaving the city at all.
We went to a town called Granada, to the Varsana Yoga Eco Village that is located there. It’s a Hare Krishna commune that owns a large piece of land and most of them live there. I’ll tell you more about that weekend here 🙂
So that was my very first week in Colombia, I’m enjoying the time here and feel very welcome too.