Welcome to Cali
Understanding identity abroad is important—regardless of whether or not you think it will play a role in your own experience. While we strive to create and maintain programs that support students of all races, religions, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations, you also play a crucial role in creating a welcoming and supportive environment for your peers navigating aspects of their identit(ies) in a new country. The information and resources on this page serve as a starting point to help you understand experiences you or your CET classmates may encounter while abroad.
Race & Ethnicity
Though Cali has the largest Black population in Colombia, the city is still in the process of improving political representation and inclusion of black and indigenous peoples. Anti-discrimination laws (Law 1482) have been in place since 2011 to grant legal protection to individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, religion, political ideology, or ethnic and cultural origin. There are some local community groups that students can reach out to, and on-site staff can provide more details upon request.
Cali is considered to be one of the most liberal cities in Colombia. Legally, discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is prohibited by Law 1482, but that does not mean that there are no issues of discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Universidad del Valle, one of the program’s host universities, is a progressive and inclusive institution with community groups, research teams, and organizations that focus on LGBTQ issues.
There have been issues of discrimination towards those outside the gender binary. However, discussions around gender and gender nonconformity are slowly increasing, and there are various organizations and support groups that are advocating for the rights of gender diverse individuals throughout Colombia.
There are no in-country attitudes towards certain religions and discrimination on the basis of religion is prohibited by federal law. Religious students can expect to practice their faiths while abroad in Colombia, and can be given excused absences for religious holidays with advanced notice to on-site staff.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Colombia is considerably more affordable than that of the US, and on par with neighboring countries. A month’s groceries for one person will cost about $30 USD, with fresh fruits and vegetables costing ~$1/lb or less. A one-way bus ride is 0.50 USD and a $20 USD taxi/Uber ride in the US would be approximately $2 to $5 USD in Colombia. Past students have mentioned that establishing and adhering to a budget at the beginning of the term was a strategy that helped manage any financial stress. Check out our budget sheet to get an idea of what life in Colombia might look like financially.
CET makes every effort to offer accommodations comparable to those of your home institution. Disclosing early helps us to make proper preparations and work with you to determine if a program will be a good fit. We recommend that you use the following details to inform your decisions and conversations with your Student Services Coordinator.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS
Students can expect to attend classes for 3 to 6 hours a day, with typical class sizes ranging between 5 to 10.
Services available for students with documented need: Low-distraction test environment; extra time on exams; modified deadlines and seating; audio recordings of lectures; syllabi/readings/assignments in advance; a computer to take exams; mobility orientation to campus.
CET classes are held at our program house, Casa CET. Because Casa CET is a three-floor house with stairs, it is not accessible for those using mobility aids. Direct-enroll classes are held at Universidad Autónoma de Occidente (UAO) and are wheelchair accessible.
CET occasionally plans mandatory academic activities and optional trips to nearby sites and other cities after class and on weekends. Excursions may involve urban walking, rural hiking, use of public transportation, and/or going up and down stairs.
Itinerary modifications and accommodations can be made for students with documented need. Transportation can be arranged as necessary, and excused absences are provided for mandatory excursions that are inaccessible due to a disability.
ACCESS IN HOUSING
Your Home Abroad
Apartments are located in a residential neighborhood within a 15-minute walk of the CET Center, where on-site staff have offices. On days when students have direct-enroll classes at UAO, they can commute from the apartment to campus via a 15-minute bus ride. The apartment complex has an accessible elevator and an individual’s housing can be made wheelchair accessible if requested far in advance.
Apartment configurations vary but can include mix-gender and same-gender setups. Rooms are typically shared, but a single room in a shared apartment, may be available for students with documented need if requested in advance.
Cali has sidewalks, curb cuts, ramps, and elevators/escalators for public transportation. Traffic lights are also accessibly equipped. Generally speaking, accessibility across the city varies and students can expect some places to be inaccessible.
Health & Diet
As a part of your program fee, you are enrolled in GeoBlue health insurance for the entire duration of your program. Learn more about GeoBlue and how we operate programs with health and safety in mind.
Health & Medicine
During orientation, on-site staff provide students with basic information and recommendations for seeing a doctor and buying medicine. There are some prescription medications that are not accessible in Colombia—students should do their research beforehand and ensure they bring their prescription and the necessary amount if in-country refills won’t be possible.
Keeping Fit in Cali
Students have free access to university sports and dance clubs, as well as other sports facilities. The apartment complex offers use of a communal swimming pool and soccer/basketball courts for free. Students can also participate in nightly Zumba classes at Parque el Ingenio ($1USD/class).
Managing Mental Health
There are counseling services at both UNIVALLE and UAO, as well as private counseling centers in the city where students can seek mental health services. Students are also encouraged to use TeleMed services with GeoBlue, their insurance provider abroad.
Vegetarian and vegan students can find suitable options around town. Students who have special dietary needs may have fewer options when eating out, but have access to a large variety of fresh produce and a kitchen equipped for cooking meals at their apartments.
Resources from Alumni
This is a curated list of blog posts chosen specifically to provide context for life abroad in Colombia. Posts here may cover culture shock, diversity, daily life and workload, etc. To see all posts from students in Colombia, head to the Student Voices blog.
- Photo Essay: CET Colombia
By Jordan Simmons, Washington University in St. Louis | CET Colombia, Fall 2023
- Photo Essay: CET Colombia
By Maya Martin, Howard University | CET Colombia, Spring 2023
- Impressions of Identity in Colombia
By Amara Payne, George Washington University | CET Colombia, Spring 2022
- To Call Cali Home
By Jermoyah Parkinson, Bowdoin College | CET Colombia, Spring 2022
- Black Girl Abroad: How I Learned to Relinquish my Hold on Forced Identity
By Regine Miller, Howard University | CET Colombia, Spring 2020
- 13 Things I Learned from 6 Months in Colombia
By Audrey Friedline, The George Washington University | CET Colombia, Fall 2019
These are alumni-written essays that reflect upon how their own identity affected their time abroad (both good and bad) and what it was like to navigate another culture in their position. We encourage you to read these to better understand what studying abroad in Colombia could be like for you or your future peers.
- There are no Perspective Pieces for CET Colombia yet. Interested in writing about your experience in Cali? Tell us about your time abroad.
In final evaluations, we ask students how their identities affected their experience abroad. The following are a few select quotes from recent program evaluations to help you understand what life in Colombia may be like for you or your future peers.
TALK TO ALUMNI
Chat with alumni about their experiences abroad. Once you start an application, your online CET account will give you access to the following resources:
- Alumni Support List: A directory of students who have volunteered to chat about their experiences abroad in Cali.
- Identity Abroad Support Network: A group of students who have volunteered to discuss their identity-related experiences in Colombia. This is a volunteer-based program that started in 2019. Volunteers can also opt to have their contact information kept privately by CET staff and only shared when certain lived experiences are asked about.
Don’t see anyone listed for the Identity Abroad Support Network? Call CET for more information and resources. Consider joining after your program to support other minority students abroad.