Written by Audrey Friedline (The George Washington University), Student Correspondent CET Colombia, Fall 2019
There are stories of resilience and strength everywhere. Through the theme of this program, we have been lucky enough to dive into many of these stories. For example, as part of our traveling seminar we visited the first free-town of escaped slaves in the Americas, San Basilio de Palenque. This community has preserved their own language, distinct culture, particular food and traditions, maintaining their strong community for hundreds of years. Their way of life is a testament of resilience and strength. This is amplified in this statue of Benkos Biohó in their main plaza.
Friendships form fast and can overcome all the barriers. It is funny to look at this photo, taken the first day we all met each other, knowing all the solid friendships that have formed in that group since then. We all bonded fast, finding ways to surpass cultural, background and language barriers, and become friends that we hope to maintain for a long time.
Colombia is beautiful and diverse. I got the opportunity to visit mountains, jungles, beaches, farming communities, buzzing cities, and small villages during my time in Colombia. Every terrain showcases a breathtaking aspect of all of Colombia’s luscious, natural beauty. Look at her!!!
Rice belongs with every meal. On our traveling seminar in Cartagena, we had an opportunity to fish with local fisherman and then learn how to prepare a traditional meal. Here is the plate I made, of course, including a hearty serving of coco rice.
It is a privilege to have someone share pieces of their culture with you. Several times, we got the opportunity to sit down and learn about unique traditions and pieces of culture that have been preserved in different Colombian communities. Most recently, Sydney learned how to play a traditional drum in Palenque from the drum maker in the community. As he shared the importance of the drum in Palenque society and music, he shared a bit of himself, his identity and his community with us.
Dancing makes the day better. Whether it be meringue, reggaeton, Zumba, champeta, or salsa, Colombia is always moving. This photo is of Vanessa and Sydney learning a traditional Colombian dance from students we met at a school in Cartagena.
Say yes to things. At the beginning of this program, because of my low language level, I really, honestly did not know what people were saying to me half the time. So, I decided that I would just start saying yes every time someone asked me something. Slowly I started to understand more, but still kept the YES! mentality. This kind of mentality continued to put me out of my comfort zone and let me experience, unexpected new things. This is a colorful picture to illustrate how colorful life is with the YES! attitude.
Always push a little deeper. I chose to come to Colombia because I knew that it was a country that is often misrepresented in the United States and I wanted to push my preconceived narrative wide open. This theme of diving deeper continued throughout all of my classes and conversations once in the country. There is always another side of the narrative and one that is worth being heard.
There are thriving Black communities everywhere in the world. Most people don’t automatically think of Black people when they think of Colombia. Luckily, we got the chance to take part and be surrounded by strong Black communities, advocates, scholars and culture within Colombia. This picture was taken at the Mujer Negra Conference planned by some of our roommates!!
Connecting with the community will teach you more than you will ever learn in the classroom. Connecting with the community can take form in many different ways, but one of the ways I was able to get plugged-in was working at the local YMCA with their PLAYEE English Teaching Program. On Saturday mornings, they go into more humble communities and teach basic English through songs, games, and crafts. Working with this program was an absolute blast.
Study abroad still means STUDY abroad. This ain’t no joke. This program is hard, makes you think critically and challenges you to turn in quality work while reflecting on huge, and important conversations about race, identity and ethnicity. But what makes it a little more manageable is the field trips and field-based learning that supplements what we are learning about in our classes. This photo is from our trip to San Cipriano. We are all clearly working very hard.
Students have power. Our semester was modified, even before we got to Colombia, by student protests that kept Univalle out of school for months to protest huge funding cuts from public education systems. As we have been here, there has been protesting all over Latin America and other strikes in Colombia, largely led by student efforts. It is empowering to watch students make such big impacts as their voices are being felt on national and global levels.
Juice > water. They don’t really ever drink water here. But honestly, why would you drink water when you have fruit this pretty to make fresh juice out of?