I completed a 3 month internship through Intern Colombia during my year abroad from January until April 2018 and they comprised of some of the best months of my life. While studying Spanish and English Literature at Durham University, a year immersed in a Spanish speaking country is a requirement, and by no means a chore! I had heard wonderful things about Colombia before deciding to embark on an internship, and fortunately found Intern Colombia online, who organised a 12 week placement for me with an NGO. Whilst working, I lived in a shared student house in Teusaquillo, Bogotá, a friendly area with great transport links, and not too far from the historical centre. In the house share, I was able to meet a host of people from different places and it was a good opportunity to immerse myself in Colombian culture.
The foundation is an inspiring organisation that provides free extracurricular activities for children and young adults in some of Colombia’s more disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Their main obsession is football (a common trait in Colombia) and formed the first roots that created the wide reaching tree that is Tiempo de Juego, which started in the Capital’s outskirts in Cazucá, and has established bases in Santa Marta (Caribbean coast) and Timbiquí (Pacific Coast). During my time there, I was supposedly working in the Communications Department, but rather than sat in the Bogotá based office, I spent more time getting stuck in with activities in Cazucá and had the opportunity to write about some of their events in English and Spanish- like International Woman’s Day- as well as helping with some more technical things such as translating web content and helping to develop a new arts curriculum. My colleagues were warm, welcoming and incredibly dedicated to their passion that was the foundation. Most of the Cazucá team had been beneficiaries of the decade-long serving foundation as children, and had grown through the foundation and became leaders themselves. This is another reason as to why it is such a wonderful foundation- it’s sustainable! Both through its employment of local young people who are wholly devoted to the cause and its investment in areas in need of diversion for the young. As well as the classes they run, they have also created a community through the businesses they run including a printing press, a bakery and a recording studio. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there learning many things, meeting great people and speaking Spanish every day, as well as teaching English, on occasion, to colleagues and beneficiaries of the foundation.
My time in Colombia was an ideal balance of work and play. Cheap flights meant that the play part was filled with opportunity to explore different parts of Colombia. I experienced the varying landscapes that Colombia has to offer, such as the Tatacoa desert, the bustling city of Medellín and the Caribbean jewel of Colombia: Cartagena. Bogotá worked as a wonderful working base and exciting, thriving city to work in. The city has a bit of everything; the dramatic Andean landscape that runs parallel to the busy metropolis, the historical centre to the south overlooked by the majestic Montserrate pilgrimage point- which offers the most amazing panoramic views of Bogotá- although it’s quite a walk! It’s not lacking in anything in terms of good food, bars (and museums- if that’s your kind of thing). Luckily, I lived a mere 12 minute drive from the airport (I timed it one morning in a cab at 5am- so this may fluctuate in traffic) so it meant that domestic travel was quick and easy. A particularly memorable trip was an Easter weekend escape to the coffee region (Eje Cafetero) which is famed for its landscapes dotted with wax palms and very good coffee. Good Friday began with a bouncy Jeep ride (really fun, so worth the 4,000 pesos- but hold on tight) to the Valle de Cocora which promises long hikes up rocky terrain that opens out onto the valley adorned with palm trees in the mist. Although, it was torrentially raining and, without waterproof clothing, we were soaking wet, covered entirely in mud after falling so many times and freezing cold crawling in traffic back to our hub: Salento, the Coffee region’s most popular provincial town. As the weather improved over the next few days, we hired bikes and did a thorough tour of the nearby coffee farms, sampling some tinto (black coffee, estilo colombiano) along the way. This tells of only one of the many memories I cherish from my time in Colombia and I’m hoping to return very soon.
Since leaving Colombia, I have continued with my studies and am undergoing my final year of my undergraduate degree. My time abroad has improved my Spanish immensely, and I have become partial to the Bogotá accent (nicest- sounding spoken Spanish I’ve heard so far) over the traditional sort from Spain that I was taught at school. I learnt so much in my time there and, as an experience as a whole, it is highly recommendable! I have so much more to say, but I fear I’ll start to sound like a travel guide. All I can say is that I wish I had stayed longer.
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This blog post was published by Intern Colombia on 27 March 2019 and written by our Intern Colombia Alumna - Cristina. This post about Cristina's internship experience in Colombia has only been edited for grammatical purposes.
The photos featured are courtesy of Cristina.