Intern Insight : Tom's Internship Experience in Colombia
Updated: Sep 18
Hi my name is Tom Shipley, I am 25 and from England. I undertook a 3-month placement at Intern Colombia, working with a health food start-up in Bogotá which connected small suppliers with large retailers.
I’m slightly different in that I started my internship after having already lived in Bogotá for one year and a half. During which time, I had been studying Spanish at one of the cities Universities whilst also teaching English to multi-national corporations.
I guess the purpose of this piece is to give you a personal insight into my time in Colombia with the hope of upending some stereotypes and maybe even persuading you to go. So, I’ll jump right in to some of the questions I commonly get about Colombia and briefly cover how the internship I undertook has helped me get to where I am now.
Did I feel safe in Colombia?
Whenever I get asked about my time in Colombia this always seems to be the most commonly asked question; and from the media coverage that the country receives in the West I can kind of see why. The fact is though, I take great pleasure in answering this question because it gives me the opportunity to break the outdated stereotypes of Colombia and tell people how incredible the place is.
Thinking about it, if Colombia’s Tourist board gave commission I’d be doing quite nicely. I’ve lost count of the number of friends who have visited in the last 3 years. In fact, my parents are planning their third trip out in just as many years.
Granted, there are areas of Colombian cities where, as a foreigner, you wouldn’t go. But that’s a principle that can be applied to every single city around the world, right? Simple common sense goes along way. I have felt more unsafe walking around the streets of London at night than I did In Bogotá.
I know a lot of parents will be reading this, so to them I’d say that Colombia has completely turn itself around in the last 20 years and is not deserved of the reputation and stigma that people associate with it just because of its chequered past. My family too were initially wary of me going to live there but once they visited, their concerns quickly evaporated. My mum caught the Colombia bug particularly badly as she is now dances salsa 3 times a week and is learning Spanish.
To the potential interns reading this I assume you’ve already heard about the great things Colombia has to offer as you’re considering doing an internship there so to you, all I’ll say is that these things are true so back yourself and just jump in!
It is daunting moving across the world to a new city, to a new language and culture, I get it, but the vibrancy, friendliness and openness of the Colombian people will make you feel at home in no time! Promise.
Yes, the buses don’t run on time, yes the traffic is awful, and yes it’s a bit of a concrete jungle but that’s what makes Bogotá so great! It’s an amazing urban sprawl where there’s something happening on every corner and, as cliché as it sounds, an energy that just makes you feel alive. Whether you’re after street food or restaurants, bars or clubs, museums or outdoor activities, Bogotá has everything you could wish for in a modern city.
What places did I visit in Colombia?
One of the biggest draws of the country for me is the number and variety of landscapes you have to explore. Whether you’re after beaches, tropical jungles, snow-capped mountains, or modern cities, Colombia quite literally has it all, and the beauty of it is that everything can be relatively easily accessed.
There is a well-established backpacker/tourist trail in Colombia, which any quick google search will bring up, and the majority of places are well worth visiting. However, during my time there I found some lesser known gems that I’d highly recommend checking out if you don’t mind a long bus journey or two and are willing to leave the comfort of the city hotels and hostels.
My top 3 places (Off the tourist trail):
- Walking in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy
- Sleeping under the stars in a hammock in the desert of La Guajira
- Humpback whale watching from Ladrilleros on the Pacific coast
What am I doing now?
I left Colombia following my internship in July 2017 to start a job at Ford. The job regularly requires me to work with locations in Spain so the exposure to a Spanish-speaking business environment during my internship not only allowed me to develop my technical vocabulary but also better understand the cultural differences in a professional setting.
I’m going to assume my employer is never going to read this so I’ll admit that I am actively looking for ways to get back out to Colombia to live. In fact, I will be visiting on vacation in 3 months’ time.
Just finally, I’d like to add a comment on my experience with Intern Colombia. Having looked at multiple firms I chose this company because of how personable and easy the application process was, in addition to the professionalism which ran from start to finish.
During my placement, any issues that came up were resolved efficiently and from a social aspect there were multiple group events with other interns. In short, there’s no other company I’d recommend more highly that Intern Colombia.
I hope that the article has answered some questions or at least reassured you as to what Colombia is really like. No doubt the guys at Intern Colombia will be able to help you with any additional enquiries.
P.S. Book a flight, you won’t regret it!
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This blog post was published by Intern Colombia on 22 January 2019 and written by our Intern Colombia Alumni - Tom. This post has only been edited for grammatical purposes.