Grab a drink, don’t forget a bag of crisps or that last chocolate bar you have left. This is gonna be quite a long sit. But I promise, it will be worth it. If not, I’ll buy you a beer once I am back. If you have any questions regarding my trip, contact me on facebook/Instagram :)
First, a quick introduction: I am Vincent, as you all might know. Together with Vivien, Remco and Orliany from The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS for short) we are experiencing our exchange in Bogotá, capital of Colombia. If one of those names appear, you now know who they are ;) Besides, the peso currency is shown with a $-sign, so not to think that everything is in US Dollars :)
Wow. Almost 2 weeks here already. The time flies when you just arrive at your new home! Adaption, getting used to your surroundings, a different culture, a whole new language (in which I am a great nooby in regarding understand and speaking it, even though I had Spanish classes. What went wrong?).
Nevertheless, Vivien and I arrived on the 8th in the afternoon in Bogotá after quite a long day of traveling. The next day, I walked around the neighbourhood. As an ideal ‘gringo,’ I checked the boxes, which feels quite uncomfortable for the first couple of days. But you will get used to it, though. I walked around a neighbourhood nearby called San Nicolas, which has a little centre with shops and such where I also bought my groceries. Quite ironic, I paid around 30,000 pesos (+/-€8) for basic food for breakfast and spaghetti. However, when I ate breakfast at a small and local restaurant later on, I only paid 8,800 pesos (+/-€2.50). Truth must be told, eating eat is just cheaper than buying groceries, which also counts for the taxi’s: if you pay €4 for a ride, you must have crossed half of the city (which is huuuuuge, check Bogota here😉). As my mom told me while I was here, Colombia is on the edge of booming as a touristic destination. You know, mothers are always right, so pack your bags, and travel this beautiful country, with its genuine, most friendly people (I’m serious, the Dutch can learn from the level of not having worries of the Colombians, in my opinion).
The first days, the jetlag was still present by being wide awake at 6AM. On my second full day (10.01.19) I went with Remco to Universidad de la Sabana, my exchange university. Sorry THUAS, but La Sabana is the perfect example of how a university should look like (La Sabana’s website here). It is a little village. Different buildings are placed around the premises with complementary restaurants: from new buildings, old buildings, little snack kiosks and coffee corners to a fancy restaurant on the top floor with great view over the campus. Students walking around, chilling on the grass. A football field, volleyball field and other sports included in the campus, makes it a very so-called ‘gezellige’ environment. In other words, I can get used to this.
Lots of stuff needed to be arranged before the semester starts on 21.01.2019: a bank account, Student ID, adapt to the language barrier, and well, all other kind of stuff (exchange students will know 😉). Fortunately, Colombia does not come without any surprises. At the time of writing this part (16.01.19) I still have to apply for a Colombian ID as I arrived here with a Student Visa. Not quite hard to apply, it mostly takes patience as it goes here the Colombia way: muy tranquilo (I can get used to that, after the busy-always-in-a-hurry-Dutch-culture). However, one minor problem: I need to know my blood type. Thus, I asked my family. Surprisingly most of them know their bloodtype except my dad, mom, sister and me… Perfect! More interestingly, the application of the Colombian ID has to be done after maximum 15 days after arrival or I will face a fine and still have to apply anyways (according to a mail from CESA, which is Vivien’s exchange university). No worries mate, first a beer! And that’s what happened!
The great adventurer who, according to rumours, goes by the exotic name of Pascal arrived in Bogota! For the people who don’t know Pascal, he is an old fellow football player and a friend I know from ISW, my high school. He is traveling throughout Latin America for 10 months and ‘visited’ me in Bogota. Together we took a graffiti tour and went up to the Monserrate, a mountain where you have a view over (almost) the whole city. We talked a lot and I gained great respect for Pascal. With no knowledge of the Spanish language, taking an one-way trip to Guatamala to fulfil a dream. The media influences is kind of telling the (western) world how dangerous a country like, Honduras or El Savador is. However, accompanied by several Colombian beers, Pascal actually kind of tells me the opposite, which made me more interesting in doing a social internship in that region of America (sorry mom, still love you tho).
So, after this inspirational, and ‘Westland-ish’ visit from Pascal, I experienced the Tequila Tuesday of Bogotá: Gringo Tuesday!! Yes, I am not kidding! Another reason to visit Bogota, right? Tequila Tuesday is a reasonless reason to party on a Tuesday as student in The Hague, a very popular activity for Robbin, best friend from THUAS, and I: drink alcohol and regret it the next day, but go to the next Tequila Tuesday the week after because, why not? (here you go Millers, free promo). Gringo Tuesday is basically the same, and quite the experience: 7 rooms, different music, different country.
Since my stay in New Zealand, I made friends all over the world, as well as in Colombia! Erika and Diego are one of the Colombian friends I have in Colombia! I met Erika already with her son Diego (named after father Diego), and I am hoping to meet the others too! It’s time for reunions :)
Long days, short nights, that is my motto
for the past weeks. On 16.01.19, we had our orientation day where we got to
know all other exchange students: 50 in total, of which 20 non-speaking Spanish
students. Besides that, we got to know more buddies, as La Sabana has a buddy
program for exchange students (hopefully IB staff is taking notice). It’s great
to have support from the local students as you are here without any clue what
to do, basically. The days has been long, exhausting, and definitely worth it.
Kick-off of the new academic semester for the first years and exchange students was on the 17th! The university offers many activities that students could join. I joined the rugby team, guitar lessons as well the university’s rock band, and I joined the ‘solidaridad,’ which is a group of students that voluntarily help the unfortunate around Bogotá.
We, the exchange students and buddies, started the weekend (18.01.19) by a houseparty, which was followed with a great night in the club! Damn, clubbing in Colombia is way different than in the Netherlands. Completely different music, different styles of dancing, I could actually talk with people in the club (barely possible in the Dutch clubs). Luckily, I took some salsa classes back home, so I could quite get along. It was a great night to get to know the exchange students more. Many parties yet to come!
The Saturday and Sunday were quite relaxing. From the arrival onwards till this week has been hectic: new country, new language and trying to comprehend, new environment, new customs, 8 million people in a city, and so on. So, this ‘time-out’ was necessary. However, I found Dutch-like bread, and a Dutch guy is making cheese according to a Dutch recipe, so it feels still a bit like home! Tomorrow, Monday 21.01.19, the semester will begin, starting with my Spanish class. I am looking forward for this semester and country!