Uncover Colombia Interview: Paige, life as an Expat in Colombia

Greetings dear reader,

This week we make a pause on the road to bring you another edition of our monthly interview. This time we have the pleasure of featuring Paige, an ESL Teacher in one of the biggest Universities in the north of Colombia, as a our interviewee.

In a previous post we said that many people choose Colombia as a place to learn or perfect their Spanish. This was the case for Paige. During her time learning Spanish in Bogota, she enjoyed Colombia so much that she decided to return, this time to work on a professional capacity. But We’ll let Paige tell her story.

We would like to thank Paige for taking the time to answer our questions and share her photographs of Colombia with us and our readers. You can read more great posts from Paige in her personal blog: trotamunda.wordpress.com.

Newsflash:

If you have been following our latest news in Twitter and Facebook, you should know by now that this past week has been a quite eventful one for the Uncover Colombia team.

We have launched our first three tours and we have actually completed the first one this past Saturday. We are glad to report that our travel companions were pleased with the product and so were we.

This week we have another 2 tours planned and three more next week. If you want to join us make sure you book your place here.

As usual, we welcome your comments below.

Enjoy the article.

The UC team

_______

Tell us something about yourself (Where are you from? who you are and/or what you do?)

My name is Paige. I am 24 years old, and I am originally from Hueytown, Alabama, USA. I guess you could say I am recent professional—I finished my M.A. in TESOL Studies in fall 2011, and have officially been working as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher since then.

Why did you decide to visit Colombia?

My first visit to Colombia was in 2008. I came to Colombia to do a semester abroad and improve my Spanish skills. I had entertained studying in Argentina, but I met a group of Colombians who told me I had to go to Colombia, because that’s where the best Spanish in the world was spoken. So, I went. I studied a semester at la Javeriana in Bogotá, and also got some traveling under my belt.

My second visit (a more long term one) began in October 2011, when I was offered an English-teaching position at la Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, where I currently reside. I don’t know how long I’ll stay in Barranquilla/Colombia, but for now I am happy to be back.

Iguanas on the Universidad del Norte campus in Barranquilla

Iguanas on the Universidad del Norte campus in Barranquilla.
Image Copyright Paige M. Poole 2012

 

What sort of things did you like?

This is a tough question as there are many many things I like about Colombia. I think one of the things I like most, though, is the diversity you find in Colombia—not only in regional cultures and foods, but in flora, fauna, and climate. This diversity is what inspired (and continues to inspire) me to travel so much around Colombia.

Flower in Parque Avi

Flower in Parque Arví, outside Medellín. Image Copyright Paige M. Poole 2012

The food in Colombia is also amazing. It’s so neat to see how each region has a very specific menu of typical dishes and to see the pride people taking in showing off their regions best foods. I can’t say I have a favorite region for food, but some of my favorite dishes are bandeja paisa, pargo frito con patacones y arroz con coco y mazamorra con pedazos de panela.

I also really like the fact that Colombia is still so very full of Colombian brands and hand made arts & crafts. I take pride in buying things I know were made in Colombia, and I love to see the variety of handicrafts as I travel to different places—hammocks, sombreros vueltiaos, jewelry, mochilas wayuu, etc…

What didn’t you like?

More than not liking certain things, I think there are things that, because of cultural differences, are harder to get accustomed to than others. The strongest example for me is the concept of time. Colombians, and even more so costeños, have a very relaxed concept of time. Coming from the United States, it has been a challenge to learn to live within this concept of time.

What was your favourite experience?

I have had many incredible experiences during my time in Colombia, but going to el Cabo de la Vela in la Guajira is definitely at the top of my list. Ever since I was in Colombia in 2008, I wanted to go to la Guajira, specifically el Cabo. Last December, a friend who lives in Uribia, la Guajira invited me & my partner to spend New Year’s Eve with her and her family. During our time in northern Guajira, we were able to take a 2 day trip to el Cabo. It was amazing & incredibly beautiful. It is a place where you feel 100% connected to nature. Words can’t adequately describe el Cabo—you have to go there for yourself!

Pilón de azúcar

Pilón de azúcar, Cabo de la Vela, la Guajira. Image Copyright Paige M. Poole 2012

 

Did you have any problems, finding accommodation, transport, food, etc?

Back in 2008, I took a road trip with my partner to several cities & pueblos in Colombia. A few times we had to “wing-it” and not make accommodation reservations beforehand due to a lack of information online. Nowadays, though, I think there is information online about almost every part of Colombia. So, I don’t think that should be a problem for anyone planning a trip.

Which other countries did you visit besides Colombia and How does Colombia compare with these countries?

I have visited many countries including: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Mexico, Panama, and Cyprus. Every country I have visited has offered me a unique experience, and Colombia is no different.

However, Colombia has the highest level of biodiversity in the world, and, because of that, can offer experiences that most other countries can’t. What other country can you visit that will allow you to pass through 3 different climate zones in the course of an hour or two? The amazing level of diversity in Colombia, in all aspects, is something I have yet to encounter in another country.

Looking out from the ciudad amurallada Cartagena.

Looking out from the ciudad amurallada Cartagena. Image Copyright Paige M. Poole 2012

 

Which image did you have about Colombia before going there?

Before I arrived to Colombia in 2008, I wouldn’t say I had a negative image of Colombia, but I was a bit apprehensive about living here. Even so, I think the level of apprehensiveness I had would have been the same even if I had been moving to Argentina to study abroad. It was the idea of being in a totally new place, living in a new culture, hearing and speaking a new language, eating different and unfamiliar foods that had me apprehensive.

Even so, many of those around me in 2008, including my family, were worried about me going to Colombia because of its connection to drugs and violence. The news in the United States does a good job of promoting the drug wars in Latin America and had definitely created a violent and negative image of Colombia for most of my family and friends. I assured them, though, that I would be ok, and that Colombia was safer than they thought. And, I was right.

Did this image change after your trip?

My image and concept of Colombia definitely changed after my semester in Bogotá in 2008. After living in Colombia for almost 7 months, I had fallen in love with this country. I had met some amazing people, traveled to some incredible places, and learned to live in a totally different environment. Colombia no longer had negative connotations for me. Colombia became a sort of second home for me.

Valle de Cocora

Valle de Cocora, Quindio. Image Copyright Paige M. Poole 2012

 

Would you like to come back?

Well, I am back. After finishing my undergraduate degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies & completing my M.A. in TESOL Studies, I have moved back to Colombia to start my professional career in teaching English as a second/foreign language.

What would you recommend to someone considering Colombia as a destination?

I would say, “come!” Colombia has so much to offer in terms of tourism.

You can find places to do extreme sports, you can hike through the Amazon, you can climb a mountain (more than one, in more than one climate), you can scuba dive in the Caribbean, you can see humpback whales in their natural habitat, and so much more. There is something for everyone in Colombia, no matter what your tastes are.

Forget everything negative you’ve heard about Colombia and come and see it for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it!

Any final thoughts?

Plaza de Guatape Antioquia

La Plaza in Guatapé, Antioquia. Image Copyright Paige M. Poole 2012

“The only risk is wanting to stay…”

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One thought on “Uncover Colombia Interview: Paige, life as an Expat in Colombia

  1. Pingback: Uncover Colombia Interview: Clare and Glen | Travel, Discover, Experience

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