Unique experience expands horizons


Jenna Cook

As a freshman, I would have told anyone that I couldn’t see myself travelling south of the equator anytime soon. Now, as a senior, I am excited and grateful to have been able to experience Latin America in a completely individualized, one-of-a-kind way.

I travelled with a close friend to her hometown in Medellin, Colombia and stayed with her family, who basically adopted me for two weeks. Her mother became my own, and I served as a  second big sister to her younger siblings. Exploring a different country with locals rather than as a tourist opened my eyes to so many things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

As an added bonus, I was able to practice and hone my Spanish skills, picking up on sayings and region-specific slang I was previously unfamiliar with. My temporary family was very patient with me, explaining the meaning behind each foreign phrase.

Having spoken Spanish from a young age, I came to realize that the version of the language I spoke lacked depth and was completely oversimplified. I learned that I can’t really know the language before being able to apply it with native Spanish speakers.

Almost every meal I ate was fresh and home-cooked, which helped me taste even more of the culture in the country. All the food was served with overwhelming Colombian hospitality, and everyone I met welcomed me with open arms and incredible manners.

The stigma around Colombia was something I hadn’t thought of too much before departing for the supposedly dangerous country. While there, I learned about Pablo Escobar’s history, who got rich by selling cocaine internationally. While I had heard of him before, I never fully comprehended the negative lens he put around Colombia to the rest of the world.

I was able to hear firsthand about some struggles endured by locals, which helped me completely disband the idea that Colombia was a dangerous country rather than a place full of people with hopes and dreams. My experience has inspired me to continue travelling the world, making an effort to immerse myself into new cultures.