On this webpage you can find an interview from a 3rd-year IRIO student who is currently studying at the Universidad EAFIT in Medellín, Colombia.
INTERVIEW CLIO STUDY ABROAD:
More info about the university: http://www.eafit.edu.co/
How did you find where to spend your semester abroad? How did the application go? Was it your first choice?
I decided to go abroad as a freemover, meaning that I had organize my stay abroad by myself and apply directly to the university of my choice. I wanted to improve my Spanish and learn more about Latin America, furthermore I heard amazing things about Colombia and especially Medellín. So when a friend recommended Universidad EAFIT to me, I searched for more information online and sent an email to their exchange office. The application process as a freemover turned out to be simple and the staff at EAFIT was extremely helpful. Applying as a freemover means that you do not have anything to do with the Mobility Office anymore, the application is directly sent to the chosen university, which can make things a lot easier and less complicated. However, I definitely recommend a close coordination with the Study Advisors and the Board of Examiners in order to make sure that courses will be recognized later. As a freemover you are also not entitled to funding such as Marco Polo or Erasmus and might have to pay tuition fees at the host university. Looking for external funding or scholarships is therefore recommendable.
What were the requirements for you to go to this place?
EAFIT offers both English and Spanish courses. Since I wanted to take courses in Spanish, a B1 level was required. There are no language requirements if only English courses are chosen.
What was/is your favourite sightseeing spot there?
Medellín itself does not have many specific sightseeing spots, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the city in general. I also recommend visiting Comuna 13, a neighborhood which was once dangerous and has changed a lot during the past few years. They have beautiful street art and you can learn a lot about the recent history of Medellín and how it has changed. Around Medellín I recommend visiting Guatapé and the Coffee region, especially the small town of Salento.
What was/is your favourite local food there? Are there any surprising dishes we need to know about?
Typical Colombian food includes a lot of meat and I am a vegetarian, so I can’t really tell you much about it. But I enjoyed arepa (corn bread) and patacones (fried plantains). Also Colombian coffee is very good and the variety of fruits is incredible!
Were/are there many green spaces to relax, such as cool parks?
The campus of the university is designed as a park with many green areas and a lot of different plants and even animals. Apart from that (and perhaps the botanical garden) the city does not have many green spaces. A bit outside the city you can find mountains and woods to go hiking though.
Did/do you practice any sports or were you active in other associations there?
I signed up for the gym on campus and took Salsa classes. Many other exchange students also joined one of the university sports teams. I also joined the university choir, which was another great opportunity to meet new people.
Did/do you go out a lot? Where should we definitely go?
Medellín is great for going out, there are many nice restaurants, bars and clubs, especially around the area called Parque Lleras in Poblado. You can find any kind of music, but in most of the clubs they will play reggaeton. I also recommend going to a Salsa bar to improve your Salsa skills!
What did/do you think of the university? The location? The campus? The buildings? The teachers? The study programme? Was the university helpful to international students?
EAFIT University has an amazing campus with very modern buildings. It is located in Poblado, the wealthiest area of Medellín. All of my teachers were very nice and helpful, which helped me especially in the beginning, because my Spanish was not very good when I arrived. Also other Colombian students were very helpful in explaining things and helping with assignments. The exchange office was very helpful to international students and very well organized. I was able to choose my courses from any faculty, so I was able to choose courses that really interested me.
How did/does it go financially? The accommodation (provided by the university or not)? Food? Public transport?
Colombia is generally cheap, especially when it comes to accommodation, food and public transport. However, there are huge differences and prices in Poblado (where the university is located) are much higher compared to other areas of the city. The same goes for restaurants and supermarkets. Living close to the university can therefore be convenient but also a lot more expensive compared to other neighborhoods. The university does not provide accomodation but the exchange office can assist in finding something. For a room in Poblado you will pay around 200-300€, in other neighborhoods from 150€ onwards. Lunch at the university will be around 2€, dinner in a good restaurant in Poblado 6-8€, in cheaper restaurants around 3-4€. Busses or Metro cost around 50ct, Taxi 2-3€ depending on the distance.
What did/do you think of the workload (compared to the RUG)?
I took 5 courses (=30 ECTS) which was definitely doable. The work is less intense compared to the RUG, with less readings and more group work, assignments and presentations. I took a course in development economics, which required a lot of background knowledge in economics and statistics (which I did not have) so the workload for this course was quite high for me. All the other courses did not require a lot of preparation and only some effort for final projects.
Did/do you meet many international students? Was there an international environment or did/do you really need knowledge of the national language?
We were around 150 exchange students from all over the world and there were some activities to get to know each other, so I knew many of the other internationals and spent a lot of time with them. Unfortunately, the main language among the exchange students was English, as .many of the exchange students spoke little or no Spanish. Also most of the Colombian students at EAFIT speak English very well, so it was almost difficult to create an environment in which I was forced to speak Spanish (which was one of my main goals of my semester abroad).
What was the most surprising thing about this new culture?
Not necessarily surprising, but I really enjoyed spending time with Colombians, as they are very open and friendly, have a very positive attitude and enjoy life.
What is the funniest word you learned in the new language?
Empalagado - when something is way too sweet to eat. Can easily happen with many of the Colombian sweets!
Any last words or quotes that describe your exchange perfectly?
Medellín is an amazing city for a semester abroad and for me it was the best decision to organize my stay abroad individually as a freemover!
Grades are given on a scale from 1 - 10.
Points of interest
(not so many <-> lots of museums etc.)
Medellín is already an amazing city by itself, even though it only has a few points of interest. But considering all of Colombia, there are countless amazing places to visit!
(only local food <-> reat variety of restaurants)
Great variety of restaurants that are also affordable!
(none <-> several natural parks/recreational parks)
Considering all of Colombia, you can find a lot of nature and many different kinds of landscapes. Medellín itself is a huge city with not so much nature.
(limited <-> many options)
The university already offers a lot, including a gym, sports teams and a swimming pool on campus.
(limited <-> many theatres/cinemas/pubs/clubs)
Lot of options for going out and to socialize.
EAFIT has around 12.000 students, with all kinds of different faculties. It is a private university and the money from the high tuition fees is well invested. The campus offers everything you need including sports facilities, restaurants, shops, a doctor and a dentist, a big modern library and many social activities and events.
(informal <-> formal)
I only had very good experiences with my teachers, but it depends of course.
(English suffices <-> other languages are needed)
Depends on whether you take your classes in English or Spanish. In daily life Spanish is obviously helpful, especially for travelling. But I know many international students that still only have basic knowledge of Spanish.
The study programme
(easy <-> difficult/intense)
Depending on the classes of course, but generally less intense compared to the RUG.
(few international students <-> many international students)
We were around 150 international students and the university is in general very international with international staff members, great variety of English courses and a focus on international topics.
Location of the University
(hard to reach <-> close by)
Depending on where you live, but most of the international students lived close by (up to 10-15 minutes by public transport) or even in walking distance.
(expensive <-> cheap)
Food is cheap, even though some supermarkets and restaurants are obviously more expensive than others.
(difficult to find & expensive <-> easy & affordable)
You can easily stay in a hostel for the first few days and find something nice and affordable by asking other exchange students and the Colombian buddies. It’s more difficult to find something good when you are still home, as most landlords won’t put their rooms online. The exchange office is also helpful.