With its lush forests and elegant mountains, Colombia is considered the most biodiverse country in the world. Cities and villages dot the countryside, each filled with the colorful culture, music, food, and art. Small shops and markets are filled with fresh produce while sidewalk grills serve food to passersby. Locals enjoy constant warm weather, and celebrate their country and heritage through festivals all year round and visitors are often encouraged to take part. Colombia’s history is locked in vast rainforests where ancient ruins from mysterious civilizations can be seen. Exchange students seeking adventure will find an abundance of it.
Geography & Demographics
Colombia is located in the northwestern corner of South America. It has beaches along both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Panama sits to the northeast while Venezuela and Brazil create Colombia’s Eastern border, sharing the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. Peru and Ecuador join along the Putumayo River in the Southeast.
The equator passes through the southern tip of Colombia, creating consistently warm seasons. Rainforests cover the lower elevations, while temperatures in the highlands are cooler. The Pacific and Caribbean coastlines combine to provide almost 2,000 miles of lagoons, cliffs, and beaches while the high Andes Mountains stack across the country providing a backbone to the terrain. It ranks number one in the world for the most species of flowers, birds, amphibians, and overall biodiversity per square mile. It is covered in lush forests supported by the Colombian Andes.The national parks and landmarks here are a must see for nature fans.
Food & Culture
Spanish is the official language of Colombia, much like a majority of its neighbors. However, there are many native communities who still speak their traditional dialects. English speaking Colombians are more likely to be found in large cities, but are increasingly common throughout the country because of tourism.
The cost of living in Colombia is relatively low compared to the U.S. The U.S. Dollar has a favorable exchange rate to the Colombian peso. Some students choose to live in one-bedroom apartments near the city center and pay only a few hundred dollars.
For those who like to enjoy local cuisine, Colombia is a paradise offering a wide range of affordable restaurants and because of the exchange rate fine dining is available even to students on strict budgets. Groceries will cost even less in a market. Essentials like milk, bread, rice, eggs, fruits, and vegetables cost only a few dollars. Meat and cheese are slightly more expensive.
Colombian people have been called some of the happiest in the world. The culture reflects deep historical roots, combining Spanish traditions like Catholicism and pluralistic politics with ancestral native rituals. The cultures meet in common cuisines like arepa, a type of cornmeal bread served by itself or as an accompaniment. Another popular dish called bandeja paisa, a platter style feast of steak, pork, sausage, rice, and beans, is considered the national dish of Colombia and varies by region.
Things to Do
Visit Volcan Arenal, which is a volcano in central Costa Rica that still spurts out rocks of cooled lava that tumble down the sides. One peak is a verdant green from years of regrowth while the second is black from activity and recent eruptions. Guides will take visitors to a nearby (and safe location) to peer at the twin peaks through binoculars.
Monteverde Cloud Forest lets visitors skim across the green tops of mist and clouds as they zip line above the forest located on along Costa Rica’s continental divide. See the country’s biodiversity from a new view as you fly through the skies. Like your view at a slower speed? Walk across the many bridges that span the forest.
The Amazon Jungle attracts students, scientists, and enthusiasts year round to explore the mysteries amid its dense vines. In Bogota, roads close every Sunday, replacing car packed streets with hundreds of local cyclists in a community building event called Ciclovia. Medellin locals and tourists alike enjoy rides on the Metro Cable running across the valley of green hills surrounding the city. Colombians celebrate their culture, food, art, music, and national pride with festivals, fairs, and carnivals every month of the year.
Studying in Colombia
Universities are often heavily based on research, and love to take on students studying abroad. Students who have completed secondary school are also eligible to receive technical training for trade-specific careers opening doors to many students who probably didn’t know studying abroad was available to them.
The top universities in Colombia start with the National University of Colombia in Bogota. It has the largest offering of academic programs in the country and is considered the top university in the country. The University of the Andes, also in Bogota, is listed as one of the best private institutions in South America. It is the only private school in the country with national accreditation. In Medellin, the University of Antioquia boasts massive research facilities and is projected to surpass the rest of Colombia in research based programs.
Several housing options are available for students. Many popular schools have dormitories available to international exchange students. There are also many apartments for rent in metro areas, along with Colombian housing projects conveniently located close to many campuses. Even hotels are geared toward housing students and faculty who wish to rent rooms for long stays. There are many independent options but homestays are usually the most effective in terms of cultural immersion and include perks like: homemade meals, one-on-one conversations with locals, a homey feel, and added security.