Universidad de Los Andes

Maria’s Arrival to Colombia

Maria LoaizaHola parceros!

Arriving to a new place for the first time is an experience that can be told in many different ways, depending on every individual. Today we will be looking at Maria’s experience once she arrived in Colombia for the first time. Maria is one of our former Public Health 2018 students and here is what she told us:

“While planning my trip, I spent a lot of time googling Bogotá. I also spent a lot of time fact-checking what I read on the internet with my mom, who spent her entire life in Medellin, about 400 km away. Though I was born in Medellin, my parents and I moved to the U.S. when I was very young, so I had about a month to learn everything there was to know about Colombia to make up for the 16 years I didn’t spend here. I looked up weather reports, crime rates, popular tourist destinations, anything I could think of. As my plane broke through the clouds on June 9th and I got a good look at the city for the first time, I thought I knew exactly what I would see once I was able to explore Bogotá a bit. I was wrong.

One of the first things to really surprise me was how big the city is. It’s easy to look up facts about the size of Bogotá, but the way Bogotá sprawls out from the surrounding mountains and establishes itself as a busy hub is truly hard to describe using just words. I found that even pictures of the city didn’t do it justice. The city I grew up in Florida has approximately 7,975,000 fewer people than Bogotá does, so its sheer size took me by surprise and was a little intimidating when I first arrived. However, I found that though there are millions of people moving about in the city at any given time, there is generally a very welcoming atmosphere here. The aroma of the food on the street, the music that’s always being played from somewhere, and the Spanish being spoken by everyone around me put me at ease.

Something else I didn’t realize before arriving was that it’s impossible to really know a city without seeing it for yourself. It’s difficult to get a feel for a city like Bogotá without feeling for yourself the living, breathing culture that moves in-between everything and everyone here. For example, before I got to the city, I read that the weather is a bit unpredictable. What I couldn’t have known about is the common and shared mild annoyance at the weather, something I saw for myself as I stood in the Plaza Bolívar one day as the sun came out. Almost everyone around me rolled their eyes at the incoming sunshine and simultaneously took off their jackets to enjoy the ten minutes of sun before the clouds took it away again. At that moment, I could feel a connection between the hundreds of people in that plaza and myself. I felt their pride in belonging to such a beautiful country and I started to feel at home, too. I realized that as many images as I saw before I arrived, there is simply an underlying beauty to the rhythm of Bogotá that exists but remains unseen.

You won’t find a clear description of that before you get here, and even though I’ve been in Bogotá for two weeks now, it’s hard to put the feeling into words. The city’s been incredibly welcoming, eager to continue sharing its splendour and secrets with visitors like me, and I’m so glad the excellent first impressions I’ve had of Bogotá have not let me down.”


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