When I chose to study abroad in Barranquilla, Colombia I considered everything under the sun from the potential risks to the benefits of exploring a non-traditional study abroad location.
My final decision to study abroad in Colombia was made based on the reputation for natural beauty along the Caribbean and hiking in the mountains. My decision to study abroad in Colombia was based on the reputation of the people as some of the most welcoming and friendly. My decision to study abroad in Colombia was based on a desire to learn more about a country that many know nothing about.
Though when I decided that I would spend my next 5 months in Colombia, it did not even occur to me how important it would be to feel like Barranquilla is my home.
When traveling to the beautiful historic city of Cartagena de Indias for the weekend I came to a realization. Barranquilla does not have the romantic atmosphere of Cartagena, and it is not nearly as beautiful or touristic.
The hidden blessing of Barranquilla is that it feels like home. When I am here, I experience Colombian culture in a way that would not be possible in Cartagena, where English and tourists are much more prevalent. While Cartagena is without a doubt more beautiful than Barranquilla it is a city to visit, not a city where I would want to live.
Besides during the weekend of Carnaval, Barranquilla is not what a traveler may consider a destination city in Colombia. There are not many landmarks to see or unique quirks that would draw people in from all over the world.
Barranquilla is the biggest city on the Caribbean that has small hole-in-the-wall restaurants along its streets, Caribbean beaches within 15 minutes of city limits and if you are coming from the northern United States like me, it’s a break from winter with balmy 90 degree temperatures every day.
Barranquilla, Colombia is a place to live, and while studying abroad here I can easily visit the cities of Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena or go hiking in Santa Marta. When making my choice I never realized how important it would be to be able to feel comfortable and not feel like a tourist. I am slowly mastering everyday tasks, like navigating the loosely organized public transportation system, and I know with each day I study here I’ll learn more of these cultural intricacies. I am proud that in June I will get to say that Barranquilla, Colombia was my home for 5 months.
When comparing cities and countries for an abroad program. find a city that you will want to call home. Take a look at Barranquilla, because while it may not have the historic architecture of Spain or the reputation of Buenos Aires, I can guarantee that you will not regret the opportunity to live and explore in Colombia.
The world awaits…discover it.