What My ISA Scholarship Allowed Me to Experience Abroad in Colombia

Winning the Castañeda Scholarship allowed me to take advantage of some amazing opportunities while studying abroad, the most remarkable being the chance to explore Colombia and learn about its rich biodiversity and history in the process.

The three main places I was able to explore and learn about thanks to the Castañeda Scholarship were Tayrona National Natural Park, Cartagena, and Medellín. Though we went to Tayrona and Cartagena with ISA in the beginning of the semester, I was able to return and experience these extraordinary places in greater depth.

In Tayrona, I had the chance to observe the diverse and plentiful flora and fauna, including various types of palm trees, cacti, birds, monkeys, and lizards. On each path I walked, there were signs describing the plants and animals that one might see; I found this to be very interesting and a great opportunity to learn more about Tayrona’s biodiversity!

Tayrona National Natural Park

A Tití Cabeciblanco monkey in Tayrona Park. Photo credit: Lulo Colombia Travel Agency.
titi monkey is endemic to Colombia and is an endangered species. Photo: Heather Rath
Titi monkey is endemic to Colombia and is an endangered species. Photo: Heather Rath.

In Cartagena, I was able to explore the Castillo de San Felipe, an incredible military structure complete with tunnels, cannons, lookouts, and multiple levels spiraling up to the very top. At the top, there is a 360 view of the historical buildings of the walled city, the modern towers of Boca Grande, and of course, the Caribbean Sea. The Spanish built this castillo, in addition to the famous wall surrounding the city, in order to protect themselves from English attacks.  The military structures throughout the city of Cartagena are extensive and strategic; it was incredible to learn about and experience the Spanish and military influences of Cartagena.

Castillo de San Felipe 

Castillo de San Felipe
The outside of El Castillo de San Felipe.
A stunning view of Boca Grande from the top of El Castillo de San Felipe, complete with the Colombian Flag.

In Medellín, I had the chance to explore the city and learn about its history, art, architecture, and nature. I went into detail about these experiences in one of my previous blog posts.

A couple hours outside of Medellín lies Guatape, one of my favorite ecological and cultural sites that I was able to experience. In Guatape, we climbed 600+ steps up El Peñol, a gigantic rock, to get a stunning 360 view of the region’s lakes and islands. We were also able to visit the village of Guatape, a colorful and picturesque town. It is characterized by its hilly streets lined with vibrantly colored houses and shops, each charming and unique.


A typical, colorful and hilly street in the Village of Guatape.
A typical, colorful and hilly street in the Village of Guatape.
A breathtaking view of Guatape's Lake and islands from the top of El Peñol.
A breathtaking view of Guatape’s Lake and islands from the top of El Peñol.
Me, happy to have made it to the top of El Peñol. Photo credit: Michael Morales

Without the Castañeda Scholarship, I would not have been able to experience these remarkable places and learn so much about Colombia’s historical and ecological richness. I am forever grateful for the amazing learning and travel opportunities that the Carlos E. Castañeda Scholarship allowed me during my time in Colombia.

Brittany Mettrick is a student at The College of St. Rose and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barranquilla, Colombia.

The world awaits…discover it.

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