Emily Arroyo – Colegio Anglo Colombiano, Colombia
Nearly two weeks ago, I arrived in Bogotá, Colombia. Though I have not been here very long, the entire experience has been amazing. Colombia and Colegio Anglo Colombiano (my school) are extremely different from back home. At first, I was really nervous because of the language barrier and because I was going to be the only exchange in our grade at the time. My classmates were more than welcoming: using English when I was not understanding them, helping me communicate with some of my teachers, and teaching me their culture. I never expected that I would be so sad that my exchange was on the shorter end.
Bogotá is nothing like I thought it would be. The streets are jam packed with cars and people drive extremely aggressively. On my way home from the airport, I was hanging on to my seat for dear life. Here, they tend not to wear seat belts in the back seats, so they tuck in those seat belts and buckles. Also, they have a license plate driving law for non-‐holiday weekdays. Cars with license plates that end with an even number can only drive on those weekdays if they are an even-numbered day, while on weekdays that are odd, only odd-numbered license plates can drive from 6 to 8 am and from 3 to 7:30 pm in all of Bogotá except the city’s center (where the restriction is between the hours of 8 am to 7:30 pm). The government’s intent is to lessen the amount of cars on the city’s roads. For me, it just means that there is a 1 in 4 chance of me knowing which car we are taking to school that day.
One of my favorite parts of the culture here is that people spend a lot of time outside of school with their friends. My host and I have gotten together after school with friends at least three days a week and one day on the weekends. We have less homework here, so it allows us to spend time with one another on school nights. I love it because it gives me more of an opportunity to get to know people and develop relationships outside of the academic setting.
As I mentioned earlier, life at Colegio Anglo Colombiano (the Anglo) is quite different from Athenian. One of the most prominent differences is that at the Anglo is that we wear a uniform. In the younger grades they wear a sweat suit, but the rest of us wear a fairly sophisticated uniform. For girls, it consists of black shoes, a white dress shirt, a green sweater, white socks/gray leggings, a gray skirt, green blazer and a green-striped tie. The color of the stripe on your tie depends on which house you are in: Hood, Beatty, Nelson, or Rodney. Your house is either assigned randomly, or you are placed in the same house as your siblings and/or your parent(s) if one of them attended Colegio Anglo Colombiano. The boys, however, wear gray pants instead of the skirt, a black belt, and dark socks. Students can also wear scarves when it is cold, so long as they are Anglo green, gray, or white. One of the unique things about the Anglo’s uniform is that seniors have a slightly different uniform. Every year, the students design their own set of outwear with their class symbol, which they are allowed to wear instead of the sweater and blazer. For example, this year the senior class symbol is a pineapple and they had their own senior jacket, cardigan, and hoodie. At first I found it frustrating that I had to wear a tie because I do not like things touching my neck, but over time I actually learned that I prefer a uniform.
We refer to all the staff as Miss and Mister, which was quite odd for me because I expected to be calling all my teachers Profesor and Profesora. However, like Athenian, we also call people by their first names following the Miss and Mister. The hardest part is definitely the language barrier. Mostly all the students speak Spanish. Even some of my classes are in Spanish: Theory of Knowledge, ECL (Colombian History), and P.E. Some of the faculty and staff have very limited, if any, English ability. For example, I have to order my lunch in Spanish and when I went to Security to get my carnet I had to communicate with them solely in Spanish. The Anglo is a day school and has students from pre-kindergarten to 11th grade. 11th grade here is the equivalent of our 12th grade in the U.S. The grades are also fairly large in comparison to ours. There are approximately 130 people in my year.
Last weekend, I was able to go sightseeing with most of my host family. We went to la Catedral del Sal. It is a Roman Catholic Church that was built in a salt mine for the miners to pray for their protection in their work.
We also went to Mount Monserrate, where we took a cable car up a mountain near the center of Bogotá. It is about about 3,152 meters above sea level at the top and you can see a large portion of the city. There is alto a church located at the top.
I even got to go to a restaurant named Andres where they serve traditional Colombian food. It is considered a party restaurant. The workers would dance during certain times, some workers who were dressed in animal suits walked around and purposely bothered you, and they even threw lots of confetti everywhere. It is a fairly large restaurant that hosts many events like birthdays and even transforms into a club-‐like scene only for adults at night.
So far, my exchange has been fantastic. I am not ready to return home and I am looking forward to what the rest has in store for me.