Last May, I had the unforgettable experience of studying abroad in Colombia for two weeks as a part of a course on Food Security and Sustainable Development. This program was run as a joint partnership between Purdue and two Colombian Universities, Universidad Technológica de Pereira and Universidad de Caldas, and what ultimately made me decide to choose this program was that students from all three schools participated in it together. It was a lot of fun getting to know the Colombian students, and although a language barrier did exist between us sometimes, it proved to be a really great opportunity to brush up on some of my very rusty Spanish skills and get to know more about Colombian culture from a more direct perspective. The first week of the course took place in the city of Pereira, the second week in the city of Manizales, and then a third week was spent back in the United States on Purdue’s campus. The curriculum of this course was focused around how we can find balance between supplying the needs of our ever-growing global population while ensuring the vitality of our planet’s natural resources and biodiversity. While in Colombia, we visited several agricultural operations, including a coffee plantation, a cacao farm, and a family farm used for subsidence, and then later we compared their productivity and their effects on the environment to large-scale monocultures commonly found in the United States. My favorite part of the trip was exploring Colombia’s beautiful natural landscapes and seeing some amazing wildlife. Colombia has the second highest level of biodiversity and the most species of birds out of any country on Earth. Both Pereira and Manizales are located in the Andes Mountains with an ecological region that intersects tropical rainforest and the mountain highlands, which gave us the opportunity to visit several incredible national parks such as Otún Quimbaya and Parque de Los Nevados. We also had a lot of fun sight-seeing in our host cities and their neighboring villages, relaxing in mountain hot springs, trying Colombian cuisine, and playing soccer!
This was hands-down the coolest trip I’ve ever gone on and I personally hope to study abroad again this summer through another program as well!