We checked in on Alexander, who arrived in Colombia to co-teach English at the start of July, to hear about his first impressions of the culture he is immersed in.
Alexander was a member of the third group of teachers API sent off to Colombia this year to finish off the 2017 academic year.
There are now 23 international English teachers in the city of Monteria, there to support the national and regional educational initiative of strengthening the command of English of their youth in 18 schools across the region. Here’s what Alexander had to share:
How did your initial expectations and pre-conceived notions of the host culture before arriving compare to what you’ve experienced thus far? How have your first impressions of the country and its people changed since your arrival?
I wasn’t totally sure what to expect when arriving. The best advice that I gave to myself was to keep an open mind and not to assume anything. It’s a good thing, too, as Colombia – and Monteria specifically – is very different than the United States and other places I have visited. I did assume that the culture would be more similar to that of Argentina, however I have not found this to be true. I certainly think that Bogotá, being a large city, is similar in many ways to other large cities around the world. Monteria, however, is a city like I have never seen before. The people are incredibly nice and their lifestyle is foreign to me. Things move very slowly in Colombia. I certainly didn’t expect the weather to be quite so intense, and I see how the climate influences “costeño”, or coastal, culture and day to day life. I also didn’t expect that others would be so interested in us foreigners. I have met people who have never seen a foreigner before. My Colombian housemates have never really hung out with people from outside of the country. Their intrigue is entertaining, as they want to know everything about our culture and us. It’s a lot of fun to discuss our similarities and appreciate our differences.
Have you had any “only in Colombia” moments yet? These might be instances where you experienced or observed something that you wouldn’t be likely to see happen in the States.
I think that my best ‘only in Colombia’, or more specifically ‘only in el Caribe’ situation, as Colombia is very large, populated and diverse, has everything to do with water. Only here do people take 2-4 showers a day just to cool down and rinse off the inevitable sweat. Only here is it impossible to find running hot water. Only here do the cold showers actually feel amazing. Only here does the water turn off at night. Only here do you buy potable water in large sealed plastic bags, which are incredibly economical but at the same time an insane spill risk.
New Bedford, MA
University of Massachusetts, Amherst class of 2017/ BS in
Psychology, conc. Neuroscience
Travel, music, running, hiking, biking, reading, fitness
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
I have minor tutoring experience and have worked, primarily as a customer service associate for the University of Massachusetts, research assistant and volunteer, with people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities. During my undergraduate career, I studied at Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina for one semester. I have traveled for leisure to parts of Latin America, Europe, and the United States.
Why I’m going to Colombia:
This experience encompasses my passion for travel, adventure, the Spanish language and Latin American cultures. It feeds my desire to help others succeed, particularly those in underprivileged areas. I am drawn to Colombia for its unique history and geography and cherish the opportunity to work in such a fascinating place, to share my knowledge and experiences with others, and to contribute to the community there. I am eager to gain a broader global perspective and to help others do the same.
Alexander has made an appearance in the local newspaper as part of the new group’s welcome celebrations arranged by the city. Check it out!
API is currently accepting applications to teach in Colombia in 2018 with start dates in January/February and June/July. Speak to your Program Manager, Brittany, about the types of teaching placements that you can participate in next year: [email protected]