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Program Overview

Experience Colombia like a local.

Our Comparative program in Colombia begins in Medellín, studying Spanish language and culture and the issues facing a post-conflict society. It ends in Cartagena, continuing with Spanish and focusing on Afro-Caribbean history and Culture as well as Global Education with a development focus.

Along with these exciting and relevant courses that give a true picture of Colombia and Latin America, there are substantial opportunities for volunteer service in the community. Service-learning placements are organized at various NGOs, schools, and clinics.

Housing

Undergraduate college students will live in a homestay with a Colombian family both in Medellin and Cartagena. Bedrooms can be either single or double-occupancy and shared with a same-sex family member or other student. Full board is included. An integral part of the program, the homestay offers you the opportunity to make life-long friends, gain higher proficiency in the language, and experience the culture from the inside. All host families are carefully selected and experienced with hosting students. Instead of being a tourist, you’ll get to know what it’s like to be part of a different culture!

Graduate students have a choice of living in a homestay or living in Centro Catalina’s single or double dorm rooms.

Program Director:  Prof. Luis Carlos Arango

Eligibility

The program welcomes students of any nation who have a high school diploma or equivalent credential. TOEFL equivalent 550. No Spanish language requirement.

The Annual Flower Parade, Festival Of The Flowers, Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

Academics

The semester curriculum combines a Spanish Language & Culture course, Community Organizing and Social Activism in Colombia, and a Reflections and Practicum course with courses that examine issues that Colombia and its people are grappling with. All content courses are taught in English.

There are required courses and a choice of electives. Students can take up to 18 semester credits. All courses are taught at the 300 level or above (except for beginning Spanish which is at a 100 level) and they are 45 contact hours and 3 semester credits each.

COURSE OFFERINGS

Beginning to Advanced Spanish Language (Required)

Contact Hours: 45

Recommended U.S. Credits: 3 - 6

Community Organizing and Social Activism in Colombia (Required)

The focus of this course is to explore community organizing and social activism in Colombia with the goal of developing a practical tool set and a personal ethic of advocacy that can be applied across cultures. The course starts with an overview of social change institutions, explores the history and ethics of international service, and moves to the examination of social movements and advocacy efforts in Colombia. Students will learn the theories and practical realities of intercultural service-learning in a Colombian context. This course complements community service placements and helps students develop their global competence. Topics are examined through the prism of hands-on community service in Colombian NGOs and other non-profits and include intercultural communication, the mechanics of Colombian non-profits/NGOs, local civic engagement/advocacy efforts, and the exploration of civil society.

Contact Hours: 45

Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

From Escobar to Santos: Socio-Historical Perspectives on Modern Colombia (Elective)

It is impossible to talk about modern Colombia without examining the impact of the decades-long “narco-tráfico” – the narcotics trade that was at the center of Colombia’s political, economic, and social structures. The socio-political core of Colombia is what it is today, in part, because of the illegal drug trade. By the same token, Colombia is not the same country it was one generation ago when Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellín Drug Cartel, died. At the time one of the wealthiest men in the world, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria continues to engender strong opinions on all sides. Some of the nation’s most disadvantaged praise Escobar’s attention to the plight of the poor. Other Colombians – and foreigners – rightfully bring attention to the violence that was part of the drug trade. The years of “narco-tráfico” affected countless Colombians, and the history of this period is only starting to be discussed and researched. The first part of the course provides an overview of the history of the Colombian drug trade. We then look at the costs of narcopolitics in the developing world, in terms of corruption and violence. Next, we will shift our attention to the U.S. and examine both drug trafficking counter-narcotic efforts and the impact of the “War on Drugs.” The final part of the class will examine the effect of recent and proposed reforms on drug policies and, of course, the reconciliation processes that have brought stability, peace and economic growth to Colombia.

Contact Hours: 45

Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Conflict, Peace and Reconciliation: Colombia, South Africa, North Ireland and Rwanda (Elective)

This course provides a framework for exploring the comparative peace and reconciliation processes in four different regions: Northern Ireland, South Africa, Rwanda, and Colombia. It explores the meaning of political reconciliation, the role of forgiveness in politics, and the debates surrounding the creation of War Crime Tribunals, Truth Commissions, and Administrative Purges. Since Colombia is in a post-conflict society, this course will transcend theory. Through a series of meetings with researchers, policy makers, and diplomats, we will see how different countries have confronted legacies of violence and abuse of their citizenry. Examples include paths to peace in South Africa’s struggle after Apartheid, Northern Ireland’s attempt to end decades of sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants, Rwanda’s ethnic-centered violence, and Colombia’s return to peace after years of violence and intimidation as a result of the international narcotics trade.

Contact Hours: 45

Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Volunteer Service

As a service-learning participant in Medellin, Colombia, you'll have the opportunity to do volunteer work in one of several local agencies. We do our best to match your skills and interests to the placement, but please remember that the notion of service is, first and foremost, to respond to the needs of others. You will play a role not only by actively participating in a team, but also by enriching the projects and programs with your knowledge, experience, and hard work. Your impact on other people's lives will be powerful and sustainable, even if you don't see the results right away. Opportunities for substantive service (approximately 15 hours per week) are generally available in the following areas:

  • Migration / Displaced Persons (forced internal migration and conflicts)
  • Peace Process in Post Conflict Areas
  • Reconciliation Organization
  • Animal Welfare
  • Social Services
  • Education
  • The Elderly

The following are samples of some of the service opportunities that may be available.

Human Rights

Work with NGO's that have local and regional branches that are dedicated to the defense, promotion and protection of human rights and the fostering of respect for the civilian population. They aim to strengthen local organizations, promote and articulate the national social movement in the defense of human rights and the fight against impunity. They are active in Colombian Peace initiatives for a negotiated political solution to the conflict.

Social Services

Help assist the elderly and disabled with programs to provide comprehensive care through the promotion of health, the prevention of disease, and assistance and rehabilitation in order to help optimize their quality of life.

Work with organizations on a variety of fronts to better the lives of vulnerable Colombians through multiple projects to strengthen and service families. Research and education is at the forefront and they have projects ranging from:

  • street worker literacy

  • domestic worker's rights

  • family education for parenting and communication skills, etc. and more

Animal Welfare

Work with a non-profit entity that as been working to establish mechanisms for the coexistence of humans with animals. They strive to improve the quality of life of animals. The NGO runs a sterilization project in municipalities and remote regions of Colombia that do not have state support to address the problem of street pets. All volunteers are trained and students of veterinary medicine or veterinary assistant programs can assist as their knowledge and skills indicate. Volunteers with photography, videography, social media and marketing skills can use their talent to help capture the stories and spread the word of this organization’s work. And there is plenty of work to do for volunteers who just love animals!

Environmental and Science Education

Work with a foundation that established a multi acre “Explorer Park” in the heart of Medellin for the purpose of educating people of all ages about technology, science, the environment, conservation, sustainability and how to protect our world. With multi-layered areas replicating the natural diversity of Colombia, visitors can build a desire to protect our natural resources through experiential education. The Foundation also leads a program that teaches Scientific and Technological competencies to students and teachers of basic and secondary school.

Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

Work with an NGO that strives to create public and private partnerships with volunteering, training and education. The business sector has knowledge and assets that it can share with educational institutions and entrepreneurs to improve their activities. This is a program of corporate volunteering to mobilize the capabilities of companies, and support teachers, managers, students and young entrepreneurs.

Things to Do

Travel is an essential part of studying abroad. Taking knowledge from the classroom and applying it through direct engagement allows for greater cultural understanding. Medellin's natural beauty and surrounding environment is perfect for adventures in hiking, horseback riding and travels through lush jungles.

A guided tour of the dynamic city of the dynamic city of Medellín will start off your experience. This capital city in the mountains of Colombia holds many adventures, and you and your group will get a taste of its artistic and cultural history.

Students in Colombia may also work with program staff on-site to arrange for independent travel to other areas of Colombia. As with all travel, weather and other hindrances can affect the exact destinations of excursions. In such cases, program staff make every effort to find suitable replacement itineraries.