I strongly believe it is an intense and enriching experience that everyone should have at least once in life!
My AIESEC story in Colombia started at the end of September 2019. I decided to apply to a project only a few weeks before leaving and everything went very fast! Once I was accepted to one of the AIESEC opportunities I applied to, I did not reflect too long on it. I arranged some meetings and skype sessions, booked my flight and here I was!
Arriving in Colombia
I landed in Colombia, very far from home and from everything I knew, with only myself and my backpack… Fortunately, some AIESEC members and my host family were waiting for me with a giant Colombian flag! The first days were quite hard because I was feeling completely lost and tired because of the language, the cultural shock, the jetlag and so on. But once I got used to this new environment, time flew by fast! I had a wonderful time in Colombia: I met great people, learned many new things, and discovered an amazing country and culture.
I was a volunteer in a small NGO called Red Cuna which is concerned with the welfare of children and elderly from vulnerable social groups. They created a community and now develop diverse activities with more than 40 children every day after school and with the elderly every Saturday afternoon. They also promote environmental awareness and use recycled materials in their workshops.
A typical day in Bogota
Every day starts with Latino music around 5 am in the apartment. My host siblings Camila, Jeronimo, and Manolo start school at 6 am and Monica goes to the gym very early as well. I start work at 2 pm, so I like to wake up at around 8. An arepa with cheese, sausages and eggs is waiting for me in the kitchen.
Today, we are visiting the national museum with Magdalena, the volunteer from Poland working for the same NGO as me. I live in a suburb, which means that I have to go to the bus stop and hope for the best there, as there is no schedule telling me when the busses leave. The bus ride lasts around 30 minutes to get to the Transmilenio station where I have to take another bus for 45 minutes, or maybe more depending on the crazy city traffic.
There are many people, and I have to be very careful with my bag and my phone. After the visit to the museum, we get a cheap typically Colombian lunch and walk to Red Cuna, which is located in a very nice, touristic area called La Candelaria. When we arrive, we say hello to Jairo, his wife, and his daughter, and then spend 45 minutes preparing what we have to do with the kids today (or, to be entirely honest, cuddling the cat).
Volunteering for Red Cuna
The 30 children arrive after school around 2:30 or 3 pm, all of them say “Hola profe” and give me a hug. While waiting for everyone to arrive, I talk with some children from Venezuela who just arrived in Colombia and they tell me about the situation in their country. We play some games and I look at these kids and their smiles. They try to teach me and Magdalena some Spanish. Twice a week, we give some English classes and the other days we go to the park, make some crafts or do other activities.
We’re there to help Jairo and his wife, the founders of the NGO.
At 5 pm, I leave Red Cuna and walk to the bus station… The crowd, the noise, the polluted air of the city and the long way back home are very tiring but when I arrive, the family is waiting for me with dinner, usually some sandwiches or more arepas. They go to bed around 9 so I am usually chilling in my room during the evening and write about my day in my journal.
Memories for life
After this wonderful six-weeks project in Bogota, I travelled around Colombia for a month and it was absolutely amazing! I learned so many things during this experience, and I will have great memories for the rest of my life. Thankfully, I met many lovely people which I hope I will have the chance to see again, I learned a lot about myself and my strengths, I gained self-confidence, I improved my Spanish, I took some time to reflect about what was the most important things for me and about what I wanted to achieve. I strongly believe it is an intense and enriching experience that everyone should have at least once in life!
This post was written by AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth.