Hello, my name is Kevin Finch, and I am currently a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This summer, I have decided to study Engineering in Barranquilla, Colombia and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My time abroad was very unique and interesting because I studied Engineering in a Spanish speaking country and I don’t even know Spanish. As you could imagine, it was very difficult for me to adjust considering that most of the time I didn’t understand most of the things that were said to me. Luckily for me, I had plenty of friends, that spoke Spanish very well, to rely on. And by the end of the month, I was able to do everything that was necessary to live there; such as, small talk with locals, ordering my own food, and speaking with taxi drivers.
Although the language barrier was very difficult to overcome, it was not my only obstacle. There were some instances that I have lived through that made me realize that I should pay attention and be more aware of my surroundings, especially while abroad. The best advice I can give is to break your big bills into smaller bills and be sure to use exact change when dealing with public transportation such as, buses and especially taxis.
One of the most important things to remember while abroad is that you will meet lots of friends and have lots of fun, but you cannot forget about your obligations and the main reason why you are there. I believe there needs to be a good balance between having fun and getting your work done, because it can be very easy to lose sight of that when you’re experiencing new things in a new country. The night life is both fun and dangerous so its best to travel in groups and stay safe because you never know what threats you may run into.
Other than meeting new friends, the excursions were the highlight of my trip. We visited Santa Marta and Cartagena, which are both extremely beautiful. In Santa Marta, we hiked thorough a jungle, which was also a tour, and at the end of the hike we arrived at a beach. It was honestly one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited. In Cartagena, we toured and visited the Walled City and on a separate trip we toured Palenque. My friends and I visited Palenque on a separate trip because Palenque is the first city to have freed slaves. Last and most certainly not least, we visited “Volcano Del Totumo”, which is a mud volcano. It may sound gross but do not let the name deter you from having fun while enjoying a delightful massage. Yes, I said it, a massage. Imagine a full-body mud mask along with a massage, that’s what the Totum Volcano is all about.
Kevin Finch is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and spent Summer, 2019 studying abroad in Barranquilla, Colombia through ISA.
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