One Week in Medellín is all it takes
Luis is The Intern Group’s first scholarship recipient. He was born in the Dominican Republic and is a senior at Seton Hall University. He is studying a double major in Diplomacy and International Relations and Latin American Latino/Latina Studies. He speaks Spanish, English and French. He enjoys learning about other cultures and practicing foreign languages. His ultimate academic goal is to go to law school and excel, and afterwards become a compliance attorney. He is interested in U.S. Latino Literature as well as Latin American and Classic Spanish Literature. He is also interested in minority issues, particularly those involving matters of race and the Latino community.
It has been just one week since I arrived to Medellin, Colombia, and I can totally say I am in love with this city. There were three things I noticed within my first 48 hours here: 1) how gorgeous the weather is, 2) how nice people are, and 3) how clean the streets are. In addition, it did not take me long to notice how dynamic Medellin is; there are lots of recreational and cultural activities going on during the day.
During the week, most businesses and offices begin their functions at 8:00am; some start even earlier. In some universities the earliest section starts at 6:00am. This has been one of the most astonishing findings I have come in contact with, and it took me several minutes to overcome the shock. Can you imagine having a discussion about contemporary moral issues, the ethics of ethno politics, or comparative politics at 6am? It is very common for college students in the United States to stay up all night working on papers or preparing for major exams. But rest assured, you will not find a class discussion going on at 6:00am. This definitely makes the top 3 in my list of “The Most Interesting and Shocking Discoveries about Paisa Culture”. The other two probably would be how empty my bus rides to and from work are despite the rush hour of an overpopulated city, and the infinite number of motorcycles you will see strolling down the streets.
The people from Medellin are called “Paisas”. The roots of the term go as far back as colonial times. The term entails a strong sense of pride grounded on the outstanding performance of agricultural and merchant activities of the early people that inhabited the region. Most importantly, it connotes the world known kindness of the people from Medellin. Paisas are extremely helpful and well-mannered. For them, it is normal to greet you every time they see you, even if they encounter you three times within an hour. Or even more. There is always a “¿Cómo estás?” or a warm smile, making you feel welcome. To go overseas—or anywhere unknown for instance—is a huge step out of one’s comfort zone. So, one learns to appreciate feeling welcome in an unknown environment, whatever it may be.
My first week at work was very interesting. The ease to get around the city made the transition remarkably smooth. My host company welcomed me with open arms, which has made my adaptation quite pleasant. Everyone at my internship location was very happy to see a new face. But what really made an impact on me was that I was not alone, as there were other newly hired employees. As a matter of fact, many were other young Colombian interns who like me, will be a part of the company for a short period of time. We had our training and then an induction, which made it feel like a college commencement: we were taught, we received instructions of relevance to our tasks, and then we were released into the world. This made me feel included in the community and a part of something good and bigger than myself. And that felt very nice. I will never forget how excited I was to meet everyone and learn more about the company. I look forward to experiencing that feeling again when the time to join the workforce comes. And if I do not get that feeling on my first day, I guess that will be how I’ll know I have yet to find my place. So far, this experience has taught me that.
My colleagues are the nicest. One of the things I have come to appreciate the most is the ability to interact with other young people from other countries. The cultural exchange has been tremendous. My conversations with other youth has really broadened my perspective on a number of issues and has made me think about the way I am living my life. Further, I have learned to appreciate and be thankful for the opportunities that I have, like this one for example. I have learned to appreciate the work of others, and I have been able to see, yet again, how determination beats the most challenging obstacles.
As per my responsibilities within the company, I will be developing their code of ethics. The project is very interesting and important, which gives me great satisfaction. But at the same time, the pressure of defining what behaviors will be acceptable or not makes me somewhat nervous; something tells me that is the thrill of real life knocking on my door. In this project, the most challenging thing is to remain impartial. This has taught me that in a position like this, reason and critical thinking are the most useful tools. I have learned that objectivity is not a state of mind one aims to achieve, it is not a costume one can put on and take off at any given moment. Rather, it is a method of analysis that applies logic to the conflicting relationship between the interests of several parties, as to enable the observer to consider the elements of the relationship in the fairest manner possible, and bring harmony to the scenario. But often the very purpose of objectivity becomes the burden it has to prove. For each group, its propositions are true in and of themselves. Objectivity, nonetheless, seeks what is true for all.
Looking back at week one, I am surprised by the volumes of knowledge to which I have been exposed. If the remaining weeks of my stay here are going to be as loaded with lessons as my first week was, I think this experience will continue to enlighten me far beyond my departure. Week two has just begun, and I cannot wait to see what challenges it will bring. In a way, this experience is a boot camp; and I have a distinct feeling that by the end of it I will be in very good shape.
by Luis Rafael Sosa Santiago
Interested in experiencing Latin America like Luis has? Apply Now!