Scholarship winner and current intern Tyler has some words of wisdom about life in Colombia, ranging from food to the misconceptions about the city based on Narcos.
1. City of Fashion
One thing I wish I had known before coming on my internship abroad, is that Medellin is the Colombian city of fashion! Paisas are big on shopping, and within El Poblado alone, there’s probably a shopping facility around every second corner. What I love most about shopping in Medellin, is that the malls have a mix of chains, such as Forever 21, and Colombian stores which you couldn’t find anywhere else. I only wish I didn’t pack so much on my way here, because with all the shopping I’m doing, I will likely have to pay for my baggage on my way back.
2. The food
Much like many common stereotypes about life in Colombia, I assumed food in Medellin would be overly spicy. I am happy to report that it is the exact opposite. If you’re looking for spicy food here, then your best bet is going to a Mexican restaurant. Nevertheless, Colombian food is tastefully flavored, and I have only come across one person so far who doesn’t enjoy the traditional Bandeja Paisa dish. In the off chance that you get bored of this (highly unlikely), Medellin has an array of other cuisines within and outside of the El Poblado area.
3. Medellin is NOT Narcos, and Narcos is NOT Medellin
Too many people I know have made passing comments about the popular Netflix show Narcos, whenever I mention that I am interning in Colombia. Personally, I haven’t watched Narcos, but I have heard a lot about it and its misconceptions about life in Colombia now. It’s important to remember that the show is just that – a show. Yes, it is based on real truths, but some important truths are left out. Narcos is dramatized and crucially, it is in the past. It is inappropriate and offensive to only think about Hitler at the mention of Germany, just as it is offensive to merely associate Colombia with Pablo Escobar. This beautiful country has moved on, and has a lot more to offer.
This article further explains what I’m talking about.
Although coffee is one of Colombia’s biggest exports, not all Colombians are crazy about it and/or drink it 24/7. This is another popular misconception about life in Colombia. However, I live for coffee, and after a trip to the coffee region here, I think it´s a shame that the rest of Colombia isn’t as coffee crazed as I am. Hands down, I had the best coffee on my trip to the coffee region! I actually got to see a local coffee farmer go through the entire process of making a cup of coffee from his own farm.
5. Medellin is not as dangerous as is often thought
“Don’t carry any of your nice things, they will all get stolen.”
“If you’re a foreigner, you’ll get kidnapped.”
“Never walk on the street alone, unless you want to get mugged.”
These are just a few snippets of the advice I got when I was preparing to come to Medellin. I am not going to lie that some of these comments are not completely true. Within the first few weeks it can all feel very true because as a foreigner, people will stare at you, which can sometimes be uncomfortable. But that doesn’t automatically make you a target. If you go to any new city or country and are not careful with your belongings, then it’s likely that someone will pick up on this and target you. This is true in almost every new place you go and it is not Colombia specific though.
Yes I have heard stories of people who have been mugged. I’ve also heard stories of other interns and indeed people who have lived here all of their lives, who have never been mugged or robbed.
Yes, there are parts of Medellin that you shouldn’t attempt to go to, especially as a foreigner. But that’s also true of any other city.
Additionally, thanks to The Intern Group, we are placed in one of the safest areas of the city. It is unlikely that you would have to experience this. Therefore, Medellin is as dangerous or as safe as you make it! Use your common sense and keep your ears on the ground!
Photos by Tyler Ayah