I’ve had a busy week here in Bogotá. Fulbright prepared an extensive orientation for us that expanded well beyond grant terms and official welcomes. We’ve had sessions on a multitude of topics including: intercultural communication, teaching approaches, gender and diversity, politics, practical info about living in Colombia, security, and the history of FARC (the major guerrilla group in Colombia). Each of these sessions has been led by people who live and work in Colombia, all of whom are extremely knowledgeable. I have met people from the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ICETEX (a partner of Fulbright Colombia), the U.S. embassy and nearby universities in addition to spending time with my fellow Fulbright ETA’s and researchers, all of whom are amazing. Fulbright also brought in Citibank representatives who helped us set up our Colombian bank accounts and provided us with a city tour that included the Gold Museum and a walk through the historic district of Bogotá. At an event that ICETEX hosted, I had a chance to meet some ICETEX language assistants from other countries, some of whom will also be in Tunja.
This week has been affirming for me. Last fall, I conducted an ethnographic study on academic classroom culture in Colombia in addition to researching Colombian culture outside the classroom. Everything I learned during that time has been confirmed by what I have been told here. Obviously, in moving to a more rural region, things may be slightly different there, but I am confident that I am as prepared as I am going to be.
Although this week has exciting, it has also felt somewhat strange. I feel like I am in a twilight zone somewhere in between the U.S. and Colombia. Because I am surrounded by bilingual Americans and Colombians in a hotel that caters to tourists, I have yet to feel fully immersed in the culture. Some things are distinctly Colombian and I have spoken a lot of Spanish, but I still sometimes forget that I am in a foreign country. It’s been a good transition period, but it also feels weird. As of tomorrow, all of this will change. I’ll be in Tunja, independent and surrounded by mostly Colombians. I’m really excited to unpack and actually begin what I came here to do.
Don’t forget to click on the blue link to see a couple photos of Bogotá!