13 January 2022

Two years in Colombia

Alumni Stories

Supported by the PMSLA, University of Canterbury graduate Stuart Robinson will spend two years in Colombia studying business and learning about the local culture. Read about his highlights so far.

After a short trip to Argentina four-and-a-half years ago, I knew that I had found a special place in the world. I love New Zealand and it will always be home, but I had to get back to South America. This love affair had originated from an attraction to the culture, the people and the unique energy of life there. It was a certain vibrance; an addictive rawness and excitement that had changed the way I looked at the world.

Many years later, whilst completing my final year of a mechatronics engineering degree at the University of Canterbury, I started to look for a way I could return and continue studying, working or volunteering. I was eventually recommended the PMSLA which, paired with a Master of International Business programme in Colombia, seemed like the perfect fit.

I have been living in Medellín which is Colombia’s second largest city. It has been titled ‘The City of Eternal Spring’ due to its consistent, warm weather all year round and I can quite happily confirm the reputation. Other lesser known facts about the city are that it was voted The World’s Most Innovative City in 2013 and is often said to have the best sounding Spanish dialect in the world. The city has a plenty to offer with regular cultural events, a plethora of places to dance (salsa, reggaeton, bullerengue and kizomba are all very common here), language exchanges, history tours and a bustling nightlife. Quite possibly my favourite aspect about the place though is that you are always close to the mountains. If you feel like taking a break from city life there’s a bunch of trails and waterfalls to explore that rival a Kiwi bushwalk any day of the week.

My university has also exceeded my expectations. Universidad EAFIT has a comfortable sized campus with extremely modern facilities that are new, clean and equipped with everything you’d expect. The staff are incredibly friendly, and the lecturers have all done a fantastic job teaching me about international business. I spend most of my time there as it is very close to home, located on the edge of the popular El Poblado district which acts as the city centre of restaurants, bars and hotels.

Stuart at Machu Picchu.

I’ve also had a lot of opportunities to see Colombia’s hotspots. I have spent time in the capital of Bogotá, explored the coffee region of Salento, travelled all over the north coast to Santa Marta and Cartagena, dove into some full language immersion by volunteering at a hotel in Cali for three weeks and taught English for three weeks in a small mountain village. There is still much to see and learn in this country and I’m looking forward to seeing what awaits in the year to come. I’m now one year down and, with one more year to go, I couldn’t be happier to head back over to Colombia to tackle 2019. I’ve learnt an incredible amount during my time in South America and the way I will approach the rest of my life has been shaped by my experiences here. I have travelled all over South America, learned an incredible amount about international business, become almost fluent in Spanish and made some extremely good friends.

I am exceedingly grateful to the PMSLA for this opportunity and I would advise anyone out there who might be considering something like this to start investigating what’s out there. With the upcoming FTA agreement between New Zealand and the Pacific Alliance (Perú, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia) there are going to be many more opportunities to bridge the Pacific and connect our little country with the behemoth of South America. It’s an exhilarating period of time and I invite you all to come and take part in the next stage of the journey.

Students at the Colombian school where Stuart taught English.

This story was first published on enz.govt.nz on 14 January 2019.

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