Full Chévere: A Q&A on Life as a Study Abroad Student in Colombia

Justin with ISA Barranquilla Resident Directors.

ISA Site Specialist Justin Maniar weighs in about his recent site visit to ISA’s program in Barranquilla, Colombia. Here are a few questions we posed to him to learn more about his visit to ISA’s newest site in South America.

What was your favorite aspect of Colombian culture?

The approach to time and to enjoying life. Not everything has to run perfectly on time and time doesn’t dictate our lives. If it takes me a little longer to get somewhere, that’s okay, because I am enjoying what I am doing in the present moment. People live in the now, instead of anticipating what’s to come. Also, people are just super friendly.

Did you pick up any uniquely Colombian words or expressions?

Qué chévere means how cool. People use it all the time in Colombia. Also, they say the English word “full” a lot. As in Es full bacano, indicating that something’s very nice/cool. You could even say something is full chévere. Here, ‘Full” can basically be used in place of muy (very).

ISA students study at the Universidad del Norte. What’s it like?

It’s the kind of place you can stay all day and not need to leave. The UniNorte is large and there are lots of open green spaces, just a really pleasant environment overall. The buildings are modern and they’re equipped with top of the line technology. There are computer labs, a room where you can sit in recliners and watch movies on personal flat-screen TVs, a gaming room, etc. There are five restaurants, several stores and many places just to lounge about between classes. It really has a great feel to it. I could have just sat and soaked up the university environment there all day. Oh yeah, and the local students are really friendly and enjoy meeting international students, which is awesome!

How did you like the food? What was your favorite dish you tried?

Trying the food is always my favorite part of visiting any country, and Colombia did not disappoint. I’d start my day with a traditional Colombian breakfast: arepas [similar to thick corn tortillas] filled with cheese, yucca and chicharrones [fried pork rinds] accompanied by a piping hot cup of Colombian cafe. That was a tasty breakfast. Other must-tries include chuzo desgranado, sancocho and in Barranquilla especially, the fresh fish.

Also, the fruit! Don’t even get me started about the fruit in Colombia. It was all fresh, sweet and juicy and tasted incredible. With that being said, though, I probably couldn’t talk much more about them even if I wanted to, as I didn’t recognize nearly half of the fruit of I ate.

And last but not least, did you pick up any new dance moves?

Unfortunately for all those involved, yes. There’s a video that exists of me doing said dance moves, but I’m not going to show you that.