City Discovery: What You Didn’t Know About Barranquilla, Colombia

As part of the 2015 City Discovery Series, each week ISA will showcase a different location in which we have study abroad programs by highlighting the five parts of the Discovery Compass: Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional and Environmental. The Discovery Compass aims to help students have the best possible study abroad experience by helping them to gain a better understanding of the local environment, customs and people through a variety of experiences.

Discover Barranquilla!

Did you know that Barranquilla is home to the second largest Carnival celebration in the world? It takes place every year and is set to take place this year from February 14 – 17.

Barranquilla is home to some of Colombia’s most famous people, including Sofía Vergara, from the popular US television show, Modern Family, as well as the famous singer, Shakira. Shakira, who is highly involved charity, had a 15 foot statue of herself dedicated to her in Barranquilla by fans before a charity concert in 2006.

Here are some Discovery Compass activities in Barranquilla that you won’t want to miss:

Discovery Compass Barranquilla

Intercultural
Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

During an ISA included excursion to the Guajira Peninsula, experience a “Ranchería Night,” where the local Wayuu indigenous people perform songs, dance and share some of their regional specialty foods.

Get introduced to “buddy students” early in the semester. “Buddy students” are local Colombian students who help visiting students to get acclimated to the city and join in on cultural activities such as trips to soccer games, tours of the city and plenty more.

Carnival CelebrationHistorical
ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

Take a short bus ride west of Barranquilla to Cartagena de las Indias, one of the best-preserved colonial cities in all of Latin America.  Surrounded by an immense 16th century fortress wall, a walk through this colorful city will feel like a stroll back in time, with narrow cobblestone streets and buildings of all colors complimenting Cartagena’s many historical landmarks.

Just a few hours from Barranquilla lies La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) of Colombia.  Founded approximately 650 years before Macchu Picchu, this ancient city is so remote and well-hidden in the dense, mountainous jungle, that it was only rediscovered in the 1970s by treasure hunters searching for gold left behind by early civilizations.  At its prime, the city is believed to have been the political and manufacturing capital of the entire region and home to up to 8,000 members of the Tairona civilization that called Northern Colombia home until the Spanish conquests.

Sociopolitical
Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

Colombia is the oldest democracy in Latin America, having had free, uninterrupted political elections every four years for over a century.

Colombia has long been known for its drawn out internal dispute, but in the past decade has become a model to other countries looking to clean up their own internal conflicts.  While there is still work to be done, progress has been substantial and has gained international attention for its success and effectiveness.  Students studying Political Science and/or Latin American Studies could definitely learn a lot from Colombia’s tumultuous history and its efforts to overcome its less than stellar reputation.

Iglesia de San Nicolas De Tolentino

Professional
Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

The Universidad del Norte (UniNorte), where ISA students can enroll, one of the best universities in Colombia and one of the most modern in Latin America.  The university offers several courses with experiential learning, including a TESOL course with a community service component and UniVoluntarios, a service learning class that allows students to pick from one of over 50 community service organizations in Barranquilla with which to volunteer.

The UniNorte is one of the best ISA programs for STEM students looking to find courses that will apply to their major. Because they typically require very specific courses, STEM students often find study abroad to be difficult to do, the UniNorte offers several STEM subject courses in English and Spanish, not to mention the Civil, Electrical, Electronics, Industrial, Mechanical and Systems Engineering programs at the UniNorte that have been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.

Environmental
Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

Explore Colombia, one of 17 countries in the world designated as “Megadiverse.”  Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, behind only Brazil, which is 7 times bigger, making Colombia by far the most biodiverse per square kilometer!

Tayrona National ParkVisit Parque Tayrona, home to the world’s tallest coastal mountain range.  While hiking through the park, students will notice the absence of commercial building, which is not allowed in the park in order to protect its wildlife, as well as the interests of the indigenous Kogi people, who continue to live peacefully in the area, forgoing modernization in favor of their traditional ways.

To learn more about Barranquilla, visit ISA’s Barranquilla Culture Corner!