Colombia #3: An Unforgettable Experience

Adaugo ’24 and Mariam ’24, share a reflection of  their time spent with students from Alianza Educativa.

We got up early this morning, before the sun rose. There were already cars and people outside. With a long day ahead of us, it was a bit of a hassle to wake up at 5:00am. However, part of immersing yourself into a culture is by experiencing normal days of the people in that community. In Colombia, the people wake up very early in order to get to certain places on time, because the traffic is busy. We woke up early to have the unique experience of visiting a school in Ciudad Bolivar called Alianza Educativa. In doing so, we felt a little bit of what the Colombians who needed to get somewhere on time in the morning experienced.

Red-eyed and yawning we entered the campus and were immediately greeted by students eager to see us. Their energy mirrored the sentiment felt by the rest of the 2,000 students in the school. The five hours we were there was a whirlwind. In every corner, we were encountered by many inquisitive faces curious to learn about our lives in America, our views on Colombia, and they shared information on the country that no tourist guide would reveal. The overwhelming nature of retelling every aspect of my life in Spanish was a bit exhausting at times, but I left the school with a better grasp on daily life in Bogota and a sense of Colombian hospitality and generosity when interacting with foreigners.

-Adaugo ’24

It’s difficult to explain how our experience at the Alianza Educativa felt, so I will simplify it to three emotions: surprise, happiness, and realization. 

It started with surprise. We were greeted within Colombian dance and music, performed with talent and passion. I was overwhelmingly grateful that the people at Alianza Educativa shared these aspects of their culture with us. We were then given guides: two students each to help and show us around their school. These students were kind, welcoming, and had great sense of humor. They loved to share parts of their culture and lives with us in exchange for answers to various questions such as “do you know Mr. Beast?” and “how do you say ____ in English?”. 

Then followed happiness. Through this experience, I formed friendships with my guides and other students I met in class or in the halls in just 5 hours. They were just as excited to get to know us as we were them. They taught us common Colombian phrases and slang like “chimba” which means “cool” in Colombia, as well as handshakes, hand signals, and dances like the salsa and joropo. My mouth hurt from smiling too much. 

Lastly, came realization. The harsh reality that there was a slight chance of ever seeing these people again, whom I now consider my friends. This was an unforgettable experience, and I’m glad I had the chance to meet wonderful people who are very proud of their culture along the way. 

It is clear there are differences between the school in Bolivar and Deerfield Academy. For one, Deerfield is a private school and Alianza Educativa is a public school. The students at Alianza Educativa were not exposed to the same privileges we have, such as new and extensive sports facilities. A lot of the students’ goals were to graduate high school, something that our community at Deerfield considers one step of many in life. This experience provided us with a moment of realization of the privilege we have of going to a school like Deerfield. 

When we left the school at noon, we added another knot to our bracelets. 

-Mariam ’24