Halfway Point

August 8, 2018 | Ashley, International Development and Globalization, Mines Action Canada, Colombia, Colombian Campaign Against Landmines, Program Support Officer

I have reached the halfway point of my 12 week internship in Bogota, and already I have had a gained so much practical experience in the field of International Development. With this internship course I am completing my third year of International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa, and I feel fortunate to have has the opportunity to put into practice all the skills and knowledge I have gained thus far. It is a completely different experience to sit through a lecture and discuss development theories in comparison to being in a developing country working towards a development goal. You get the chance to explore your own thoughts and ideas as you will be able to make your own conclusions and form powerful questions about how the development process is playing out in the host country.

Learning about global poverty and development barriers in such a developed country like Canada, sometimes makes it different to really get a hold on what the reality of day to day life for people living in the Global South is really like. Since I have begun this internship, I have had many eye opening experiences that have proved to me that Colombia has come so far from the prototype of “conflict-plagued” South American country that it has a reputation for in Western media and news outlets.

Yes, Colombia does have a violent history with decades of civil conflict and yes, it was struck hard by the War on Drugs that occurred several years ago. But in present day Colombia, people enjoy one of the most stable economies and democracies in the South American region. The average Colombian enjoys a relatively good standards of life as monthly incomes are usually enough to pay for rent, groceries and supporting a family. The threat of violence is not as eminent as it was a few decades ago, as homicide rates and kidnapping rates have dramatically decreased. With this being said, Colombia does still face serious development barriers; absolute and moderate poverty can be seen throughout the country’s major cities, high levels of income inequality, stratification of Colombian society, undeveloped roads in rural towns, a lack of trust in the electoral system, and street crime rate has actually increased within the past few years.

I have come to the realization that there is not always a clear division between the “development” of the Global North and the “underdevelopment” in the Global South. The identification of a country as developed or not fails to encompass the holistic social, economic and political aspects within that society which may each be measured to varying extents.

Although I have gained invaluable practical experience in my program, I have also undergone growth on a personal level. Back home in Canada, I still live with my mom so these past few months have been my first time on my own…and in a whole different country. With this being said, it is clear that I have had to learn a lot in terms of being on my own and away from home. This includes getting used to a new transportation system, finding my way around the city, becoming familiar with banking system, and in general, day to day life here in Bogota. Thankfully, Colombian people have been so friendly and are always quick to offer a helping hand to tourists. Moreover, my coworkers at the Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas have been supportive by making sure that we are okay with our living accommodations and they have even shown us many restaurants close to where we work. Colombians definitely live up to their reputation of being very warm and hospitable people.

The first day that I began working with the Campaign, I was utterly shocked by the amazing view that the office had of Bogota, as it is located on the 13th floor of the spectacular KLM building. For my first few days here, I couldn´t stop looking outside the window- as unproductive as that may sound. The CCCM team is simply amazing as they count with dedicated, friendly and passionate individuals. There is always a couple of interns from different countries in the world, which makes the experience even more exciting.

I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel around Colombia as I have visited Cartagena, Medellin and the small towns around Bogota. Cartagena has been my favorite city I travelled to so far as it is known to be one of the most ancient cities in South America and is filled with history, charm and incredible colonial architectures. It also has a tropical climate which was a nice break from Bogota´s cold and rainy weather. Personally, I a am a beach lover so I was so excited to visit Playa Blanca- one of the most popular beaches in Colombia due to its clear blue waters and paradisiacal setting.

In conclusion, I am so grateful for this experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking practical experience in their field, the opportunity to travel and become familiar with different cultures, and most importantly, invaluable personal growth that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

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