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Feb 22, 2019

Colombia Reflection - Dan Tolmie

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Throughout the trip, my perception of business just exponentially grew, particularly in setting up in an environment like Colombia. The globalant, Ruta, and Mani bros especially stood out to me in how business can scale can have a sole purpose in assisting the local economy and image and what its like opening a business in such a different country.

Innovation took a theme when visiting business and doing tours, as Medellin is named as one of the most innovative cities in the world, learning different perspectives on innovation and how to implement it through different contexts. How building an escalator on a mountain in the worst neighbourhood in Colombia, drew tourists and created business opportunities for locals which turned the whole place around. How the government is pushing for innovation to help improve their society and economy. Learning about ‘Coopetition’ having businesses actually work with the competition with the idea to not increase their percentage of the market share but to increase the size of the market. Companies working together on sustaining programs and putting people first as we saw at Argos, Isa and Globant to name a couple. Going to university this year with a project based creative technology course, these ideas are going to really help shape and my projects and future business ventures.

 

Before coming to Colombia I read up a little and knew about how it was really innovative and trying to change their image. However, when everyone you tell about the trip warns you about the crime and violence it does play on your mind coming in. But being here and spending invaluable time with local Colombian students really helped shift the pre-existing bias. The tours of the poorer areas and seeing the sense of community really reaffirmed the idea that in the face of adversity people tend to show their true colours and in Colombia, it was to come together. Particularly on the graffiti tour seeing the amazing art, dancers and food all taking advantage of the new tourist market through sharing their culture and being so welcoming. Trying local foods is something I made an effort with, the great Mazamorra, which consists of cold milk and corn. And the Bandeja paisa meal of 5 types of meat, including but not limited to ‘crumbed’. Although some were better tasting than others, food was a great way of immersing into the new world. Learning how culture works within MNC’s and a way to get around international conflicts due to culture is to reinforce a strong business-wide culture was really insightful. Talking to the Mani bros and Hija Mia, guys on how due to them being Kiwi’s there is no sense of imposter syndrome from locals, rather they are welcomed and appreciated for contributing to the local economy.

 

I think that through this trip I was challenged to come out of my comfort zone a lot and that really helped reinforce some confidence in me, from being terrible at Salsa dancing to eating bugs. It's hard to reflect because so much change happens so fast but ultimately I do feel more confident. The effect this trip had on me was truly made clear to me once we had arrived back home and how coming back to normality and how day to day life has felt so different, This was just so transformative that after the trip I feel like I have changed but everything I am returning to is exactly the same, which is just a such an odd feeling. The friendships made with the other Kiwi and Colombians students are of a kind I've never experienced, being thrown into a different world and only having these people to lean on in such an intensive week, it would either end up in hating each other or forming great relationships with each other and I'm glad it been the later. Just going about day to day life back home and comparing little details has made me more grateful and has widened my world view. Overall it was truly a transformative experience and has inspired me to pursue more travel in the future.