This was my first trip leaving tiny Aotearoa, from the moment I stepped onto the plane boarding for Santiago I felt a humongous shift in who I am as a person; as well as who I was going to be as part of this amazing entrepreneurial team. Traveling out of New Zealand was always a goal I had set, to see what other countries experienced everyday and gain some cultural knowledge about what actually occurs out of our small lives; although when I pictured myself travelling overseas for the first time, I did not imagine it to be with a group of strangers.
This concept of new people was definitely one that panicked me slightly as the trip was approaching but now having experienced this opportunity I wouldn’t want it to have been any other way because while we began as strangers at Auckland airport, there was no doubt in my mind that our team wouldn’t bond and gel just as my team at EIA did very rapidly and with excitement. From my experience in Medellin over the first few days I have seen what I believe could be summed up as an entirely different world.
The sightseeing opportunities which I experienced the first two days of being in Medellin, caused a personal transformation in my hauora on every level, but more so on an extremely spiritual level. I was overwhelmed with emotion around how privileged and blessed I am to have this opportunity and especially in regards to the education that was to come from all the different businesses with their own perceptions around start ups, the way a company runs and also about Nueva Zelanda. Cultural differences reached extremely different ends of the spectrum and although my initial expectations were not reality, I feel that the contrasts between home and Colombia make for an amazing learning encounter that won’t be forgotten by myself and hopefully the other participants of this travelling business tour.
As the week progressed and we began to visit companies and work at EAFIT university, the opportunity to become educated about Colombian culture and business structure was overwhelming in the most incredible way. Jet lagged but rearing to participate I felt so privileged to be in Medellin with amazing local students, as well as amazing New Zealand students. It did become exhausting at times, in particular on the Tuesday when we visited four businesses in one day. I do regret not pushing myself to contribute all of the queries I had about businesses in Medellin, but nevertheless I was able to come home with far more knowledge that prior to this trip.
The first five company visits sparked more of an interest for myself to engage in the Colombian market and understand how it came to be; how Colombia creates it’s innovation and success throughout the cities, the country or worldwide.
I personally found myself becoming closer with the other students, especially my roommate, Jemima whom I became glued to the hip with. My relationships throughout the group of students grew strong, quickly. People who only a few days ago were strangers, began to feel like my best friends who I had known for years; I don’t usually take to people easily, preferring to take my time and connect with people based on similarities within our personalities, interests for example. With only shot space of time, I had to jump in straight away and find out what everyone was about. Each person had something extremely unique about themselves, but we were all so similar that we blended with so much ease. This experience with such beautiful people is one I have begun to realise is something that I will easily cherish for the rest of my life. I genuinely feel that this trip has been made so far by the people that surround me; with anyone else I would not have left my comfort zone to go biking, nor enjoyed my time so far on this trip.
After having been home now for a week, I can honestly say that I fell in love with Colombia, in particular Medellin. I already miss everyone, and cannot even begin to fathom how blessed and how educated I feel, thanks to this once in a lifetime opportunity. With cultural, historical knowledge around Colombia, as well as everything I learnt at EAFIT I feel I have grown as a person, matured and especially in the cultural sector, I feel as though my eyes have been opened.
I read somewhere before this trip that travelling could be brutal, in particular when being forced out of your comfort zone, and forced to immediately trust strangers. I did not feel this way at all, instead the complete opposite; before even boarding for Santiago I could tell that these people were not going to be strangers for long. Trust for me, is difficult and never something I do easily; but these crazy knowledgeable students, and the amazing chaperones - I trusted with everything and I’m so thankful for every individual chosen for the Colombia trip.
Prior to our business venture in Latin America, my understanding of the culture, language, and business was minimal and I was extremely eager to soak up as my as I could while there for the nine days, and believe me I am still wishing for more and looking for more to learn and comprehend about history, about tourism companies (which was something that due to our pitch topic became of huge interest to me).
Personally, with this being my first trip out of our tiny, luscious country filled with greenery and the population of Medellin alone, I experienced a HUGE culture shock; the abundance of people, the pollution, their positive attitude no matter what situation they find themselves in, the markets and street sellers. I enjoyed every moment of Colombia, the four brilliant EAFIT students, Andres, the companies, three incredible chaperones, seven other amazing New Zealanders, and the opportunity of a lifetime; one I will never forget.