Why did you choose this particular country?
I chose to undergo language immersion in Bogotá, Colombia on the advice of professors and students in Georgetown’s Center for Latin American Studies. The Colombian accent is widely considered to be quite conducive to learning Spanish as a second language. Moreover, I wanted the chance to familiarize myself with a Latin American country that boarders the Caribbean Sea, the region that I seek to specialize in professionally. As a Security Studies student, Colombia proved particularly interesting because of the ongoing presence of guerrilla and terrorist organizations. And I was not disappointed: the day I arrived in Bogota, a local terrorist group bombed a high-end shopping mall within walking distance from my hotel.
How will this experience help you in your job search and career?
My time in Colombia allowed me to experience living in, for the first time, a country from the Caribbean and Latin America region other than my native Jamaica. I enrolled in the Security Studies Program to study security issues relevant to this region, and build career on developing strategies for combatting the security concerns shared among its countries. Now I have on-the-ground experience in a country that has long-served as the epicenter for many regional security problems. Perhaps more pertinent, however, is that improving my Spanish improves my ability to conduct research on and throughout other Latin American countries. I am also now more qualified for myriad career opportunities in, or focused on, the region.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from this experience?
While in Colombia I learned that the language barrier that exists between the anglophone and hispanophone Americas results in a wider gulf of cultural knowledge and understanding than I previously thought. Colombia is not geographically far from Jamaica—the two countries even have a territorial dispute—but the people in either country generally know little of life in the other. Travel is so infrequent between them that there are currently no direct flights. Crossing the language barrier has opened up a world of new opportunities for me, but it has also made me wonder to what extent the divide has undermined the political will for regional cooperation on security issues.