This “Meet Our Students” series is a way to say thank you to those who have come through our Spanish program in South America and to spotlight so many of our students from all walks of life who are nothing short of amazing. It’s a revolving door of awesome sauce!
Enter Virginie. A French Canadian from Montreal that speaks French, English and now Spanish. She is a beam of light, shining her smile at everyone she meets. Virginie fell in love with Latin America when she traveled to Central America last year, and heard the call of South America. Virginie was eager to explore a Spanish program on this huge continent with so much potential, full of culture and interesting history.
Colombia Immersion Laureles: One month intensive group classes
Occupation: Nurse, Family Medicine Residency
From: Montreal, Canada
Favorite Spanish phrase: No dar papaya (Don’t offer an opportunity to be taken advantage of)
Why Medellin, out of all Spanish programs in South America?
Everyone who has lived here for one or two months, they’re always saying, “I want to go back to live in Medellín.”
They told me it was a really developed city for South America; a city with its own subway, bicycle system, the people were very welcoming, and it’s a beautiful city surrounded by mountains.
What were you doing before you came to Colombia?
I just finished my studies as a doctor. Before that, I was a nurse, so I’ve been into university for like eight years. I had the opportunity to take a year off before my residency, which is going to be really hard and a lot of work for me. I really enjoy traveling. After every trip, I wished I could’ve spent more time in the places I’ve been, I would want to do long term travel.
Then, I was like, “You know what… I’m young, healthy. I have the opportunity to do it, so I’m just gonna do it.” So I took a year off.
Now that you’re here, what do you think about Medellín?
I like the metrocable. I think it’s super intelligent: public health related to encourage people from distressed barrios to get to and from the city at the same cost as a subway. And when you take the metro cable, you have such a beautiful view of Medellin.
There’s Parque Arvi that I really like. It’s very peaceful, and makes you feel like you’re far away from the city. Comuna Trece – it used to be one of the most dangerous areas in Medellin.
Now it’s transformed, where there’s public gardens and street art everywhere to where it’s really renown. Internationally, there are artist that come to do art [here], and it’s really beautiful. Then, there’s an outdoor escalator to go up. I think it’s really fabulous. And all the cafes and restaurants… so many possibilities here.
Comuna 13- it used to be one of the most dangerous areas in Medellin. Now it’s transformed, where there’s public gardens and street art everywhere to where it’s really renown.
There are lots of young people, so you have so many options. I love going out, but it’s also about the people that surround you, and I’ve made a nice group of friends here. We get along really well.
You already speak two largely spoken languages. Why did you want to do a Spanish program?
French is my first language, and English is mandatory in Canada. I’ve been wanting to learn Spanish for a long time. I did some Spanish when I was 13 or 14, but I didn’t practice that much. Sometimes when you’re young, you don’t see the benefits or value in learning another language.
I’m really happy I could learn a third language. I wanted to because it’s the third most frequent spoken language in Canada, and since I’m doing my trip for six months. I love to talk. When I first came here, because of my French, I could understand Spanish 30 percent of what people said, but I couldn’t talk back.
I love to learn about the culture and the people. In order to do that-to know the culture – you need to be able to speak to the people. That’s why I wanted to learn Spanish with a Spanish program in South America. It’s a great addition as a life skill.
You took classes for 20 hours a week of one month. What was it like to participate in the Spanish program in South America at Colombia Immersion?
I love the ambiance. I’m really sensitive to my environment, and I think it’s really beautiful when you enter the school. All of the setup is very comfy. When you come here you immediately feel welcomed by everyone. They want you to learn Spanish, and they don’t make you feel like ashamed for not speaking Spanish well.
This is my fourth week and it’s crazy how much I’ve progressed. Now I can almost understand everything in Spanish, and I have conversations. I have two roommates from Venezuela, and we can talk about political conversations in Spanish. I can talk about myself and what I’m doing in my travels. In class, we’ve talked about love, living in the present moment, and spiritual stuff, political also. So I feel like I’ve progressed really well!
Any tips for other language learners?
Since it’s my third language, I know a little bit more about this phase where you feel ashamed or you don’t feel super comfortable expressing yourself in another language. For people who speak English and are learning Spanish for the first time, they’re not used that phase where they don’t feel comfortable. I think here, the staff makes us feel comfortable and encourages us.
Why is “no dar papaya” your favorite Spanish phrase?
I love it because it’s a way of saying “be careful,” and because I’m a woman traveling on my own. I was afraid before, but it’s the kinda advice people here give to you. One time I was in a café, and my cell phone was right by me.
A woman came over and said, “No dar papaya.” People here are very nice, and they want you to have a nice experience. I think that reflects their way of thinking They just want to protect you, so I feel secure when i’m walking in Medellin.
As a travel lover, what does travel mean to you?
For me, it’s a way of living in the present moment. I think that’s one of the things I’ve been searching for for a long time, and traveling forces you to focus on what’s happening right now, and not be in your head all of the time. It’s a way of appreciating life more.
Meet more students learning Spanish
Meet more students and find out more about the school and our Spanish program in South America:
Kenya Evans runs alongcameawriter.com in which she writes about her life, travels and reflections on life lessons. As a Benjamin-Button-aging, late 30’s, solo-traveling, black American woman with a deep pondering for life as we know it, she guarantees a cargo load of beautifully human stories that will make you laugh, shake your head, pump your fist, take notes, and, hopefully, think a little differently about what you thought you knew.