At Colombia Immersion, we pride ourselves on being student-focused. That’s why we’ve created a student profile series that will give you a glimpse into the lives of three students who are among many of the amazing people who decide to learn Spanish in Medellin with us.
We hope their stories inspire you to take that leap to travel, learn a new language, or do something you’ve convinced yourself you can’t do!
Arjun, 32: My story of learning Spanish
Colombia Immersion Laureles: 3 weeks, 2hrs/day
From: New Zealand via India
Favorite Spanish phrase: No vale la pena (It’s not worth it)
Cut from a different cloth, this wandering writer speaks four languages and likes to live life below the radar – completely social media free. He has lived in Germany, and was headed to Spain to pursue Spanish before settling on Colombia, “I had lots of friends here, originally,” he said. “I thought Spain was probably a more natural place to learn because I was in Germany at the time, but I had a couple of friends here, and I decided to visit them. I really loved Medellin when I came here to visit in 2015.”
Why did you decide to learn Spanish in Medellin?
Arjun came to favor the Spanish language because the culture inspired him in his youth, “When I was growing up, my favorite writers, composers and poets came from three cultures: Germany, Spain and Russia,” he said. “So those are the three languages I wanted to learn.” In addition to those three, his native language is Mayalam, where he learned as a child from his hometown in Kerala, India.
The Wandering Writer
A long way from India, his parents moved to New Zealand for a fresh start. Bitten by the travel bug early, this Kiwi then moved to Germany, and lived there for seven years. “I worked as a laborer for many years,” Arjun recalled. “I worked mostly as a laborer, stagehand – setting up stages for concerts and loading up trucks. I really enjoy physical work.” In addition to the labor work he did, Arjun taught German to refugees in Berlin as a volunteer. Desk work in an office is not his cup of tea. Getting away from a computer screen helps him balance writing with hands-on, face-to-face interactions. Now, he lives in Santa Elena, a mountainous area about 50 minutes west of Medellin, and volunteers at a library in his community, teaching German and English.
Colombia Immersion Work Exchange Program
A student and volunteer of Colombia Immersion, he stumbled upon the school by pure internet magic. Arjun searched for schools with work exchange programs, and Colombia Immersion appeared – voilà!
Colombia Immersion offers accommodation and discounted classes to people interested in volunteering their talents to work on needed projects at the school via their Work Exchange Program. Colombia Immersion is constantly growing and there is a need for motivated volunteers to help out. Find out more about the school’s work exchange programs here.
On his experience at Colombia Immersion, Arjun said he has really enjoyed his time, but getting to the school from Santa Elena every day was a struggle, “I live far away, and to get the most out of the school, you probably need to live closer.” He also remarked on the unique feature of the school, “They don’t have desks. I’ve never been to a school without desks,” he joked.
On Learning Languages
When asked for tips on learning a new language, Arjun replied, “The sense of being overwhelmed is very natural; it’s very important not to equate being overwhelmed with a lack of ability.”
His process for practicing his target language has been simple – talking to the locals he meets daily. And the school has helped him fill in a lot of grammar gaps, “I’ve been learning grammar through books, but it’s been nice to have some questions answered.”
Unlike most students at the school, for Arjun, Colombia is not yet another stop on the South American backpacker route. “I don’t know if I enjoy traveling for short periods of time; I like being somewhere for a good period of time,” said Arjun. “I try and make sense of the people that live there, and try to get to know them.”
While Arjun said his time in Medellin is indefinite, he is here soaking up the culture and shopping his first manuscript around to international publishers. His novel tells the story of a matriarchal, extended family in his hometown of Kerala, India. He’s hoping to get it published as a part of a trilogy he is writing.
Meet More Students
Check out the links below to meet more of our students who decided to learn Spanish in Medellin and find out more about the school!
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.