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Medellin, Colombia: The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay

Nadine poses at Plaza Botero near Parque de Berrío.

Nadine learns why the Colombian city lives up to its tourism slogan.

The title of this blog post is stolen from a tourism campaign promoting travel to Colombia but it couldn’t be more true.

Before coming to Medellin I was seriously apprehensive about living here for three months. Whenever I mentioned where I was going to someone, I would usually get a wince, a nervous smile or a jaw drop any cartoon character would envy. Naïve as I am, I was aware that Medellin has some problems. However, that should not lead anyone to discount this place completely! I have been living in Medellin for 10 days now and I can honestly say that I’m falling in love with this city.

So, what should you know about Medellin?

1. Paisas are very welcoming, kind and alarmingly polite people. Please and thank you are probably the most useful Spanish phrases I learned before coming here. In the classroom, students have asked me what I had heard about Medellin and Colombia before arriving. Usually I lie—either to save myself embarrassment (for ever thinking badly of this place) or to spare their feelings.

2. Foreigners are not in constant danger of being kidnapped, mugged, killed or any combination of the three. Sure, there is crime in this city, but there is in every city. If you act appropriately, you should have no problems. Personally I avoid wearing anything flashy and expensive when I go to the centre (downtown) and I avoid wandering around at night alone.

3. This is a modern metropolis. The public plazas, the metro (perhaps the tidiest I’ve ever seen?) and newly built urban spaces rival anything I’ve seen back home. Oh, and the tap water is drinkable too! You can find any sort of service or diversion you could wish for. There is no lack of shops, museums, old churches, restaurants, bars, clubs and parks. So far I have really enjoyed visiting the Parque de los Pies Descalzos (The Barefoot Park) and La Plaza Botero. Next I hope to visit the Museum of Antioquia and the Botanical Gardens. Some of my housemates recently went paragliding but I didn’t have the nerve to go with them.

4. One thing I simply cannot get over is the fact that city buses here have turnstiles; I don’t really understand their purpose yet.

5. For a place so well known for it’s coffee it is incredibly hard to find a decent cup of it on the street. Luckily another housemate introduced me to the lovely Pergamino Café. It is well worth the 20 to 30 minute journey we take to get there.

In short: Medellin is well worth a visit. If you get the opportunity to go take it! You may regret it later if you don’t.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Nadine Van Deuren

Nadine Van Deuren is a recent graduate of Western University who is spending three months in Medellín, Colombia through AIESEC. While there she will be working with students at the Fundación Educativa CENSA Juan Sebastián Gutiérrez Bustamante to improve their English langauge skills. Her goals? To improve her very basic Spanish, learn more about Colombia and hopefully pick up some salsa skills. In her spare time she likes to dabble in other languages, write letters and make plans for future travels.

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