De Pais en Pais (from country to country) is an annual conference hosted by the Universidad de Antioquia. Each year they invite a single or group of countries and put together a series of talks open to both students and academics, but very importantly, the community at large.
This year the guest nation was Great Britain. In 2014, I had the privilege of attending the conference on behalf of Queen Mary University of London, where I presented on the subject of what it’s like to study in the UK as an international Colombian student.
This is important because of the growing links between the two countries: there is more funding available for academics to carry out joint research projects and more funding for Colombian students to carry out postgraduate studies abroad and study English.
But, how does this affect students at QMUL?
The movement of academics and students adds to our education and builds on our global perspective. But what has struck me, and something that I suspect many students don’t know, is the eagerness of Colombians to welcome British students, researchers and teachers to become a part of their already growing academic culture.
Whilst I was talking to an audience of Colombian students about my experience of studying in the UK as a Colombian student I realised that what made my experience extraordinary was the chance to interact with different cultures and points of view and the challenge of moving to a new country. In other words, learning to adapt and learning to value a new place.
Thus, I have to echo the invitation of the Universidad de Antioquia and Colombia and call on more British students to consider a period of study abroad, and particularly in Colombia, where some of their skills (particularly around languages) will be integrated into the local and academic community (ICETEX the national scholarship and student loan company, is offering full scholarships for foreigners who wish to undertake periods of study in Colombia).
This is why it is so important that QMUL students take advantage of the language opportunities and other services such as the study abroad office, the careers service and enterprise centre. There are many opportunities abroad that offer the possibility of personal and academic growth, and as students it’s easy to forget that many of the services that we need to make this happen are right here, on our doorstep.
For me, as an international student, the conference was an inspiration and a celebration of all that is diverse about QMUL. It was a pleasure to be a part of it, and to see the amazing international links that the university has built and developed over the years.
Gabriela holds an Honours Degree in History and Politics from Queen Mary University of London. She also served as Vice President for Education with QMUL Students’ Union.