Colombia's diversity will astonish you: modern cities with skyscrapers and nightclubs, gorgeous Caribbean beaches, jungle walks, archaeological ruins, high-mountain trekking, coffee plantations, scuba diving and more. The culture, like the weather, varies by altitude. Experience the essence of Colombia in the mountainous cities of Bogotá, Medellín and Cali, and the smaller cities of the Zona Cafetera. In the heat of the Caribbean coast, life is slower, and the culture more laid-back.



Languages Spoken:

Spanish

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION OVERVIEW 

Higher education in Columbia is provided by four types of institutions: technical professional institutions, university institutions, technological institutions and universities. More than 300 universities and institutes enroll a total of 970,000 students; the largest, the National University of Colombia, has more than 45,000 students. 

At the university level, the first one to two years are devoted to the study of basic subjects. The total program of study lasts four or five years and leads to a bachillerato universitario, licenciatura or a professional title. A master's degree and the title of Especialista is granted after two more years of study in certain universities. The doctorado, the highest degree, is usually awarded two to three years after the licenciatura, upon submission of a thesis. 

Colombia's academic calendar is on the southern hemisphere schedule, with the first semester usually beginning in February and the second semester beginning in July.   

 

STUDYING IN COLOMBIA 

Courses 

Students attending regular (Spanish-language) classes at Icesi can choose courses at all levels. International students are received at Icesi University under a particular academic program. The program can be the same or similar to the one they are studying in their home university or one which best fits their areas of interest at Icesi. 

Registration 

After confirmation of placement, a list of courses will become available to you. Check with your host institution for enrollment procedures. 

Course Load 

Students in Colombia generally take five to six courses per term, though for students coming to study Spanish as their main focus (intermediate Spanish proficiency level or higher), Universidad Icesi recommends taking only one or two courses from your majors in addition to the Spanish language courses. High-level courses in Spanish will require previous knowledge of the subject and work in and outside of class that demands extensive use of the language (such as writing essays, making oral presentations and group work). Students can expect to spend 15-20 hours per week in class, and terms last 16 weeks.  

Exams & Grading 

Lecturing is the principal method of instruction in Latin American universities, with one final exam or paper counting as the only grade in the class. Some professors will also give midterm exams or papers. In most Latin American countries, the grading philosophy is that the student starts at zero (has no knowledge of the subject) and needs to work hard to obtain a good grade. Your grade rises as you prove acquisition of knowledge throughout the semester. As such, Latin American universities can be tougher in their grading and a grade of sobresaliente (10 - the highest grade possible in Colombia) is rarely awarded. In most classes, the majority of students will receive either aprobado or muy bueno (from four to six). 

Transcripts 

Transcripts are issued at the end of each term, though be sure to check with your host institution to ensure you do not need to request these materials be sent to ISEP.  

Visa and Residency

If you do not have your passport already, you must obtain it immediately. A passport valid for at least three months past the term of your program in good condition and with free space for the visa is part of the required documentation for the student visa. Your host school will also request a copy of your passport by a certain deadline for visa and admission purposes, and failure to meet this deadline could have serious consequences. 

All students going to Colombia must obtain a student visa before departure (Category V: Visitante-Intercambio Académico/Visitor-Exchange Student).  Below is a general list of what is required to obtain the visa. Most students will be required to travel to their local Consulate to receive the final visa stamp in-person. Students should contact the consulate for their jurisdiction to verify the process and documents required. 

Visit Colombia’s Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores website to review the current requirements for obtaining a student visa.

Basic documents required for the Category V Exchange Student Visa:

-Completed Electronic Visa Application form. Consult the Guía de Usuario: Solicitud de Visa Online Individual for instructions about how to fill out the online application. 

-Valid Passport in good condition and with a minimum of two blank pages for visas and valid for three months beyond the end of your program. 

- Two (2) recent 3x3 photographs, facing the camera, in color and against a white background.

-An Acceptance letter from the Colombian school or university that specifies length of your studies (must be notarized in Colombia) – Your host institution will send this to you after you complete their internal application.

-Letter from the Colombian university that specifies that the applicant will attend a minimum of ten hours weekly – Your host institution will send this to you after you complete their internal application. 

-A school’s certificate of legal existence issued by a competent authority in Colombia – Your host institution will send this to you after you complete their internal application. 

-Proof of sufficient financial resources to cover your expenses while in Colombia

- NOTE: The ISEP Letter of Certification in your Acceptance Package will fulfill this requirement, and does not need to be translated into Spanish. 

-Visa fees: The fees will vary depending on your home country, and can be paid online or at the consualte on the day of your visa appointment. 

-Fees can be submitted online, or paid in-person when you visit the consulate. 

Culture

COMMUNICATIVE STYLE

Colombians like to get close to communicate. They may move their face very close to yours and poke your arm to emphasize a point. The volume in conversation may be higher than you would expect in a North American or European culture.

Be aware that there are significant conversational differences between people from the more tropical and beachfront cities of Colombia and people from cities in higher altitudes. In cities at higher altitudes, people value tradition and formality. Serious faces, direct and sustained eye contact and the use of "usted" highlight feelings of respect between communicators. In the tropical and beachfront cities, the use of "" expresses friendliness while voice inflection reveals more emotion than that of highlanders. 

GREETINGS

In Colombia, men great each other with a hand shake and direct eye contact. While shaking hands, they use the appropriate greeting for the time of day: "buenos dias" (good day), "buenas tardes" (good afternoon) or "buenas noches" (good evening). Women often grasp forearms rather than shaking hands. Once a friendship has developed, greetings become warmer and a lot more hands on - men will embrace and pat each other on the shoulder (known as an "abrazo") and women kiss once on the right cheek.

You’ll be asked all about your home country and your family. Colombians value family a lot so they’re genuinely interested in yours.

FOOD

Colombians typically eat three meals a day: a light breakfast, a large lunch between 12-2 p.m,, and a light dinner. Colombian coffee is well known for its high standards in taste compared to others.

Colombian cuisine varies among its many distinct regions. In Bogotá and the Andean region, ajiaco is a traditional dish. It is a soup made of chicken, corn, many different types of potatoes, avocado and guascas, a local herb. Ajiaco is served with white rice, salad with a hint of lemon, avocado, or sweet or salty tostadas. For breakfast, people in Bogotá often eat changua, a milk, scallion and egg soup.

Colombia is also home to numerous tropical fruits endemic to the country and rarely found elsewhere. There are several varieties of bananas including a very small, sweet version. Others include zapote, nispero, lulo, uchuva, passion fruit, borojó, curuba, mamoncillo, guanábana, guava, mango, apple, pear, blackberry, strawberry and many others. Fruit and juice stands are found all over, particularly on the Caribbean coast.

FAMILY

The family in Colombia forms the most important unit of Colombian society. Colombians have a large circle of relatives, who are extended through 'compadrazgo.' Relationships are generally strong in the family life of Colombia.

Daily Life

COMMUNICATIVE STYLE

Colombians like to get close to communicate. They may move their face very close to yours and poke your arm to emphasize a point. The volume in conversation may be higher than you would expect in a North American or European culture.

Be aware that there are significant conversational differences between people from the more tropical and beachfront cities of Colombia and people from cities in higher altitudes. In cities at higher altitudes, people value tradition and formality. Serious faces, direct and sustained eye contact and the use of "usted" highlight feelings of respect between communicators. In the tropical and beachfront cities, the use of "" expresses friendliness while voice inflection reveals more emotion than that of highlanders. 

GREETINGS

In Colombia, men great each other with a hand shake and direct eye contact. While shaking hands, they use the appropriate greeting for the time of day: "buenos dias" (good day), "buenas tardes" (good afternoon) or "buenas noches" (good evening). Women often grasp forearms rather than shaking hands. Once a friendship has developed, greetings become warmer and a lot more hands on - men will embrace and pat each other on the shoulder (known as an "abrazo") and women kiss once on the right cheek.

You’ll be asked all about your home country and your family. Colombians value family a lot so they’re genuinely interested in yours.

FOOD

Colombians typically eat three meals a day: a light breakfast, a large lunch between 12-2 p.m,, and a light dinner. Colombian coffee is well known for its high standards in taste compared to others.

Colombian cuisine varies among its many distinct regions. In Bogotá and the Andean region, ajiaco is a traditional dish. It is a soup made of chicken, corn, many different types of potatoes, avocado and guascas, a local herb. Ajiaco is served with white rice, salad with a hint of lemon, avocado, or sweet or salty tostadas. For breakfast, people in Bogotá often eat changua, a milk, scallion and egg soup.

Colombia is also home to numerous tropical fruits endemic to the country and rarely found elsewhere. There are several varieties of bananas including a very small, sweet version. Others include zapote, nispero, lulo, uchuva, passion fruit, borojó, curuba, mamoncillo, guanábana, guava, mango, apple, pear, blackberry, strawberry and many others. Fruit and juice stands are found all over the place, particularly on the Caribbean coast.

FAMILY

The family in Colombia forms the most important unit of Colombian society. Colombians have a large circle of relatives, who are extended through 'compadrazgo.' Relationships are generally strong in the family life of Colombia.

Health and Safety

Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference the Health and Safety section of the ISEP website for general information regarding health and safety abroad. 

Detailed information about Colombia can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and Security, Local Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections. Please also note that the U.S. Department of State advises that travellers do not travel or reconsider travel to certain regions of Colombia. Please review the full Travel Advisory for Colombia for more detailed information.

-Non-U.S nationals should disregard the "Embassies and Consulates" and "Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements" sections. 

- Please review the CDC's Health Information for Travelers to Colombia.

-If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here, and please contact your Program Manager and Host ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions. 

Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 

Currency

Currency

The currency in Colombia is the peso and it is issued in notes of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000. Coins issued are 50, 100, 200 and 500 pesos.


Compare your currency to the Colombian peso.

While credit cards are not as common throughout the country as might be in other countries, they are growing in use. Credit cards will normally be accepted in hotels, shopping malls and other establishments in large cities. Be sure to travel with cash if you are going to smaller towns. The most common cards are Visa and MasterCard. Be aware of your ATM or credit card company’s policy for use in a foreign country as they might charge an extra fee for charges or withdrawals made in foreign currency. Also, if you are going to use your credit or debit card, be sure to inform your local bank before leaving in order to not be locked out of your account. Almost all major banks in Colombia will have an ATM which will accept cards issued from banks outside Colombia.

Banks are usually open from Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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