Interview with Juan: Growing Up in Colombia and Becoming Bilingual

Juan was a fellow co-worker when I was living in Wellington. We both lived and worked at the same youth hostel, Trek Global Backpackers. Juan was learning English and becoming bilingual, while I was attempting to learn some Spanish. We used this, as well as our love for travel, to connect and become close friends. Near the end of our stay in New Zealand, Juan and I took a road trip through the north island with our friend Leo, where we visited natural hot springs and the iconic Cathedral Cover. Juan is now planning his next grand adventure, studying for his Master’s Degree in Europe.

  1. Where are you from?

I am from Colombia. Colombia has tropical weather, and you can find a lot of different ecosystems. Ibagué, my hometown, is around 26°C on average, which means most of the days are hot but nice – the climate at night is especially enjoyable. Oh, additionally, dishes here in Colombia are delicious.

  1. Outsiders tend to still associate Colombia with its violent and corrupt past. However, this is widely unfair. Could you give our readers some insight into how the country has progressed forward?

There was a time here in Colombia when the violence was a serious problem, but those times have passed. I’m talking about 20 years ago. Now, you can travel throughout Colombia with no concerns. [There are] many factors that make this true – it’s difficult to point to just one. I think the three main factors are: Pablo Escobar’s death, the election of a president who really pressed the guerrillas, and the [signing] of the peace agreement.

  1. What is one of your favorite memories of growing up in Ibagué?

Playing fútbol on the streets with my brother and friends of the neighborhood.

  1. What motivated you to want to learn English?

I have always wanted to live abroad for a very long time. That encouraged me to become bilingual and learn English, as it is one of the most popular languages in the world.

  1. Do you feel that you have accomplished this goal?

Yes, I needed to pass the IELTS as one of the requirements after returning from living abroad, and I did it.

  1. Why did you choose to study English in New Zealand? What was the exact title of the visa you received?

I received a study visa. I chose New Zealand because I could work while studying, and the currency is not so expensive.

  1. Could you please briefly describe the visa application process for Colombians traveling to New Zealand?

They asked me for documents like a bank statement, ID, and properties. Then, when the documents were sent, I had to wait several weeks for a response.

  1. If you could, would you change anything about the method in which you applied for your student visa?

No, I wouldn’t.

  1. Was it possible for you to apply for any other type of visa to travel to New Zealand?

Tourist visa, I guess, but I don’t really know.

  1. What school did you study at during your time in Wellington? Did you enjoy studying there?

Its name is NZLC, and I consider it a very good English school. I made a lot of friends from different countries and had a very good time there.

  1. Did you have a job while you studied?

Yes, I worked for a hostel as a housekeeper.

  1. How was working for a youth hostel?

It was very nice. That was something I wouldn’t have done in my home country, but I’m glad I did it in New Zealand.

  1. What are your plans for the future?

Studying for a Master’s Degree abroad. I will obtain that degree in the Netherlands – Groningen, to be more specific. With my degree, I would like to focus my career in biotechnology, get a job in that field, and maybe start my own company in the future.

Consumer Resource Guide

  1. Do you see yourself living abroad for an extended period of time?

Yes, I want to for decades.

  1. What is your favorite Colombian food?

Sancocho de gallina. Sancocho is like a soup with plantain, potatoes, and chicken cooked using charcoal. The chicken must be specially fed with corn to give the dish the particular taste.

  1. What country is at the top of your travel bucket list?

I want to travel to the Netherlands to [receive] a Master’s Degree in biotechnology and then stay [to live] in Europe for years, becoming truly international and bilingual. I really look forward to having that experience, to live abroad in another language and learn from a different culture.