Universidad de Los Andes is located in Bogotá, Colombia, in the foothills of the beautiful Monserrate Hill. The university is located within a large, green, secure campus, and is spread across several city blocks. The campus itself is beautiful, modern, spacious, and a welcome escape from the intensity and crowds of the city of Bogotá. However, the campus is steep and hilly in areas, and if you have classes at the top of campus, it’s important to leave ample time each morning to climb the hills. Furthermore, the high altitude of Bogotá (2625 m), means (especially in your first weeks), walking up hills can leave you out of breath! There are many great food options located within the campus, and in the surrounding blocks. Buying lunch is much cheaper than it is in Australia, however, if you are a student on a budget, it is still more economic to bring food from home. A personal favourite of mine is Doña Blanca, a well-known traditional Colombian restaurant and bakery. It is popular among students and it can be difficult to get a table around lunchtime, but this Bogotá institution is definitely worth the wait.
During Orientation Week at Los Andes, exchange students are given ample opportunity to meet each other, and to socialise with Colombian students. Hermanos Sin Fronteras, or Brothers Without Borders, is an organisation on campus of Colombian students who run events and mentor international students. Hermanos has been an invaluable resource to me, as the students are always available to answer any questions you might have, and are always willing to organise local events or outings.
The enrolment process at Los Andes can be difficult to navigate. Many international students run into difficulty, as during the enrolment period in Orientation Week, there is no guarantee of a place in your desired courses. I highly recommend requesting approval ahead of time from your ANU academic college for more courses than is required of you, in the event that you are denied enrolment to some of your desired courses. With the help of the Hermanos and the international student office, I was able to enrol in most courses I wanted. When enrolling as an international student during orientation week, you are sometimes required to obtain further approval from your course conveners, and this process can take a few days, but is usually successful.
The classes themselves are, in general, similar to classes at ANU. However, there are a few key differences. For example, no classes are recorded, and most lecturers are unwilling to share their slides with students before or after the class. Therefore, attendance is highly encouraged, and is necessary to pass most courses, even those that don’t have a mark for attendance. Almost all classes are given in a lecture or a seminar format, as tutorials are not common. Teachers often surprise students with a short quiz on the week’s assigned readings, and these quizzes contribute to your final grade. In my social science classes, there is a large amount of reading each week, however, the assessments are not as time-consuming or difficult. I am taking all of my classes in Spanish, which is a fun challenge for me, however most professors are very understanding toward international students, and are willing to resolve any doubts and provide support where necessary. Some international students do not speak Spanish, and Los Andes offers a small amount of courses in English. However, these courses can be competitive among international students and places can fill up quickly. Therefore, I would recommend that interested students have at least an international B2 level of Spanish proficiency if they want access to the wide range of interesting courses offered by Los Andes.
I am enjoying my semester at Los Andes so far, and I’d encourage anyone to apply to this great university!