Medellín, Colombia, is a bustling city that incorporates industry and commerce while thriving in agriculture and creativity. It also boasts several grassroots projects that tell a truly compelling story of transformation. As such, we could not think of a better place to host one of our signature CAS Trips events— Medellin Spring 2022.
Unfolding over weekends in October, students from Guadalajara, Tijuana, and Brazil had the opportunity to engage with volunteer and social impact projects that have regenerated Medellin’s urban landscape. They also got to work collaboratively on sustainability initiatives to protect Colombia’s precious environment, meet local artists, and much more!
As we celebrate the success of Medellín Spring 2022, we would love to share a few snapshots capturing what this incredible place offers for young people eager to learn about a new culture and make a difference through their travels.
A lesson in sustainable farming
On the first day of their adventure, students were welcomed by visiting an inspiring eco farm in the town of El Carmen. In addition to learning about sustainable farming and how herbs are used medicinally, the participants had the chance to get their hands dirty while planting various vegetables as they volunteered on the farm.
Following all that hard work, lunch was enjoyed at a local restaurant run by the farmer’s daughter. All ingredients used at the restaurant are from the farm the students had just been working at. This is also where they bought the ingredients they would need for the evening’s sustainable cooking challenge.
Once students returned to the hotel, they were assigned to teams and tasked with working against the clock to prepare the meal. Before eating, the dishes were evaluated by a judge who delivered feedback and a verdict on each group’s meal with prizes for the most original, creative, sustainable, and delicious. Unsurprisingly, guacamole won the cooking challenge, and the Mexican students celebrated the chance to showcase their cooking skills while sharing one of their region’s most popular dishes.
Expanding perspectives in Comuna 13
Nowhere embodies Medellin’s remarkable continuing transformation like Comuna 13. Once a thoroughfare for the city’s gangs, this area now displays stunning graffiti telling stories of sadness, violence, and hope for the future. Our local guide, Santi from the Comuna Project, shared his contagious enthusiasm for this place he is an integral part of, guiding the students through the area, introducing them to residents, and allowing everyone to feel at home in this vibrant and diverse community.
Many students remarked that the tour caused them to reconsider similar areas in their own home countries. They realized how much potential these communities contained and were inspired to act as a force for positive change once they returned home. As one student from Brazil explained,
“I always pass by the favelas back home in Brazil and have been scared to visit these areas— thinking they are only filled with crime. Experiencing Comuna 13 has really opened my eyes and helped me become more compassionate and understanding of these types of settlements.”
After enjoying a traditional Colombian lunch in the home of a Comuna 13 resident, students were invited to express their creativity at a mural workshop. First, Santi asked everyone to reflect on what happiness means to them. A dynamic discussion followed, as many students agreed that spending time with family and friends, freedom, and the authority to do what they want was central to their well-being.
They were then invited to funnel this discussion into art, painting tiles that depicted their feelings about what they learned on this day. Following individual presentations, the students played a game of musical chairs so that every participant left with someone else’s painting as a keepsake.
Appreciating the glue that holds a city together
Urban gardening had been vital to Medellin’s revitalization, and we were delighted to allow students a unique window into this inspiring part of the city’s culture. Led by a local pioneer, students learned what it takes to start an urban garden and explore ways this can help contribute to a more sustainable city. They assisted with planting, clearing the site, and other tasks needed to maintain the garden.
After enjoying a typical Antioquia lunch, the day continued with a visit to Casa de la Memoria. This heartfelt and beautifully curated museum allowed students to delve into Colombia’s remarkable history and better understand it through the eyes of marginalized groups and victims.
Students also got the chance to travel on the city’s famous metro and metro cable system and learn about how Medellín is a pioneer in urban transportation. Here, the first cable system was introduced to the public in 2004. It was the first city to use this technology as an integrated part of its public transport, and many other places have since followed suit.
So much more to discover
Of course, this is just a sample of everything the 7-day Medellín Spring encompasses. Students also discovered the importance of reforesting native forests, met a family running a local plant nursery, and spent a night in the jungle.
We are delighted we could give students the chance to experience the very best of this magical place while partaking in an action-packed itinerary addressing environmental projection, community outreach, and sustainability issues. We extend sincere thanks to everyone who made Medellín Spring a success, and we are already looking forward to next year!
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about our Global Student Exchanges, please check out our upcoming Prague Spring and New York Autumn itineraries.