The RUG gets around
Name: Gabby Rialland
Age: 22 jaar
Where are you studying?
Bogota, Colombia
Third-year student of International Relations

Bogota, Colombia

Don't carry too much

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Every year, many RUG students decide to do an internship or temporary study abroad. Do they get any work done in sunny Granada? Can they find their way around the giant city of Moscow? And what is it like to dance the tango in Buenos Aires?
By Koen Marée / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

At the mention of food, Gabby’s face lights up. ‘It’s so good! It’s not too spicy, which is what everyone thinks. But if you want to make it spicier, you can aji, which is a sauce with tomatoes, onions, coriander, and tabasco. Colombians eat a warm meal three times a day, and each meal starts with a clear broth. In the morning you can have it with fried eggs or bananas and rice, followed by coffee or hot chocolate. Lunch is similar, and small student places will sell you a whole meal for approximately three euros. Dinner is a bit more special, usually involving meat. Any restaurant that charges more than five euros is considered fancy.’ Nightlife starts early, and is considerably more expensive: ‘Drinking starts at seven at night. A club will charge four euros for a beer, as opposed to bars, which only charge one euro. And clubs also charge a five-euro entrance fee. But clubs are the places that internationals go to the most.’

How did you end up in Colombia?

‘Colombia was really the only country I’d considered going, and I can’t think of where else I would’ve gone… When I heard I got a spot here I was so happy. I was pretty apprehensive the first few days in Bogotá, I kept hiding inside my hoodie. But it honestly wasn’t all that dangerous. I think it helped that I have a lot of Colombian friends; it made me feel safer.’

Are Colombians really that friendly?

‘They are! I met so many of them in the international community. I’d already made friends with a Colombian girl that I spoke Spanish with, and then I became friends with the photographer for the Colombian version of the ESN. All the other internationals thought I was part of the organisation. I had the best time with that photographer, Miguel, and another friend. They were my guide to the country and introduced me to other people, increasing my group of friends. I also started DJ-ing under the name DJ Gabster. I met a lot of people through that as well.’

Did you have any trouble finding a place to live?

‘A month before I was supposed to move out there I found a place through Facebook. They asked me to transfer them money, and I was afraid it would be a scam, but it turned out to be a really great house, with a mix of international students and Colombians. I also didn’t sign a rental contract, which made it even sketchier. A week before my arrival I asked if they had a WhatsApp group and if they could add me. They were all talking about domestic things, so that put me at ease. In the end I didn’t get the room I wanted, but that was fine.’

What was the education like?

‘I think that in the five months I was there I only studied a total of five hours for my exams. It was just so easy. The level of academic writing was also fairly low. I got all my ECTs really easily. One class I really enjoyed and wished we had at the RUG was ‘Rock & Politics’: a class about music. Two other RUG friends of mine actually did have a pretty hard time studying here, so I think I was just lucky.’

What would you tell people to convince them to go to Colombia?

‘It’s a beautiful country that has it all: mountains and beaches and the ocean. I travelled all over the country. To the Coffee valley for example, where they make coffee. There were so many Dutch people there, who hadn’t been deterred by the rainy weather. I travelled with my mother and grandmother, and we discovered that there is no such thing as safety measures in Colombia. We were coming back from a walk and had to cross a river when two young boys, so-called ‘crocodile watchers’, warned us. They took us across in a little boat when the coast was clear. In Bogotá itself you can just walk around and look at the city. Important tip: don’t carry too many things. Just a little money in case you get robbed.’

Previous episodes

Marleen Kas – Uppsala, Sweden 
Anton Jongeling – Barcelona, Spain 
Desiree Niezen – Kiel, Germany 
Anton Wuis – Busan, South-Korea 
Juliëtte Eijkelkamp – Yogyakarta, Indonesia 
Iris Groenendijk – Cheltenham, England


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