Alumni Spotlight: Samantha Sullivan


Samantha is a recent college graduate from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor's Degree in Advertising and Art. Since graduating she has participated in a teach abroad program in Colombia through Academic Programs International. She aspires to earn her Master's Degree in International Relations and become fluent in the Spanish language.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the Teach in Colombia program through API because it is an amazing opportunity to explore new cultures, to learn a new language, and to grow professionally and personally.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Academic Programs International took care of my visa and my placement site in Colombia. They also helped me stay up to date with contract information and any questions that I had about the program. The only things that I needed to take care of myself occurred once I reached my site placement in Colombia.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

To the people who are thinking about participating in this program, my advice to you is this:

...practice your Spanish before coming to the country, and do extensive research about the city you will be placed in.

Although you can get by with a very basic level of Spanish, it is very difficult to connect with people on a deeper, more rewarding level. Also, reading up about the city you will live in will help you cope with the amount of culture shock that you will experience.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

On an average day in Barranquilla, a large city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, I will teach two classes in the morning and a few days a week host an art club as my project. The weather is extremely hot and humid, which calls for a daily siesta.

After a much needed nap from the heat, I will work on lesson planning and filling out forms for Sena. All in all, the program is fairly relaxed and doesn't ask for an extreme amount of work to be done.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

Going into my abroad experience I was worried that I would have a hard time because my Spanish was at a very basic level. I have definitely been at a disadvantage from my lack of knowledge in Spanish, but it hasn't hindered me from making connections with students, co-workers, and community members. Although it has been a bit more difficult for me to form those connections, it is not impossible.

I was also a little worried that it would be dangerous in Colombia, however, I have learned that as long as you use your street smarts everything will be fine. There has not been one instance where I have felt unsafe since moving to this country in February of 2016.

What is one unique thing that you can only experience in Colombia?

During the beginning of my time in Colombia I went on the Ciudad Perdida Trek (Lost City Trek). I had read many reviews about it and I was a little nervous because I had never been on a hike lasting more than a day.

This is a four day trek through the Sierra Nevada mountain range out of Santa Marta, CO. It was one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done and I would consider myself a fit person. I was a year-round athlete up until the end of high school and an avid runner. Still this was an extreme challenge, but I survived!

I went with 10 of my friends and it was an incredible bonding experience. We all were there to help each other, share support, laugh and cry together. It was about the journey and the challenged overcome along the way. I would not trade that experience for the world.