A country known for its welcoming attitude, intersectional cultures, and abundant natural wonders, Colombia offers a host of opportunities to expand your worldview. Here, in the second most biodiverse country in the world, a vibrance for life is reflected in its people, history, and environment. Colombia’s diverse lifestyle is influenced by its indigenous, African, and European heritage. Venture off the tourist track to experience an authentic view of the culture through the eyes of a host family in the mountains of Popayán. You and other students will explore Colombia’s dynamic culture, starting with the ornate churches, colorful markets, and fascinating archeological sites of Popayán! You will also have the chance to venture into Colombia’s lush natural landscapes and take part in activities like horseback riding and hiking. By living with a local host family, you will truly become a part of Colombian daily life as you share conversations and cultural insights around the dinner table. When in Popayán’s urban center, you will have some time to see more of the highlights of Popayan, like Parque Caldas. Round out your cultural experience with fun activities like dance lessons, nature walks, and city bike tours. You might even spot a condor – a gigantic bird native to the Andes Mountains – soaring overhead!
On this program you are likely to learn about these Sustainable Development Goals:
|Yes, high school graduates are eligible to participate.
|15yrs, 0 months to
17yrs, 11 months at start of program
|No language requirement
Based on differences in culture, strict government regulation of medications, and other local customs, it has been our experience that not all of our international AFS partners are able to support students with certain diagnoses, including but not limited to, severe allergies, strict dietary restrictions, ADD/ADHD, and those currently taking or who have taken psychotropic medications and/or received counseling for mental/psychological issues within the past year. If this applies to you, please get in touch with an AFS Study Abroad Specialist early so that we can determine the right experience for you.
Sample Program Itinerary to Colombia
The below itinerary serves as an outline for the program, and each Global Prep experience will vary based on group size and opportunity. For this particular program, there is a higher degree of outdoor rigor.
I. Arrival in Colombia and journey to Popayán
In the months before your departure, AFSers have the opportunity to participate in various preparatory activities, including an online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to learn how to develop essential global skills, intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact, maximizing the outcomes of the AFS learning experience.
AFS-USA will coordinate and share your international travel with you. You will need to coordinate your own travel to the point of international departure. From there, your journey in Colombia will begin when you land in Palmira, where you’ll be met by staff, volunteers and meet your fellow AFSers from around the world. Shortly after arrival, you will attend an arrival orientation and get a crash course on Colombian culture, essential phrases, living with a host family, safety, and support structures.
After your arrival, you’ll enjoy a beautiful three-hour bus trip from Palmira with AFS Volunteers and take a historic tour of Popayán, a Colonial city referred to as “La Ciudad Blanca” because nearly all of its buildings are traditionally painted white. It was founded in 1537 and is popular for the variety of churches, museums, Pueblito Patajo, and monuments. One of the highlights is sure to be El Morro del Tulcán, a Pre-Colombian pyramid built by the indigenous people of the area. Upon your arrival in Popayán, you’ll get to meet your host family and explore this small city as you immerse yourself in the local Colombian culture.
II. Silvia and Hacienda Coconuco
To experience the full breadth of Colombia, your group will visit Silvia, a small town in the Cauca region with rich indigenous culture, including the indigenous market of Cabildo of Guambia! To unwind, you’ll have an opportunity to go horseback riding in the mountains and tour Silvia’s house of culture and fishing. Your cultural immersion will continue with a guided tour of Hacienda Coconuco, where you will learn the history and life of General Tomas Cipriano de Mosquera. You’ll also spend some time relaxing in the Piscinas Termales Agua Hirviendo hot springs!
When you get back to the city, you’ll have some time to see more of the highlights of Popayán’s city centers like Parque Caldas. This central plaza is a good place to relax while munching on a light snack and having a long chat with your friends. You’ll also have the chance to take a traditional Colombian Salsa dance class!
III. Independence Day and Cultural Integration
Your group will have the unique opportunity to celebrate Colombian Independence Day with local AFS Volunteers by attending the Independence Day Parade! Together you’ll participate in the typical cultural activities of the day such as dancing, buying handicrafts, and attending concerts. Your group will also visit a farmhouse and meet local community members, a memorable day that will include dancing, music, nature, and recreational activities. Other cultural excursions to round out your experience include trips to sites where you’ll learn how corn, coffee, and silk are produced locally!
IV. Puracé Natural Park and Volcano Hike
To continue your exploration of Colombia’s natural landscape, you’ll visit Puracé Natural Park, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour by the indigenous Cabildo of the region. You may even have an opportunity to watch and feed the Andean Condors that live in the area – one of the world’s largest flying birds, with wingspans over 11 feet! Following, you will continue towards the viewpoint of the Laguna San Rafael, after which you’ll visit the waterfall of Bedon and the geothermal pools of San Juan, a place of renowned natural beauty. The group will also sleep in the cabins of Philimbala and enjoy a hike to the volcano of Puracé! You and your group will also spend a few days at the Puracé national park, where you can visit natural wonders like hot springs and hike towering volcanoes. Hiking the volcano Puracé will take approximately 4 hours, so be prepared for an unforgettable experience!
As you wrap up your time in Colombia, you’ll spend quality time with your host family, as well fellow AFSers, and volunteers. Before departing, you will participate fun intercultural activities to reflect on your time in Colombia and even give a presentation to your new global family before heading home!
During your program, you’ll get an inside look at Colombian culture by living with a local host family. This is a great chance to learn about life in Latin America and maybe even practice some Spanish phrases! Together, you and your host family can visit nearby sites or go shopping for local crafts to bring home to your friends. Whether you eat at home with your host family or go out to local restaurants with your group, you’ll get to enjoy some delicious local foods like Ajiaco (chicken and potato soup) and tostones (fried plantain slices).
Scholarships and Aid
We believe that studying abroad should not be contingent on personal finances. When you apply, we work with you to understand your family’s needs and match you with available scholarships and aid. 100% of accepted applicants with demonstrated need receive funds.
What's included in your program fee?
- Round trip international airfare
- Accommodations, meals, and transportation
- International secondary medical travel coverage
- Access to a 24/7 Emergency Duty Officer
- Visa Support
- Please review the Terms and Conditions for complete guidelines.
What’s not included in the Program Fee?
“Life-changing” is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad. “Transformed” is another one.
When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and developed the confidence and resilience to accomplish anything you set out to do.
That transformation isn’t only visible to you, though – others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers. Second language fluency, intercultural competence, creativity, and critical reasoning will help you succeed, whatever path you take. “Life-changing” means it’s only the beginning.
It’s not just an adventure abroad; it’s a whole new reality. The perspectives and personal connections you gained will stay with you and likely draw you back to the second home you found in Colombia.
In fact, our alumni reviews have made AFS one of the top-rated organizations in the study abroad industry.