By Greg Osborne, MBA ’12
How about this for spontaneity? Twelve hours after discovering the disappointing news regarding the Cuba TEM Lab’s cancellation for political purposes, it was vital to find a quality alternative. Much of the night was spent pondering over alternatives. Since I did not have to return until the start of classes by second module, all signs pointed toward staying abroad. Besides, an elaborate traveling campaign in Colombia was already under way. In the land of milk and honey, I had been honing my Spanish skills and adjusting to the wiles of Latin American life. Late one night it hit me: Why not take advantage of the situation and location before me?
If only life was so simple. It quickly dawned on me that the three credit hours of the TEM Lab would need to be somehow supplemented. Under the gun, I had to find and enroll in an Independent Study Program to satisfy my academic requirement. After only a few hours, this need was met. All that remained was getting the little details pinned down: Where to settle down and what things could/should I accomplish over the next couple of months abroad?
Already having a sense of three amazing cities — Bogota, Cali, and Medellin — it was up to me to envision where I should root myself. In the end, Cali was the victor since it afforded me the best opportunity to improve my Spanish. Unlike the other two Colombian cities in contention, little English was spoken and it would be the push needed para mejorar mi español. For the uninitiated, Cali is located in the southwest of Colombia and is the third-largest city in the country. It is major player in the sugar and coffee industries and is known as the salsa capital of Latin America.
Once in Cali, it was time to tap into my small but well-grounded network. Week’s prior, I met a couple of locals while on an airplane. They were incredibly gracious (a Colombian trademark), and were more than willing to help me find an apartment, enroll at the Universidad Santiago de Cali for Spanish, and show me the ropes about my new home.
It did not take long for a demonstration of the Thunderbird network’s power to quickly come to the fore. While walking around looking for apartments one day, my Cali friend and I ended up bumping into one of her acquaintances, who also happened to be a Thunderbird graduate from 1979. Sparing all the details, shortly thereafter, I had a fully furnished apartment in town for the next two months.
Since my arrival in Cali, the people have been fantastic. I am now in my second week of living in Cali and enjoying this adventure to the fullest. I have now moved into my apartment and will begin Spanish lessons on Monday. More details forthcoming upon my return for the second module, but something important to note, having the Thunderbird connection really opens doors and provides opportunities at the most unexpected times.