Un Video de las Aventuras Colombianas de Jenna, Kathryn, & Rebecca (A Video of Our Colombian Adventures)

One of our final class assignments was to create a video as a team that showcased our experiences in Colombia. The following link will take you to our video, and I’ve left an English transcript below for those of you who don’t understand our broken Spanish. ūüôā

Las Aventuras

(If the video looks fuzzy, you should be able to adjust the quality using the settings button!)

In Chía, we found our home away from home as our host families invited us into their houses and their lives. We enjoyed dancing with our families and cooking with them. Also, we explored the culture of Chía outside of our houses.

One of the most important places in our trip is la Universidad de la Sabana. It has been a beautiful place to study and hang out. The landscape is very beautiful, too.

We have learned a lot from our excursions in Bogot√°. We have experienced first-hand the culture, history, and art of Colombia’s capital.

The mountains in Colombia are beautiful. We have enjoyed them outside of Chía, Bogotá, Sopó, and Guatavita. We are going to miss the mountains.

We are so thankful for these experiences in Colombia!

Universidad de la Sabana (University of the Savanna)

This month, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to study in one of the best universities in Colombia. All five of my professors are incredibly intelligent, kind-hearted, and engaging. Not only has my ability to produce the Spanish language improved because of these instructors, but I have a greater understanding of and appreciation for Latin American cultures thanks to them.

As much as I value the educational experiences with which la Sabana is providing me, one of my favorite parts of the university is the campus itself. I can’t think of a better way to begin my day than with a serene stroll along the flowing river and beds of beautiful succulents.

With love from la Sabana,

Kathryn Kienholz

My Weekday Routine

So far, my blog posts have been exclusively about the weekends I’ve spent exploring Colombia. While those outings have certainly been wonderful experiences, perhaps the most impactful moments have been woven into the fabric of my weekday routine.

Every morning begins with breakfast with my host mom — usually two eggs, an arepa, fruit, and tea. My “Spanish brain” warms up as we compare notes from our lives and talk about the day ahead. A 25-minute walk through Chia gets me to Universidad de la Sabana, where I attend classes to learn more about¬†Colombian culture and the Spanish language.

After a lunch break, students from Emporia either study Latin American fashion or go on excursions around the region. (For example, we’ve been to the Gold Museum, Salt Cathedral, and National Museum. We’ve also spent an evening playing tejo, the national game of Colombia.) I return home to have dinner with my host family, do my homework, and recharge for the next big day.

These moments are the ones in which I have profoundly¬†improved my Spanish, learned the most about Colombia, and fallen in love with its people. So if you have the opportunity to study or travel abroad, I hope you will soak in every moment — even and especially the ones that seem most routine.

Un abrazo,

Kathryn Kienholz

Father’s Day in the Andes

It turns out that laying on the couch to watch a whole day of soccer and eating greasy cheeseburgers is only a Father’s Day tradition in my American family; others, like my Colombian host family, prefer to celebrate the special day by taking a refreshing hike up the nearest mountain and enjoying a lunch of fresh fish and vegetables. 

Regardless of the traditions and details, I’m thankful to have spent my Sunday enjoying life with loving people!

Farmer’s Market

As a vegetarian traveling to a country whose most traditional dish includes three different types of meat, I was a little skeptical of the cuisine that awaited me in Colombia. However, a recent trip to the farmer’s market with my host family replaced all of my worries with excitement — and fruit, lots of fruit.

In fact, I discovered that Colombians are very proud of their produce. Everywhere I turned in the market, vendors were handing out free samples. Signs boasted of the variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers available. My host parents explained to me the health benefits of each unique fruit, especially the organic ones. We ate wedges of salted avocado, enjoyed fresh guanabana, slurped the seeds out of granadillas, and became sticky with watermelon juice. Even though farm-fresh produce might not be the national dish of Colombia, it is certainly an important part of their culture and one I have greatly enjoyed!

Un abrazo,

Kathryn Kienholz

A Day in Bogot√°

After a full week of learning about Colombia through the lens our Spanish language and Latin American culture classes, we finally got to experience the rich culture of the nation’s capital yesterday.

Following a traditional Colombian meal in Bogot√°, our group of 17 Hornets enjoyed a tour of the graffiti that colors and enlivens every corner of downtown.

Our walk through the city’s center landed us at the bottom of the mountain Monserrate, where we boarded a funicular cable car that carried us to 10,340 feet above sea level — a far cry from the 1,150-foot elevation of Emporia that my lungs are accustomed to. From the heights of the mountain, we explored the Catholic church that adorns its peak and enjoyed the view of Bogot√° below.

I am so grateful for these experiences — both in the classroom and in the world — that are so beautifully enriching my life!

Un abrazo,

Kathryn Kienholz

The Best Type of Tired

The text I sent to my parents letting them know I’d arrived at my host family’s house in Ch√≠a, Colombia, after a 19-hour travel day went something like this: “I’m exhausted but loving this opportunity!” They’ve received many similar messages throughout my first three days of living in Colombia — following my adventures in the country’s capital, after a lunch to celebrate the fifteenth birthdays of my host family’s relatives, upon returning from exploring a little mountain town, and even after window shopping in the busy mall.

View of mountainside houses from Bogot√° , Colombia
Celebrating the girls’ fifteenth birthdays

And each time, it’s true; keeping my mind locked into my second language, constantly meeting new people, and adjusting to completely new surroundings is exhausting. But don’t let that sound like complaining, because each time, those feelings exist as a result of this amazing opportunity I have to improve my Spanish, foster new relationships, and expand my worldview. What I’m experiencing now is the best type of tired, the kind that assures me I’m pushing my limits and working to become a better student, friend, and citizen of the world.

So yes, I’ve been busy and fall asleep each night as soon as my head hits my pillow. But I’m also loving my life in Colombia and am looking forward to four more weeks of being the best type of tired!

Un abrazo,

Kathryn Kienholz

8 Things You Learn From Staying in London

1. There is no such thing as personal space.

A thing I noticed while in London is that people don’t really have their own space bubble. Most places you go such as the tube you will be crammed close to people not caring about your personal space.

2. Beauty is everywhere.

Literally everywhere you look there is beauty. Whether it be a park or a part of history, every single thing in London is beautiful. 

4. Restaurants work a bit different.

Almost every restaurant we went to while in London had a bar inside it. Now we didn’t know at first but quickly found out that you order not only drinks from the bars but also your meals. You go up to the bar and order and pay for your food there and then they bring it out to your table. I think this is a cool way but personally I like being lazy and having the waiter/waitress come to me. 

5. People get drinks after work.

One thing I loved about the London social scene was that people go out with friends to grab a drink after work. People will be outside all pubs enjoying a beer almost everyday around the 5pm. I think we should bring this norm to America personally. 

6. It’s more expensive.

London is a very expensive town and we knew this before going but it really doesn’t hit until your paying $14 American dollars for a meal that seems cheap in pounds. The conversion rates reall get ya. But honestly every extra dollar is worth it because I mean you’re in London! 

7. Water.

Water is very different in the UK. A popular thing is sparkling water. At restaurants you have to ask specifically for tap or still water if you want it, and most of the time they will look at you like you’re crazy. Also if you want ice be sure to ask for it because most places don’t give you ice in your water!

8.  Museums and Churches.

In London it’s kind of funny because you pay to see the churches but most museums are free to enter. That’s almost completely opposite from America. However, paying entry for those churches are 100% worth it. 

Although many of these things are different, they are all the small parts that add to your trip. London was amazing and I can’t wait to go back! 

Change in Thought


July 25, 2017 

Some experiences are difficult to vocalize.¬†For weeks now, I have sat down to write this post, and what I find is that nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had, or even the aftermath of trying to answer the question, “How was Uganda?”

Growing up, I was the stereotypical girl that read books about the effects of international aid in Africa, and how this aid is often detrimental to the local communities “benefitting” from it. Backed with this prior reading and our semester-long class on Global Problems specifically related to Uganda, I, rather ignorantly, felt completely prepared to travel with our group (ha!).

Throughout the trip, our professor David Westfall would continually say that he would push us “to the edge” and pull us back when we were about to reach our breaking point. I thought this was a joke, but it wasn’t.

For the sake of maintaining the integrity of the experiences we had, people we met, and places we traveled, I will write about some lessons I learned on this trip rather than attempt to describe our six weeks in full:

  1. The culture in which we are socialized impacts our every action, thought, and emotion. For anyone that’s lived in a larger town, coming to Emporia may feel rather small, and vice-versa. If you’ve grown up in Emporia your whole life, however, the town is all you know, or the “norm.” Each day, I was struck and humbled by something that I would not consider “normal”- women being considered prostitutes for drinking a beer, children using a ball of garbage as a soccer ball, people openly sharing the little they had with complete strangers – yet I realized that these are facts of life to Ugandans, and to diminish them as “worse” than our own culture would be an ignorant shame. We only see these cultural differences as shocking because¬†we have been socialized into our own western society.
  2. Media superficially displays images of children in Africa as sad, broken, and unable to take care of themselves; however, I have never experienced so much joy and welcome from everyone we encountered. This portrayal is an injustice.
  3. Raising children can be a community event! Others love to hold your baby, and what we found is that children would be roaming the streets alone at age 4, and were doing perfectly fine. Others are incredibly grateful to play even a small role in your child’s life.
  4. School is a blessing. To have the privilege to complain about having homework and attending class is something others long to do. In Kampala, we spoke to some students who fight every day to be able to have school fees to become educated. I met a young girl who told me she, too, wanted to be Student Body President one day. I was humbled.
  5. Nothing-no new pair of shoes, perfect internship, meal at Radius-can replace the power of love. In love, Ugandans taught us, you have much.


For the sake of readers, I’ve limited my lessons to five; however, every single day, hour, and minute brought with it an experience I will never forget.


For anyone considering traveling to Uganda, I urge you: do it. It may not always be the “tourist experience” that everyone longs for on study abroad trips, but Uganda will embrace you. The people live fiercely, full of love and kindness and graciousness. ¬†The arms in which you’re wrapped may feel too tight at times, but they will always be there to take you in.¬†We are all people in this beautiful, enormous, unfair, powerful world, and we must find what binds us rather than divides us. Connection is possible all around the world. All you have to do is choose to place yourself in the way of beauty.


Megan McReynolds