Today we have an interview with Jenna Stanfield a former student of our school. Jenna is from the USA, and almost three years ago she emigrated from Colorado in search of a new life path in Colombia, the chosen city was Medellin and here we have some of her story.
Why did you decide to come to Colombia?
I originally came to Colombia looking for a new adventure and wanting to learn Spanish. My first stop was Medellin, I planned being here only for a week or two, but that turned into nearly two months. I loved the city, and I loved my time at Nueva Lengua. I also found a little foundation while I was here called Cultivando Sonrisas, where I enjoyed spending time.
When I was back in the states after my 2.5 months in Colombia, I realized that my heart was in Medellin. So, I planned to return and volunteer at the foundation for 6 months and improve my Spanish. After that 6 months, I knew I wanted to stay!
What are you doing now in Medellín?
I am a Psychotherapist, with a Master’s in Counseling Mental Health. I have started my own private practice providing culturally astute counseling services to the expat population in Colombia, helping individuals, couples, and families navigate the ups and downs of life in another country, and life in general.
Additionally, I work for a technology company doing business development/sales with their client companies in the US. This job I found right at the end of my volunteer commitment. It was a huge answer to prayer to get this job as I knew if I wanted to stay in Colombia I had to find a way to have financial stability.
With the tech company I have the flexibility to work on-line, and with my private practice I have the ability to make my own schedule which has allowed me to balance two jobs and make a very nice comfortable life for myself in Medellin. However, this takes time and perseverance to accomplish.
What do you miss from the USA?
There are many things that I miss from the US, mostly my friends and family. However, with the beauties of modern technology I am able to stay in good communication with them, and with a good job and low cost of living I am able to visit home now and again, and I have an extra bed for my friends and family to stay in when they come visit. I love sharing Colombia my loved ones from back home!
I also miss having a car. Although it is not necessary to have a car in Medellin, I miss being able to just jump in the car and get where I need to or want to go. The main reason I’d like to have a car is to be able to go up into the mountains to get out of the city on the weekends with ease and convenience.
How was your process to learn Spanish?
Learning Spanish is likely one of the biggest academic challenges I have had in my life. Although I am a very educated person, learning Spanish was a completely different ball game for me, and a very humbling experience. I knew almost nothing when I first arrived, I could say “hola”, “me llamo Jenna”, and “donde esta el bano”. Now, I am happy to say for the most part I can speak fluently and understand and be understood. I still struggle quite a bit with my grammar, and my ability to understand when I’m in groups, one-on-one I do pretty well.
I felt like giving up several times, and wasn’t sure if I was able to really learn it. However, through perseverance, and the dedication and patience of my teachers and friends at Nueva Lengua, I am happy to be able to say….”Yes, I speak Spanish!”
What recommendations would you give to a person who wants to come to live in Colombia and especially in Medellín?
-Definitely take the time to learn Spanish if you don’t already know it….trust me you are capable!
-Get connected! Make friends with Colombians and other foreigners….you need both!
-Be Patient! Be patient with yourself, living in a foreign country is not easy. You will have a honeymoon period where everything seems great, and that might be (probably will be) followed with feelings of sadness and isolation, this will pass if put the effort in. Remember what it was about living in Medellin that excited you in the first place, and embrace the ups and downs as learning experiences that are helping you to grow into a more incredible version of you!
-Be Patient! Be patient with the cultural differences and communication struggles. You will be misunderstood (a lot!), and you will misunderstand others (a lot!) even when you are speaking the same language. This is part of the beauty of being an expat….if it was easy everyone would do it.
What do you do in your free time?
Since living in Medellin I have fallen in love with Mountain Biking and visiting pueblos around Antioquia.
I also love being involved with local foundations that are doing beautiful and incredible work for some of the cities most vulnerable children. I support two foundations here in Medellin. One is Fundacion Cultivando Sonrisas a home for girls who don’t have a safe place to call home. The second is Sembrando Esperanza y Paz, a soccer school for kids in Comuna 13, that is way more than a soccer school, it is a safe haven for kids keeping them out of gangs and away from drugs. Being involved in these two foundations has brought me vast amounts of joy since living in Medellin.
What can a person from abroad expect from people in Colombia?
Colombians are some of the most positive and joyful people I have met. The people of Colombia have a story and it is both a beautiful and painful story. The story of restoration is one of the things that most drew me to this country. The Colombian people and the country as a whole, fit the imagery of the Phoenix Rising from the Ashes more than I have seen first hand before in my life. Colombians are strong, joyful and extremely passionate people!
Being allowed to live in this beautiful country that does not belong to me, but that I have been welcomed into, has been a great joy! I hope as a foreigner to be able to be an ambassador to those around the world of what the true legacy of Colombia is about, and to assist in changing the negative perspectives that infiltrate the media. Additionally, I hope to be a part of changing the perspective of what the typical foreigner coming to Colombia is. I want the world to know there is so much more to Colombia than sex and drug tourism….and I want the Colombians to know there are so many more foreigners that want to come and share your beautiful country that are not just looking for sex and drugs!
Jenna, thank you very much for your time, and we hope that this interview will help many expats who want to come to Colombia to have an idea of what our country is like, the opportunities here, and what to expect from a city like Medellin.
We wish you continued success. If someone needs your services we will share your contact via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you would like to visit Colombia and learn Spanish, you can write to email@example.com and we will get to you ASAP