This marks the first year that the program has traveled to Colombia.
This marks the first year that the program has traveled to Colombia.

Touring major cities and meeting locals and renowned theologians.

September 2016 – Fifteen Drew Theological School students, a teaching assistant and Dean Javier Viera spent 10 days in Colombia this summer as part of an international learning experience.

The goal of the school’s cross-cultural program, which also has ventured to El Salvador, Ghana, France, India, Turkey, Malaysia and Zimbabwe, is for students to experience an unfamiliar culture, according to Emily Cyrier, who manages the program and is director of Experiential Learning and Student Affairs at the seminary.

Students explored four cities and one village.
Students explored four cities and a village.

This was the school’s first trip to Colombia, with participants visiting the cities of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Cartagena and the village of Brisas del Mar.

Meeting local residents helped students challenge their own ideas.
Meeting local residents helped students challenge their own ideas.

Viera, who led the trip, said engagement with different theologians, churches and cultural institutions showed how diverse the Colombian population is and “led to intercultural engagement that was deep and spiritual.”

“This engagement was as enlightening as it was unsettling and challenging,” Viera said. “In the end though, our learning was a profound and beautiful experience.”

As with past trips, students visited partner universities and met church leaders and renowned theologians, including Elsa Tamez and José Duque, who also spoke at Drew last year.

Speakers covered a wide range of topics, including queer theology, eco-theology, peace, politics and socioeconomics. In addition, participants discussed faith with indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, participated in an intergenerational theological seminar and visited a faith center in Cartagena.

There was time to experience Colombia’s rich cultural heritage as well, with visits to two Bogotá sites: Plaza de Bolívar (a square in the heart of the city’s historic section) and Museo del Oro (a world-famous gold museum). Another highlight? Cartagena, a colonial walled city, fortress and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Since January, some 56 Theological School students have participated in cross-cultural trips to Jamaica, South Korea, the U.S. Appalachian region and Colombia, according to Cyrier. “We typically have four program offerings per year and students select a destination based on their academic, vocational and personal interests,” she added.