Outgoing: Pauline at Universidad Santo Tomás, Colombia

Pauline Thiberge, is following a Master 2 degree in law (“Derecho contractual publico privado”), at the Universidad Santo Tomás, Colombia. Upon completion, it leads to a double degree with the University of Bordeaux’s Master in “Droit public fundamental” (Fundamental public law).

Why did you choose the Universidad Santo Tomás?

I was interested in the Universidad Santo Tomás and Colombia for several reasons. Just to name a few: Universidad Santo Tomás is Colombia’s oldest university (founded in 1580 by la orden de predicadores). The biodiversity of Colombia is incredibly rich (ranked as the second most diverse country in the world), with five natural regions, offering varied and contrasting landscapes. These range from the burning sun of the Caribbean coast to the subzero temperatures of the snowcapped Andean volcanoes, from the humidity of the Amazonian forest to the dry air of the Guajira and Tatacoca deserts and from the verdant plains of the Eje Cafètera to the endless beaches of the Pacific coast… As well, the country is once again opening up to foreign visitors. For these reasons, along with my desire to discover a new culture, I chose to come and study at the Universidad Santo Tomás.

What are your objectives for this mobility experience? 

During my stay I aim to improve my Spanish and also my English, which is the main language spoken between international students. I also want to fully understand the Colombian legal system, which has many similarities to the French one. The practice of making such comparisons not only provides a better understanding of one’s own system, but also, and above all, highlights the weaknesses of our systems with a view to improvement.

What are the main differences you have identified between studying in France and Colombia?

The first big difference I noticed between the two educational systems is in the age of the second year Master students. Given the cost of the program, all the students in my class already work as lawyers. Secondly, the program is not taught through lectures, but in seminars dealing with a different subject each day. Otherwise, the Universidad Santo Tomás is very well-equipped with modern student facilities (sports hall, swimming pool, dance, music and painting courses for free and a “health week” organized by the university with students massages, medical treatment and yoga classes during examination periods).

What have you learned from this international experience so far?

My experience of Colombia, which is only just beginning, is teaching me that exchange programs are very rich, and not limited to simply learning the study program in question. The experience of speaking a new language, adapting to local habits and customs, discovering the rules necessary to live safely (for example the local saying “no dar papaya”*) and appreciating the local food, is much more complicated than just taking a straightforward course in law. Lastly, the opening up of the country seems to be paralleled by an increasing respect for nature which I have noticed via many ecotourism projects.

* “no dar papaya” which literally means “don’t give papaya”, is a Colombian saying meaning “don’t put yourself in a position where people may easily take advantage of you.

Updated on 17/11/2017