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CET Colombia program aims for diverse cohorts

A study abroad program for prospective US study abroad students to Colombia is bidding to increase the numbers of outbound students who identify as Black or African-American, or Hispanic or Latino.

Students will experience Colombia's dominant culture, "mestizo", through living in Cali, as well as studying the special program, say program organisers. Photo: Flickr/ Reg Natarajan

The program's core courses are taught by professors of Afro-Colombian descent

The program, which examines race and ethnicity “through an Afro-Colombian lens”, is designed to appeal to not only African–American students, but students seeking an alternative perspective while abroad, and has been launched by Washington D.C. based CET Academic Programs.

“African-Americans represent only 6.2% of U.S. students studying abroad”

In partnership with Howard University, the program has recently piloted its first cohort of seven US undergraduate students.

“Since African-Americans represent only 6.2% of U.S. students studying abroad, it is our hope that this type of programming will pique the interest of more students of colour in the US and allow them to see, live, and learn about our interconnectedness firsthand,” Tonija Hope Navas, director of the Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University said in a statement.

“This program represents a break from the standard semester-long study abroad program and will provide our students, and other students who participate, with a unique experience to see Colombia through the eyes of people of African descent.”

The seven students, who all identify as Black or African-American, or Hispanic or Latino, will go to Cali in Colombia, which boasts the second largest Afro-descendant population in South America, after Salvador da Bahia in Brazil.

“Most study abroad programs tend to approach the [study abroad] experience through a Eurocentric lens,” said Mark Lenhart, executive director, CET academic programs.

“It was important to make the shift to highlight the experiences and contributions of this population.”

The seven students from Amherst College, Princeton University, Yale University as well as Howard University, will stay with Afro-Colombian students who attend the program’s host university, Universidad del Valle, and the program’s core courses are taught by professors of Afro-Colombian descent.

“Both CET and Howard are very committed to sending more underrepresented students abroad, so this program also helps us accomplish that goal,” he noted.

“We knew the academic focus on the Afro-Colombian experience would resonate with black and African-American students, and we hoped black and African-American students would apply,” Lenhart added.

CET hopes the program will be a vehicle for “prompting academic discourse about the black experience in the Americas, at Howard and other US institutions”, he continued.

“What excites us most about this program is that the focus on the Afro-Colombian experience will prompt students to compare experiences and raise new questions about their own identity as Americans,” Lenhart noted.

“What’s unique here is that we are prompting these questions among students who are typically underrepresented in study abroad.”

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