Global Pathways Colombia

A four-week summer program for Emerson College students

High in the Andes Mountains, overlooking the city of Medellín, a new neighborhood is being built by Colombians who, due to war and violence, were forced to flee their hometowns across the country. In 2009, its six founders began constructing their new community with their own hands, using only materials they could salvage. They decided to call it “Manantiales de Paz,” or “Springs of Peace.” This name not only reflects the land’s abundance of freshwater springs that nourishes the city below, as one community founder explained, it also expresses their deep desire to establish and sustain a community with resilience and peace.

In Global Pathways: Colombia, students collaborate with some of the now 7,000 internally displaced residents living in Manantiales de Paz and other communities around Medellín—in particular, women and families. In their own words, and using images from their own family albums, these women and families tell their stories of their hopes, dreams, and continued challenges.

Students work with these community members to record and circulate their stories. In previous years, students have produced bilingual video documentaries. These videos premiere at the end of the program in a theater show that brings the storytellers together with audiences and to create meaningful social change. They also become part of a 7,000-hour archive, the largest of its kind in Colombia, called My Home | Mi Hogar.

Directors Tamera Marko, Ph.D. and Ryan Catalani discuss why the program is important:

Videos from 2017

Click here to see more.

More details about Global Pathways: Colombia

The 4-credit course will be taught by Tamera Marko, Ph.D., the Global Pathways: Colombia director and Senior Lecturer in Emerson’s Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and Luis Serna, a filmmaker, professor, and director of the art programs at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellín. This course focuses specifically on multimedia storytelling—including video, photo, and written word—for diverse audiences in Colombia and in the United States. We focus on thinking about who gets to tell what stories—and why, how, where, and for whom they are circulated. We do so in Spanish and in English, which means learning to negotiate not only languages, but also cultures. A list of required readings, which will all be available online, and other recommended texts will be sent prior to the program.

Participants will also be paired with art and architecture students from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia's Medellín campus, many of whom are from families who were displaced, to document their multimedia work and the historical and social contexts that inspire them. In the course, we will focus on crafting videos, photos, biography statements, grant proposals, project statements, and academic abstracts for publications and exhibitions. Their art and architecture projects include multimedia research, analysis, and proposals for solutions to some of the 21st century’s most important local and global crises, including water scarcity, women’s rights, land rights, building community and equitable inclusion through the arts and theater, the homogenization of the aesthetics of public space, sustainable public transportation, and traditional farming.

Each student will live with a homestay family, eating most of their meals at home and going to family events. Participants will also be matched with compañeras/os (friends), Colombian university students who want to show them around the city and share what it's like to be a young adult in Medellín. All of the families live in the same lush green neighborhood, along with the program director and site coordinator.

This neighborhood was built 50 years ago to provide teachers, students, social workers, and artists with affordable housing that’s within walking distance of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the city’s public transportation system, and cultural spaces. Many of the current residents, now grandparents, planted the original tropical trees and gardens. Today, this neighborhood is a thriving intergenerational residential space with homestyle restaurants that serve traditional Colombian food, a bookstore, a public library with one of the best photographic archives in Colombia, cafes, and two art spaces. It is a bustling and safe hangout for university youth and faculty in the evenings and on the weekends, when the city of Medellín often hosts free cultural events.

Students will tour art museums and other cultural centers around the city, and get to see some of Medellín’s most important cultural events. This includes the annual Flower Festival (Feria de las Flores), which immerses the city in beautiful, elaborate flower arrangements and designs by farmers around the region, honoring the Medellín’s heritage and bringing light to its official nickname, city of the eternal spring.

Students will also learn about and visit many of the urban projects that have won Medellín national and international awards—and serve as models for more inclusive and sustainable urban planning for other cities in the Americas. These projects include hospitals, community centers, library parks, public gardens, and public transportation systems. These excursions last no more than a day, as students always sleep in their homestay families’ homes.

If you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of the program, don’t hesitate to contact program director Tamera Marko ( or site coordinator Ryan Catalani (


Application deadline: January 31, 2018

Program: July 14 - August 11, 2018

Apply on Emerson's website

Contact the directors

Tamera Marko

Ryan Catalani


This program is open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors of all majors. Students should have taken one 200-level LI course or have fulfilled their literary perspective. Students should also be able to communicate in basic Spanish.


The program fee paid to Emerson is estimated at $3,600 (subject to change). This includes the costs of tuition and housing. Financial assistance may be available for early applicants.

We estimate students will need an additional $1,000 to pay for airfare, transportation in the city, meals outside of the homestay family, supplies, and a passport if necessary. Students will pay for these costs directly, but the program director and site coordinator will work with accepted students to coordinate flights and budget the additional expenses, including advising on fundraising.

The additional costs will vary depending on the exchange rate of the Colombian peso. In the last year, one US dollar ($1) has been worth between about 2,300 and 3,300 Colombian pesos. That is, a typical lunch that costs 13,000 pesos might be equivalent to something between $3.93 and $5.65.

Other Requirements

US citizens do need not need a visa to travel to Colombia for this program; this will vary for citizens of other countries.

Participants in the Colombia Program must have an insurance plan that provides coverage while in Colombia. If you have the EC Aetna Student Health Plan you are covered in Colombia (as required) for participation in the program. If you feel your current insurance is not adequate, please research a plan that is. View the Health Insurance Requirements section.