Deerfield Academy: Colombia 2014


Program Description

This program has been designed to ensure that participating students:

  • Expand their ability to use Spanish for effective communication
  • Have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the environment,culture, history, and people of Colombia
  • Increase their cultural competency,empathic skills, self-confidence and willingness to explore
  • Are able to make connections between global product chains and local producers, using coffee as a primary example
  • Increase their knowledge of diverse ecosystems and the importance of environmental and urban planning
  • Appreciate the diversity of lifestyles in the world and the common humanity that underlies our differences


This itinerary represents our best projection of the trip. Alterations may be made in the months preceding departure to improve the quality of the program.

Days One through Two (June 17th-18th)
We depart from the US and arrive in Bogota. Envoys staff and Deerfield faculty introduce the rules and protocols necessary to maintain good health and minimize the risk of accidents during the program. Divided into groups, students create a “full value contract”, where the expectations and roles of each member of the group are aligned. Individual students then lay out their learning goals for the trip, and all members make commitments to support each other’s development, both in the Spanish language and other areas.

Students visit Bogotá’s famed Gold Museum and learn about the Muisca indigenous culture that inhabited the eastern mountains. We delve into the impact of Spanish colonization and make connections between the Spanish conquest and our observations during the trip.

We then travel by cable car to Monserrate sanctuary and visit the mountaintop Cathedral, one of Bogota’s most holy places. From the viewpoint, we use a series of GIS maps to review the issues of urban planning affecting modern Bogota.

Days Three through Five (June 19th-21st)
We join with our travel partners from Los Nogales, a private school in Bogota. Together, we set out to the town of Villa de Leyva, one of the best-preserved examples of Colombia’s colonial history. Split into groups with chaperones, students work their way through the town, interviewing locals and gathering information to share while appreciating the beauty of Villa de Leyva.

During our time in this historic town, we also meet with researchers at the Paleontological Research Center of Villa de Leyva and learn about the investigation of fossils within the area. The Artisan culture in Boyacá represents a significant portion of the economic activity of the region. In the artisan enclave of Raquira, students learn how to produce different types of products out of clay and natural fibers. The series of interactions over these three days represent cascading communicative challenges, as Deerfield students will need to utilize their Spanish skills to interact successfully with their hsots from Los Nogales as well as the locals that we encounter together.

Days Six through Eight (June 22nd-24th)

Bidding farewell (for now) to our Los Nogales hosts, we travel by plane to Leticia and move out to explore the Amazon!

We hike through the jungle, recognizing the stratification of the forest and the methods plants use to compete for light. Students will enter the jungle with indigenous guides in search of the raw materials used to make handicrafts in the region. The communicative challenge of learning from the indigenous community members provides a strong opportunity for students to develop humility and empathy for others.

Days Nine through Ten (June 25th-26th)

We continue on to Armenia, Colombia’s coffee region, where we have a wonderful opportunity to engage in experiential learning in a natural environment. With the support of biologists and expert guides, we visit the botanical garden and butterfly conservatory of Quindio for two interactive workshops. In addition to the theoretical elements, students engage in ‘hands-on’ activities on arthropods and plant reproduction.

Upon reaching the main entrance of the Cocora Natural Protected Area, we begin a trek to the Palmas de Cera lookout point. During the trek, students learn about the main characteristics of the upper Andean ecosystem. Envoys instructors assist students to recognize the impact of human beings on the ecosystem and discover the effects of global warming on the forests and highlands.

Having officially entered the ‘Coffee Zone’ of Colombia, we spend the rest of our time learning about the traditions and culture of the region. Split into groups with chaperones, students work their way through the town, interviewing locals and gathering information to share with the group. We visit a typical coffee farm (hacienda) and its processing plant to learn about the coffee production process and the impact on the surrounding community. Our guides for the tour are members of a local family. After getting to know the place, the group of students will be divided into four sub-groups to rotate through the planting, collecting, historical, and post-harvest sections.

Day Eleven (June 27th)

We travel by plane to Cartagena, considered by many to be the most beautiful city in Colombia. After sinking into the beachside ambience, we spend the evening exploring the birthplace of ‘magical realism’.

Days Twelve through Fourteen (June 28th-30th)

We travel by private bus to Palomino and Tayrona National Park. During our days in the area, we are able to undertake a variety of invigorating and education activities. We journey to the indigenous community of Sewyaka, where we learn about the process of education for youth in the area. We also engage in a challenging hike through the rainforest to the ruined city of Pueblito, where we examine the remnants of the Tayrona civilization.

Day Fifteen (July 1st)

We journey by bus to Santa Marta and then by plane back to Bogota.

Students share the lessons that they have learned from the program and make public commitments to use this experience as motivation for their own lives. We then bid farewell to Colombia and return to our families via an overnight flight.

Day Sixteen (July 2nd)

We arrive back in the USA, ready to share our adventures!

Costs and Registration

How much does this program cost?

The final cost of the program is dependent on the number of students enrolled. The projected cost is between $5200.00 and 5500.00, plus international airfare. Financial aid is available according to Deerfield Academy policies.

How does registration work?

Registration for this program is conducted through Deerfield Academy. Parents will fill out a two-step registration process, receiving a detailed informational packet with required medical forms, liability waivers, and payment options. All families are required to conduct their own research on Colombia and carefully consider the appropriateness of this program for their child.


Who will be traveling with my child?

Two faculty members from Deerfield Academcy and two Envoys staff members will be supervising students for the duration of the trip. We also hire carefully-vetted local experts and guides for specific portions of the itinerary.

How does Envoys approach safety and security?

Envoys assumes a duty of care for the participants on our programs. While no one can guarantee freedom from harm, we undertake a multi-stage process to mitigate risk. All destinations receive a regular and thorough review, including point-by-point checklists for transport, accommodation, activities, and dining establishments. All participants in the trip, including Deerfield faculty and students, will be trained in the unique emergency protocols for this program.

How will the school communicate while in the field?

The program maintains multiple lines of communication with Deerfield Academy, families, and Envoys main offices. The expedition will be equipped with a satellite phone, a local and international cell phone, a GPS transponder, and a two-way radio. Envoys staff follow strict protocols to ensure that communication lines are kept open at all times.

To ensure families and schools are able to follow our trips, Envoys has custom-built a proprietary online platform to facilitate mobile uploading of information via satellite technology. This platform is housed on redundant servers to ensure constant availability.

Envoys staff upload photos, videos, postings, and Twitter feeds to the platform multiple times each day. Furthermore, our satellite tracking platform allows families to track each movement of the trip on a real-time basis.

What is covered during the preparatory courses?

Envoys provides two preparatory courses for participating students. These courses are taught through a blended model of online learning and in-person activities.

Course: Travel Health and Safety
Students learn about the health risks relevant to Colombia and the best methods to mitigate those risks. We conduct several activities to build situational awareness and help students to make better decisions while traveling abroad.

Course: Colombia 101

Students review major events in Colombian history, including recent sociopolitical issues that affect the people today. We consider the impact of violence on Colombian identity and foreign relations and build a basic understanding of the importance of coffee to the nation’s economy. After building a common knowledge base, students delve into individual research topics.

How will we assess learning gains?

Deerfield Academy and Envoys utilize rigorous evaluations to drive performance and communicate our results. This program will be assessed through the following means:

    1. Detailed behavioral observation reports produced by Envoys staff and Deerfield faculty at the conclusion of the trip
    2. Open-ended evaluations from participants on the trip
    3. Skill development assessments conducted following the program