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Thursday 12 August 2004
Working abroad: James Eder
Written by James Eder, AIESEC member
AIESEC members above Medellin
AIESEC team above Medellin

James Eder is sharing his business skills with local people in Colombia this summer.

He's travelling abroad with the AIESEC student organisation, and he's writing a regular diary on BBC Birmingham.


Stevie Cameron
Stevie's in The Philippines.
Diary 1
Diary 2
CSR Conference
Diary 3
Diary 4

Andrew Webster
Andrew's in India.
Diary 1
Diary 2
Culture Shock!
Diary 3
Diary 4
Diary 5

Jess Rudkin
Jess is working in the Czech Republic.
Diary 1
Diary 2
Diary 3
Diary 4
Diary 5

James Eder
James is sharing his marketing skills with local people in Colombia.
Diary 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Diary 6 - Aims
Diary 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11
Diary 12 - 13 - 14 - 15
Diary 16 - 17 - 18 - 19

Working with AIESEC
Jame Eder introduces the student organisation.

AIESEC in Birmingham
Amaneeta Shokur explains more about AIESEC and how she is involved.

Scheila came to Birmingham from Brazil on a student scheme run by AIESEC.

Students index

Profile of the South American country from BBC News.

Follow James' travels on this map of Colombia from Lonely Planet.

James' photos
Check out James' prints online.

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Population: 44.2 million (UN, 2003)
Capital: Bogota
Major language: Spanish
Major religion: Christianity
Money: 1 Colombian peso = 100 centavos
Exports: Petrol, coffee, coal, gold, bananas, flowers, chemicals, emeralds, cotton,, sugar, livestock


AIESEC (pronounced "i-sek") stands for the Association for the International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce.

AIESEC is the world's largest international student organisation with 30,000 members in over 86 countries.

View a printable version of this page.
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Frustrations Booking Tickets to Medellín

There are a number of things I definitely take for granted in the UK, one of them being online booking facilities for flights.

AIESECers in special team shirts
AIESEC team t-shirts

It took six attempts and returns to the travel agent on campus to finally purchase and receive our tickets, in total taking over three hours. When we thought it was all arranged, I got a phone call from the airline the day we were flying saying there was a problem with the tickets and we had to return to the agency to change them.

Back to the airline misunderstanding

At 4.30pm Juliet & I went to the Miss Universe building, where the travel agent was located. On arrival we were acknowledged and sat and waited... and waited... and waited.

After 30 minutes, we were seen and eventually the tickets were changed almost an hour later. A bit of miscommunication occurred as the assistant informed us our flight was at 7.30pm not 8.30pm as previously, we began to worry that we were going to miss the flight. It was now already 5.30pm, we weren't packed and it takes up to an hour to get to the airport.

When they handed our tickets back to us, there was a bit of relief as the assistant had in fact meant that we needed to be at the airport by 7.30pm. The strange thing was, almost an hour later, the tickets that they gave us appeared to be exactly the same, leaving on the same flight at the same time and everything.

Bats in the departure lounge

Colombian flag
Colombian flag

Dan, Juliet & I got to the airport in good time. Added to all the previous panic, we were then offered a free return flight anywhere in Colombia if we went home and took the flight the next morning.

Truthfully, we were tempted but we decided the possibility of more complications and problems simply weren't worth it. Having such a stressful afternoon with the whole ticket situation, we should have guessed our flight would have been delayed anyway. We finally took off 1.5 hours later. Avianca, the airline, did kindly provide sandwiches and drinks due to the delay and we were kept entertained by three bats circling in the departure lounge.

Networking and coincidences in the air

Once the flight was underway, we began talking to a woman sitting next to Dan called Maria. She is in charge of the purchasing of menswear for Éxito, one of the major department stores and supermarkets here in Colombia.

We started telling her about our work here and we wrote down the contact details of the Éxito Foundation in charge of working with charities and providing donations. The head office is in Medellín and if we had time, she offered for us to meet up with her, although in the end as we had such a busy schedule she promised that she would help us anyway she could.

She was really nice, and such a coincidence she was sitting next to Dan. Maria also informed as that the fifth top supermodel in the country was sitting a few rows behind us. Medellín is known to be one of the top fashion centres in Colombia and South America.

Meeting the director of a cargo carrier

A man named Rodrigo sitting in front of Maria turned around and began speaking with us as well. After finding out about us, we learned that he works for Tampa Cargo, an airline that specialises in transporting goods (specifically flowers) around the world.

He gave us contact details of the office in Bogotá and suggested that if there is room on a flight we will be able to ship goods for free. If this materialises, there is so much potential for us to get international in-kind donations - we are really excited about the possibilities. Even more of a coincidence: both Maria and Rodrigo had been staying in the hotel opposite Juan K's apartment where I am living.


Nearing Medellín airport, we hit some turbulence and appeared to be flying into an electrical storm. At first it was just to the left of us and for the last 20 minutes of the flight it appeared to be getting closer and closer on either side.

It would have been ironic if something had happened to us on the plane because we'd avoided the 14 hour coach journey due to the route down from Baranquilla to Medellín being known as a more dangerous journey.

Medellin numberplate
Medellin numberplate

Another drama over, we landed safe and sound, got a cab and descended down in to Medellín. The airport is high in the mountains at 2500 metres, with the main city 1000 metres lower. (Check out a map of Colombia here.)

We got the taxi to a landmark in town and were collected by the local AIESECers. Arriving in a new place made all of us appreciate how great it is knowing people locally.

Flower Festival in Medellin
Flower festival

We got to the hotel at around 1am and met the other trainees - the other international people working through AIESEC in Colombia. We planned our next few days and there was so much to look forward to...


Written by James Eder

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