I caught up with Chevening Scholars, Camila and Shalu, a few weeks ago when they paid a visit to York. Over pizza and beers, I shared with them that I wanted to do a blog series, showcasing some of the outstanding people I meet on my Chevening journey. Camila was the first to agree, and I am happy to share her interview with you. You can look forward to other stories in the coming months. I hope you will enjoy the series, #ScholarProfiles.
Name: Camila Pantoja
School: University College of London (UCL)
Course: MSc. Neuroscience
Vivacious, kind and smart. Those are the first three words that come to mind when I think about Camila Pantoja. I have a story to share. Once a man collapsed beside her in a half marathon. Want to know what she did? She’s a trained medical doctor, so performing CPR on him was the easy part. After that she called an ambulance which took him to the hospital, and guess what? She still managed to finish the half marathon. All in a day’s work.
I am delighted to share with you an interview I had with Camila recently. She talks about her field of study, her country and her encouragement to young women.
Why did you choose to study neuroscience?
Neuroscience has always been my passion. As a physician, I know that the brain has all control. I just want to know everything I can about it. It’s truly my passion.
Tell me a stereotype that generally comes up when you tell people where you’re from?
I always get these questions: “Have you watched Narcos?” “Do you have some cocaine?” or “Oh I know everything about Pablo Emilio Escobar”. People think Colombians are “sexy and spicy latinas” who know everything about cocaine.
What’s the local language in your country?
What’s the culture like in your country, is it diverse enough would you say?
In Colombia there are so many cultures you cannot speak about just one. The country is divided by regions by the Andes Mountain range and this created huge differences between regions. Overall we are very hardworking people. In fact, we’re invincible! We’re always finding a way to get through our hardships and always doing it between partying and cheers. We have indigenous communities, in the last few years we have been developing policies for taking care of them.
What is the most popular food, music and dance?
As I said, my country is divided by the mountain range which created huge differences within the country. This is why we have no typical dish and it varies depending on where you are. If you are near the seashore, the most important thing is rice with coconut, fried plantain and fried fish. In the coffee zone, there is “bandeja paisa” which is an enormous dish with rice, red beans, plantain, avocado, “arepa”, beef and avocado. In Bogota, the capital city, there is “ajiaco”, which is a soup made with potatoes, corn and fish. Music is everywhere, however, Cumbia is the most important music from the inside of the country and Salsa is all over the country, these are also the most popular dances.
Tell me two things you would like others who haven’t visited your country to know about the country and its people.
Colombia is not dangerous anymore. You can go without being scared. The only risk you are taking, is wanting to stay forever.
If I should visit your country what’s one place you would tell me to visit and why?
You definitely need to go to Tayrona National Park. This is a complex of beaches which are very diverse. It’s a great place to relax, to get to meet national people, eat national dishes and dance all your problems away.
And, how has your Chevening Journey been?
This has been the best decision I have ever taken. Not only I am studying what I love the most, which is neuroscience, but I am getting to meet amazing people daily, my family has become intercontinental! My life has become a dream in which I am traveling, learning and getting to know future leaders.
What encouragement would you give to young people, and especially young women?
Our sisters have to fight for each other. We must pay respect, by living our best selves, to all the women who gave their lives for us to be able to vote, to go to university, to be able to decide for ourselves. We are obliged to honour them by doing the same. Strong are the women that help to construct other women, so never give up. Honour our previous sisters by being brave and by being excellent and encourage other women to be amazing in their jobs, to grow and help other sisters to grow.