My SENA Center

In this post I am going to give you a little tour of the school where I work!

My SENA center is located in Itagüí, a bustling city/suburb to the south of Medellín. (For all intents and purposes Itagüí really is a part of Medellín – they are connected by metro and there is no space between the two – however, technically Itagüí is its own municipality.)

The school is located off a busy street which is always humming with buses, cars, and motorcycles. Across from the school is a row of restaurants, which are usually full of students and teachers relaxing and having lunch or a tinto and an empanada.


The front entrance is a bit imposing:


and there are always several very serious security guards standing at the front gate to check everyone who goes in and out. The “check” they do however, always makes me laugh.

First, everyone who enters or leaves the school must allow the security guards to “inspect” their bags, but the inspection consists of the guards just… lightly rubbing their hands all over the outside of everyone’s bag. What this is supposed to accomplish I certainly couldn’t tell you.

The guards are also very adamant that everyone must show an ID to enter the school. When I went the first time I hadn’t yet gotten a school ID or my Colombian cedula, so I wasn’t carrying an ID at all, and I had to get two separate people to come to the gate to vouch for the fact that I was a teacher there and allowed to enter.

However, as long as you have an ID of some kind (and it doesn’t need to be a school ID, it can be any ID at all – I’ve used my US drivers license), they will happily let you through – and they don’t check the name on your ID against a list, or write down your name or number or anything.  So what purpose does the very serious ID check serve, exactly? If I find out I’ll post an update.

OK, I’m done with my rant. These are jut the little things that make me scratch my head and giggle every day.

The SENA center has three buildings, each dedicated to a particular trade. The largest, and the one where I teach, is called the Centro Tecnológico del Mobiliario, which translates roughly to the technological furniture center (I’m sure there is a more elegant translation, but I don’t know what it would be). Most students at this building study furniture design and manufacturing, though other topics are taught there as well.

Here is the outside of the building:

SENA Calatrava

and inside the lobby:


Across from the lobby is a chapel (Colombia definitely does not do separation of church and state):


and upstairs are huge classrooms full of woodworking machines:


One of the classrooms where I teach is above one of these woodworking rooms. You can see the stairs leading to it here:


The inside is full of wood, tile, and siding samples:


The other classroom where I teach, which is the official English classroom, is on the first floor. Here are some of my students playing a game there:


And on the first floor of the building is also the room where I hold my weekly conversation club and culture club:


Also in the furniture design building is the school cafeteria:


For about $2.25 USD you can get a big lunch that includes soup, rice, meat, salad, fried plantains, and a glass of fresh juice. The only downside is that, being Colombia, none of it comes with any sauce or seasoning of any kind (have I mentioned that the food here is bland?) I keep meaning to buy a bottle of hot sauce to keep in my backpack for days when I end up buying lunch at school.

They also sell lots of different kinds of pastries, drinks, chips, candy, and ice cream (I don’t think anyone could accuse your average Colombian of being a health nut).

Here is the full menu:


And the extensive chip, candy, and ice cream selection:


Besides the tables and chairs inside the cafeteria, there are also two more outdoors seating areas, one behind the cafeteria and one out front. The one behind also has a giant chess set:


and a great view:


And here is the one out front:


One of my favorite things about Medellín is that, because the weather is spring-like year-round, many things are build outdoors (like seating areas and gyms), and even many buildings are at least partially open-air.

The second classroom building on campus is called Centro de Diseño y Manufactura del Cuero, or center for the design and manufacturing of leather. As you may have guessed, students who go to class in this building study leather design and manufacturing. This is the outside:


In the lobby of this building is the world’s largest leather purse!! It is in the Guinness Book of World Records. Pretty cool.


This building is built around a large indoor courtyard:


with lots of classrooms full of leather-manufacturing equipment:


The third classroom building is the Centro de Formación en Diseño, Confección y Moda, or the center for training in design, manufacturing, and fashion.


Inside there are displays made by fashion design students:


and lots of classrooms full of sewing machines:


Behind the fashion design building is yet another cute outdoor seating area, where I often eat lunch and study between classes:


as well as a little outdoor gym:


There are also a few smaller buildings on campus, including a library:


as well as an adorable little printing and school supplies shop:



a snack shop:


and a juice/fruit stand:


Overall I really like my SENA center, which feels like a tranquil oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Itagüí.

My biggest complaint so far is that it’s been really hard to get to know people there. I don’t have any meetings with other teachers or administrators (I know, I really shouldn’t be complaining about a lack of meetings!) and there isn’t really a teachers lounge or anything, so I feel like I go to school, teach my classes, and leave, and the only person I get to know is my co-teacher – even though I’d like to get to know many more people. My students are mostly very nice, but I only see each class once a week, and I don’t generally see them around campus.

Nevertheless, I’m slowly finding ways to get involved and make friends at school (I’m working on signing up for a woodworking class!) and I hope that by the end of the semester this concern will be a thing of the past.

I hope this was interesting or useful for future SENA teachers. If you have questions or comments please leave a reply or send me a message!


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