Deciding where to study abroad can be a daunting task. We all know that studying abroad can be an enriching experience and that there is no substitute for living and studying Spanish in a foreign country. The only way to truly become fluent in a language is to be immersed in it but with so many different schools out there it’s difficult to find a program that fits all your needs.
Spanish Immersion offers a fast-track to Spanish nmweekly through a variety of programs from week-long to programs equivalent to taking three semesters of Spanish at a traditional university. There are also stark differences in cost based on location and popularity. Programs in European countries are very expensive compared to affordable neighboring countries such as Mexico. As well as staying in a popular destination will be more costly than a lesser known city.
Before I decided where to study abroad, I started out by figuring out what my needs were and what I was looking to gain from my time abroad. I spent more than 2 months doing research, reading and comparing more than 50 schools in 20 different cities in 5 possible countries.
My first consideration was the cost. The exchange rate of the Euros vs. US Dollars is considerably high at the moment, so studying in Europe was out of the question. I also thought about where I would travel to and decided that Argentina and South america were too far from home. That narrowed down my search to Mexico.
The quality and cost of the program came next. I found more than a hundred schools in Cuernavaca and Oaxaca that claimed you could learn Spanish in a week. How can someone become fluent in a week if you begin classes every Monday? I would find myself having new classmates every week and going over and over the same material. Those cities and their schools were just “too good to be true”.
Security was another issue and big cities can sometimes be overwhelming and touristy. I found that Merida, Mexico is considered the safest city in all Mexico. Merida is in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula and has the lowest rate of violent crime of any large Mexican city. After all my research, I ended up going to the Spanish Institute of Merida in Yucatan Mexico. I stayed there for 4 weeks and I can proudly say that i made the right choice. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
Through Si Merida’s 4-week immersion program I stayed with a local host family and earned 6 credit hours. After immersing myself in Mexican culture and facing the challenges of learning in a different setting, I returned home with confidence in the Spanish skills I had learned. The program encompasses all the fundamentals of Spanish. The strength of the program is that it’s comprehensive and well rounded, with emphasis on language as well as culture.
If you’re reading this article, it means you’re interested in studying abroad. Even if you’re just casually researching the possibility, you should definitely continue the thread of interest that brought you to this article. Why? Let’s consider your situation (I would say you’re extremely lucky to even be able to consider studying abroad, but for some reason we don’t like hearing that type of thing so let’s be objective about it): you’re probably young, unmarried, without children, don’t have burdensome financial responsibilities holding you down and have parents that are willing to help you through college. This is a time in your life when you can just pick up and go without looking back. Being a college student allows you to do this; if you’re interested in traveling, it probably won’t ever be as easy to do so as it is now.
Once you graduate, the system begins clamping down on you; student loan repayment, work, the various responsibilities of home ownership, insurance… and thus the cycle begins. None of this will stop you if you’re truly passionate about traveling, but for someone in your situation it’s almost effortless. Just consider the fact that institutions are actually on your side to help you get out and explore new worlds. A great example is my brother: if he can get his grades up, his school will actually send him to study abroad for free. I suppose someone set aside a chunk of money in their will and stipulated that it be used to help business students at the university gain international experience. These kinds of opportunities are not unheard of for students, but are certainly difficult to come by later in life.
Not that you won’t have to do anything for yourself or run into any difficulties. What can sometimes prove problematic is when you bring the assumptions that for your entire life have worked smoothly in your homeland and try to apply them to another culture. Another example: my sister just went to study in Mexico City. The day she arrived she had to start looking for a place to stay, a task that became unexpectedly challenging when she found that her university was closed and wouldn’t open for another week. Little problems and obstacles like this will probably crop up along the way, but you have to expect this and take it in with an air of open-minded flexibility. And that’s part of the adventure, too. My sister ended up boarding a room with a family that took in travelers and met a girl from Spain who was in her same situation. They became friends and together found a place they couldn’t have been happier about.