One of the best ways to improve your Spanish is to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, where you’ll learn not only the language, but also cultural traditions.
But with Spain, Mexico, Central America and South America to choose from, you may be confused about which country you should spend your summer, semester or year abroad in.
How do you select one?
Here are some factors to consider as you choose a temporary Spanish-speaking home.
Don’t forget that you’re picking a school, as well as a country! Compare the academic programs offered by different universities.
How will you be graded? Some countries, like Ecuador, have especially rigorous academic standards. Universities in Spanish-speaking countries also vary in class size, professor-student interaction style and course requirements.
Depending on your university and your fluency level, you may need to take introductory or intermediate language courses before enrolling in a class taught entirely in Spanish.
Your home university may have a partnership with a university in a Spanish-speaking country, making transfer of credits easier. Whichever program you choose, make sure the credits will be accepted toward your degree.
Study Abroad Housing and Environment
Do you want to live in a dormitory or apartment, or stay with a host family? Find out which option is most common (and convenient) for study abroad students in your country of choice. The cost of living will also vary depending on continent, country and region.
In a rural area, the pace of life is often slower and there are fewer distractions. Transportation may be more of a challenge, though, since you will most likely be walking, biking or using public transit during your time abroad.
In a city, the opportunities are more diverse, and the culture is usually more cosmopolitan. A large Spanish-speaking city will give you a very different perspective on the native culture of your country than a small town or village will.
Consider the traveling you might be doing, as well. Do you want to be in continental Europe or near the Gulf of Mexico? Whether you want to be close to mountains or close to nightclubs, you can find a Spanish-speaking study abroad program that accommodates your lifestyle and offers the chance to try new things.
Culture and Customs
Each country and region has its own unique accent. For example, do you want to become fluent in Dominican Spanish, Chilean Spanish or Venezuelan Spanish? If you can, talk to people you know who have visited or lived where you are considering studying abroad. They can give you insight into living and communicating in that country.
Besides the Spanish language, what other topics do you want to learn about when you study abroad? If you’re interested in conservation and the environment, you might consider a country with abundant natural life, such as Costa Rica. A large city such as Barcelona or Mexico City would be a good place to study urban planning, political science or architecture. A rural location in Spain or South America might be ideal to study agriculture or biology.
Maybe a country’s literature, history or politics intrigue you – or you are curious about how an industry in a certain country works. Picking the right study abroad program can be a great way to practice your Spanish and improve your cultural knowledge at the same time.