Heading South for Spanish

Jennifer Timm discovers why Colombia and Chile are among South America’s most popular learning destinations


Colombia is a fantastic destination for students wanting to experience South America. Although Colombia is still working to shake a bad reputation from its tumultuous political past, policies implemented over the last two decades have made the country very safe. Now is the time to discover all Colombia has to offer.

Students who come to Colombia can choose to study in the hustle and bustle of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, or in one of its smaller cities, like Cali, Medellín, or Shakira’s hometown, Barranquilla. Colombian Spanish is often considered to be clear and easily understood, crucial for students hoping to improve their language skills. Colombia has rich cultural traditions and a growing economy, which makes it an attractive place to study for students of all majors.

Colombia also boasts impressive ecological diversity. From the rugged peaks of the Andes Mountains to pristine beaches of the Caribbean Sea to the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest, there is no shortage of natural beauty to explore. After their time outdoors, students can dance the night away to the rhythms of salsa or vallenato.

For students looking to study in Latin America, Colombia offers an ideal mix of urban sophistication, colonial charm, and natural wonder.

Universidad Tecnológica de Bolivar
In beautiful Cartagena de Indias, Colombia students can gain top-notch Spanish language training at the Open Access Language Center at Universidad Tecnológica de Bolivar. Cartagena was declared is a UNESCO World Heritage History Center for its port, fortresses, and monuments. It is located by the Caribbean Sea in the north of South America with great tropical weather, coaxing students to enjoy the sea, the warm Caribbean breeze, the delicious regional food, and vibrant music while learning Spanish.

Students can earn up to five university credits for attending their four-week program, which is approved by the Cervantes Institute. The Open Access Language Center has courses on a weekly basis as well as group Summer programs and individual, personalized courses. The program is ideal for students at any level of Spanish, and offers various cultural activities, such as visits to touristic and historical points of interest in Cartagena de Indias, sports, diving, dancing, and sailing.

Universidad de La Salle
The La Salle University Language Center aims to enhance the academic and cultural development of students based on language acquisition within the ¨Lasallian¨ values and philosophy. Their teaching methodology is grounded in communicative and task-based approaches so that students can achieve specific objectives in the target language by using it in real life.
Students can take up to 20 hours of class per week and embark on daily cultural trips where they can practice their newly acquired language. La Salle also offers personalized course plans for students with specific needs.

CEPEX Universidad Externado de Colombia (Bogotá)
Founded in 1999, the Centre, part of the Faculty of Finance, Government and International Relations, offers courses in Spanish as a Foreign Language courses to both foreign residents in Colombia and students from abroad to learn Spanish and take university courses.

All teachers working for CEPEX draw on years of teaching experience, employing in the most recent developments in pedagogical research their teaching practice and methodology.
With start dates throughout the year and both intensive and semi-intensive courses on a wide variety of course topics, CEPEX offers flexibility to fit any lifestyle. The school is located in one of the most desirable parts of Bogotá, the historical center of the Candelaria. This neighborhood is renowned for its colonial architecture and old world charm, offering many activities for time between classes.

The Amazon Spanish College
The Amazon Spanish College offers the opportunity to discover the wonders of the Amazon rainforest while studying Spanish and being immersed in the Colombian culture. The Colombian Amazon is a destination replete with life and unparalleled fauna and flora. Few places this pristine exist on our planet anymore.

The school is located in Leticia, in the southernmost part of the country where Colombia, Brazil, and Peru meet on the Amazon River. It also serves as the perfect base for different kinds of eco-tourist activities like nature hikes, overnight stays in the jungle, fishing, night safaris, bird-watching, kayaking, and canopy activities. Furthermore, students learn about Colombian culture, with typical local meals and even learn how to dance salsa and merengue.

The Amazon Spanish College offers group language courses and intensive courses at all levels, accommodation at the college’s on-campus bungalows, or with local host families, weekend eco-adventures, and volunteer programs.

EAFIT University’s Spanish Program provides total immersion in Latin American culture and Spanish in Colombia.
EAFIT offers the chance to have daily intensive Spanish lessons at a vibrant university campus surrounded by the friendliest people, and live with a local host family to help students boost their command of the language and get to know Latin American culture. The EAFIT University program in Medellín is internationally accredited by the Cervantes Institute and ACCET, ensuring quality Spanish language training. Outside of class, students can connect with conversation partners who help with the acquisition of colloquial language.

Medellín is one of the world’s most exciting cities. Students get to know Colombia and its culture through mixing with the locals and traveling in the region. Studying with the Latin American Culture and Spanish Immersion Program at EAFIT is an exhilarating way improve Spanish proficiency and become a part of the local culture.


This famous 2009-mile strip of land, sandwiched by the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Andes to the East, offers geographic diversity rivaled by few other nations. From the frozen tip of Patagonia to the arid, hot Atacama Desert, through all the temperate landscapes, jaw-dropping beaches, and hazy wine regions in between, Chile keeps its visitors mesmerized with natural beauty and cultural wealth. Chile also boasts some of the best universities in Latin America.

Students who love the extremes, or those who are content with a beautiful sunset and a good bottle of Cabernet will add value to their Spanish-immersion experience in Chile. Aside from the offerings of the land, the Chilean people possess a rich literary tradition, a bittersweet national history, and an exciting culinary scene.

City slickers can see and be seen in the sprawling metropolis of Santiago, or seek weekend refuge at a smaller beach town. Easter Island is an ideal destination for admirers of flora and fauna. Skiers and snowboarders can spend months slaloming at the country’s numerous ski resorts while couples can take a romantic trip over to the wine country for some of the world’s finest vino.
A recent survey by QS World University, shows that Santiago is the third best Latin American city in which to study abroad, ranking 41st within the 98 cities considered in the survey. Among the best universities in Latin America are Pontificia Universidad Católica (2nd place) and Universidad de Chile (4th place).

Chile’s strength relies on high quality education services and the prestige it has abroad, particularly within Latin America; the country’s secure and stable political, economic and social environment; and the diversity of educational programs on offer at universities with wide international networks.

Tandem Santiago
Tandem Santiago has offered Spanish immersion courses in Chile for 20 years now. Students choose group courses with 20, 30, or 35 lessons per week or private courses that instruct general Spanish, which can be personalized to delve into specific purposes such as Spanish for teachers, lawyers, doctors, or business as well as DELE preparation classes. Other educational opportunities include a wine course, salsa classes, weekend excursions to the Andes and the coast, and exchange activities with local students.

Tandem Santiago is a founding member of the AMERIGO network of high-quality Latin American language schools. AMERIGO schools boast excellent track records and are locally owned and operated. By studying in the AMERIGO network, students can choose city combination programs, spending their immersion experiences in different locations, such as Academia Uruguay, Academia Buenos Aires, and SET Idiomas in Córdoba, Argentina.

Chile-Spanish is a student residence language school in the center of Puerto Varas (Lake District), where students can learn Spanish by immersing themselves in the local culture. Native teachers create a custom curriculum to fit the individual needs of each student. Their teaching method aims to make students feel good about language learning. Extra-curricular activities include nature walks, cooking classes, visiting museums and local markets places, while also affording opportunities to visit locations that are off the beaten path.

The student residence offers private bathrooms, kitchenettes, WiFi, and a library. With direct views of two volcanoes nestled behind lake Llanquihue, this small town is the ideal starting point for adventure sports like zip-lining, canoeing, mountain biking, horseback riding or rafting.

Jennifer Timm is an educator in New York City.