Survive South America—Study Spanish in Cuenca and the Galapagos
Guest Post: Dave V in Cuenca Ecuador:
Travel in South America can be exciting frustrating all at the same time. There are amazing sites to see here in Ecuador: Galapagos islands, Cuencan colonial colossuses, snow-capped Cotopaxi. But unless you go on organized tours, you’re gonna have to know a little Spanish to get around. And if you plan on settling here in Ecuador, you better know a lot more than a little Spanish to survive the day-to-day living. Even a trip to the market for bread and butter will result in a lot of pointing and frantic hand gestures if you don’t know the most elementary of Spanish.
Compared to places like Asia, where education is held in high esteem and, thus, you can always find English speakers, here in South America, and Ecuador is no exception, you’ll find yourself a lot more on your own. So if you like getting lost, missing your bus connection, don’t want to meet the locals, and don’t want your stay in Ecuador to be memorable, you better not enroll yourself in a Spanish school when you first arrive!
Fortunately, Ecuador offers some great venues and great values for Spanish language courses. The quality of courses varies, of course, you must do a little research on schools. Fortunately a quick search on Google “Spanish schools Ecuador” will reveal a wealth(an overwhelming wealth) of info. Every school has a web site and there are a number of forums where former students recount the pluses and minuses of their experiences.
A few things should be decided upon first before beginning your search: where do I want to study and how intensely would I like to study. Spanish study becomes little travel experiences in themselves. So pick a place that really interests you in Ecuador. Would you like to stay in Quito and hang out in the capital for a while? Why not discover Cuenca and it’s colonial splendor? Or explore the rich biodiversity of the Galapagos islands? You can study for however long you want a week to 6 months. The schools can help you obtain visa extensions on top of your 90 day tourist visa. You could really get know a place exploring all its great attractions while making lots of local friends if you stick around for a while.
How intensely would you like to study? Most schools offer course options ranging from 20-35 hours per week. That’s 4-7 hours per day, Monday to Friday. It’s both a question of economics and commitment. Expect to pay a bit more and dedicate yourself more for a super intense course of 35 hours. Cuenca Spanish School offers intense courses between 160$ per week(20 hours) and super intense courses at 280$ per week(35 hours). Of course if you study intensely your rate of comprehension will be slower than a 35 super intense class, but you will have more time for socializing and exploration.
I think for it’s tranquility and colonial beauty, Cuenca is an excellent place to study and an excellent place to settle down. It is known on the gringo trail as the retirement capital in Ecuador for its mild climate. While you will definitely find good institutes in Quito, you will find the level in Cuenca on par. Each teacher has a University degree and a high level of experience. Though, for me personally, if I have a lot of loud distractions and party options, it will detract from my study time. I know this from the 7 years spent at College. Cuenca was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1999 and I think for it’s mild, year round spring-like climate and splendid architecture, it focuses the student a little. I don’t know—I feel east coast, Harvard, Yale when I’m here. I feel more open to learning when I am here.
Another great option would be the Galapagos islands. Everybody wants to include the Galapagos as part of their Ecuador experience. Why not combine your island travel with Spanish study–I personally like killing two birds with one stone. Galapagos Spanish school offers a similar excellence of teacher commitment as Cuenca’s Spanish school. All teachers are drawn from their sister school in Quito, Instituto-Superior, one of Quito’s oldest schools with over 25 years being open. All have at least a degree in English and Environmental Studies. So they bring a love and knowledge of the Galapagos with them.
Galapagos offers intense group classes. So you will be studying with groups of about 3 people. Small classes, but privates are available upon request. Galapagos Spanish school offers all inclusive packages ranging from about $700(just instruction and daily land excursions) to $2400(all inclusive 5 star accommodation, daily land excursions and boat tours). Galapagos is not the poor mans option, but if you have a bit of money bankrolled, Check it out. It’s not to miss!
To check out more about the schools and programs and pricing options check out their websites
Cuenca Spanish School: http://www.yanapumaspanish.org/spanish-in-cuenca.html
Galapagos Spanish school: http://www.galapagos.edu.ec/