Choosing to Study Spanish Abroad Over a University Course at Home

It is possible to save quite a bit of money over the cost of a typical university course in the United States. Additionally, it couldn’t be easier to learn Spanish abroad, as there are many programs from which to choose.

While an exact price comparison can be a bit tricky, in general, you can expect to pay roughly $7 to $9 per hour for a Spanish language school in South America. This cost can be compared to over $40 (based on $20,000 annual university tuition) at a private university. Of course, when you factor in fees and other college expenses, the savings escalates even further. In short, you can expect to pay between four to six times as much for your instruction in a university than you would to study Spanish abroad.

You might be wondering why there is such a big price difference between studying Spanish in South America and studying at a university or college. As it turns out, there are a variety of reasons, some of which are obvious and some of which are less apparent. In South America the dollar usually goes far thanks to favorable exchange rates, such as 4 pesos to one greenback in Argentina. This means that Americans are able to have greater purchasing power when in a country like Argentina or Peru.

Yet aside from the exchange rate, there are other reasons that can also impact the price difference. Universities have dramatically higher overhead. In fact, they have a sea of expenses when compared to Spanish language schools. A substantial part of tuition is also used to do things like subsidize graduate studies, professor research projects and publish books, none of which are much benefit to the undergrad. Not to mention the additional expense of maintaining a vast, complex and expensive sports program as well. These non-class related expenses do not exist when you learn Spanish abroad.

Educational standards cannot be overlooked. It should be pointed out that at universities it is common for a good deal of the teaching to be done by graduate assistants who often have little teaching experience. On the other hand, teachers in language schools often spend over 1,000 hours per year in the classroom. Here is what Wendy Savinar from the United States had to say regarding her recent Spanish studies in Chile. “The quality of instruction and curriculum is unparalleled. I have been a high school English and ESL teacher for the past eight years in California and I stand in awe of the natural talent, insight and mastery of the teachers.”

Class size is always an issue in academics, with large classes an obstacle to individual attention. Spanish language schools have long understood this and keep their classes as 4-7 students, whereas in a university you are likely to be one of thirty students, sometimes much more.

Outside of the classroom there are other important factors to consider as well, such as surrounding environment. If you are leaning Spanish in a university, it will most likely be one of several classes that you are taking. On the other hand, when you are in a Spanish immersion program, you are only paying attention to this one subject and will not be switching back and forth from one language to another. This factor can make a huge difference as far as your ability to learn and focus.

But it’s not just the studies that differentiate learning abroad versus in a typical university. When studying Spanish in South America, you will have exposure to all sorts of cultural activities such as snowboarding in Chile and or learning to prepare ceviche in Peru. Moreover, you can expect your friends to be from all around the world and of various ages and backgrounds, whereas, at a university, you are far more likely to settle into one group of friends who may very well share a background similar to yours.

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