Travel & Immersive Learning – what, why, how?

‘Then I realised adventures are the best way to learn’ – unknown

Hola mi amigos!

I’ve had many people ask a fair few questions bout my immersive travel experience out in Ecuador, as I took on the task of learning Spanish and taking a break from my 9 to 5, so I felt compelled to do a post to inspire those who may also wanna take themselves off somewhere and do some learning.


What to learn?

There are a wealth of programs to do abroad and not just language learning.  Some travellers are taking off to learn yoga (I see you Bali becoming a yogi hotspot), some to learn dance and others to further develop a skill they already have.  On my travels, I met so many  people undertaking a plethora of learning activities from yoga courses to kayaking classes; one girl who was Head of Finance in her previous job in the UK, had come to help a charity to set up a basic accounting system and I met one guy who was out to hone his canoeing skills whilst teaching it to to others.  The world really is your oyster and you can learn from and give so much to it; just choose what YOU WANT TO DO and what is right for YOU!

Salsa in Colombia
My private salsa class with Fernandez in Cali, when I went on a salsa tour of Colombia in 2009

Its up to you (and your funds) whether you curate and customise your own learning or choose a retreat/program already designed for you.  There are so many out there, some worthy and some overpriced and unworthy, so do your research.  However at the end of the day only you need to be happy with the choice you’ve made.


Why a language learning course on my travels?

So for me it just sucks that I know only English.  Knowing another language and then speaking it with another just unlocks that bit more to your travelling experience.  Without learning Spanish I would not have had some of my wonderful interactions with people in their own language and my time travelling around South America would have been very different.

Isa & I had lunch together in the market in Cusco. Hailing from Medellin, Colombia I was able to chat with her in Spanish and just enjoy her company.

I have always desired to learn Spanish and it made sense given my love of many dances rooted in this part of the world that I have undertaken such as salsa and the Argentine tango.  Plus given the sheer number of Spanish speaking countries I have visited it was getting embarassing that I still spoke zilch. At school I had learnt French and German neither of which I kept up sadly (well French and I had a tumultuous relationship at school so we were never to get on further in life)



Why did you choose to study in Ecuador?

I’ll be honest I originally wanted to learn Spanish in Argentina (fulfilling my dreams of learning Spanish by day and the Argentine tango by night) but I was advised by many different Spanish speakers that Argentinian Spanish is one of the most difficult accents to learn (along with Chilean) and had many Italian and German influences on the language thus changing some sounds of the language.  All I knew of Ecuador was that one day I would visit the Galapagos (another dream that became a reality); I had never looked into exploring  the rest of the country.  Ecuador seemed like a sensible choice as its not too expensive to live and I desired to stay in a buzzing capital city like Quito.  I met other travellers who took Spanish classes in Sucre, Bolivia (very cheap lessons) but although a beautiful city, it would not have suited me personally as it had a slow pace for a city girl like me.

Beautiful Quito – nestled in the valleys of mountains and volcanoes

Other good countries to learn Spanish I hear are Colombia (especially Medellin), Mexico and Guatemala.  I have visited both Colombia and Guatemala in the past and I preferred Ecuador to Mexico.   I loved the idea of going to a brand new country that I knew little about, I felt it would add to my adventure.  Choose a country that is new and exciting to you that you can explore and in a location that suits your personality.


How did you select your Spanish school? 

I can’t say I did a massive amount of research into where I wanted to learn Spanish.  I simply selected my school based on personal recommendation from a close friend.  I’m the sort of person who can spend ages researching and be no further forward in my choice and thus not take the plunge.  Nothing to me comes higher than a personal recommendation from a close friend who said Instituto Superior de Espanol was a very good school with excellent teaching methods.  In addition this schools offered accommodation options to stay with an Ecuadorian family which would help in my learning experience.


This school also offered different teaching packages to suit your needs. I started for two weeks with Combi package of 4 hours in a group then 2 hours private in the afternoon.  Intensive 6 hours a day took its toll on my concentration so for my last two weeks I dropped down to 4 hours of private in the morning to give me the afternoons to explore Quito, have time for myself and get to grips with language in my own time.

Another plus point of Instituto Superior de Espanol was they organised weekly school trips, cooking demonstrations of Ecuadorian meals and free salsa lessons twice a week (BONUS!)  It was clear this school encouraged students to be sociable and interact with one another.  They synced everyone’s break time even if you had private lessons so you could talk to other students.  I made great friends out here and I could not have chosen a better school for me.


Learning how to make burritos
My first Ecuadorian school trip with Mario our school caretaker

If you want to be more thorough in your research than myself there is a good site called Language Course which compares prices and reviews of language schools across the world.  However it may not cover all the points that I have mentioned regarding my school.


What are my plans post-Ecuador on how to remain conversational in Spanish?

Post Ecuador, I travelled to Peru and Bolivia so that will force me like nothing else! I truly advise that if you are travelling around Latin America long term even taking a short course of one or two weeks of travel Spanish will be invaluable to you.

Post travelling I hope to join meet up groups to practice Spanish back in the UK in conjunction with reading books in Spanish and audiobooks. I really don’t want my Spanish to fade away but I must say my lessons have given me excellent foundations to build on.  As they say if you you don’t use it you lose it!

I hope this post has been helpful.  If you have any questions or feel there are other things I should address please let me know in the comments and I can update with any other information necessary.

Hasta luego!


The Five to Nine Traveller


6 thoughts on “Travel & Immersive Learning – what, why, how?

  1. Great post, Tayo. I did a year abroad many moons ago and completely agree that being totally immersed in the culture of the language goes a long way. Glad to hear you took a lot out of the Latin America experience.


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