If you’re set on learning Spanish, there is nothing like an extended trip to Latin America to kick up your language skills. Whether you’ve got a few weeks, a few months, or even longer, your brain will benefit tremendously from being immersed in a culture where Spanish is spoken. But don’t make the rookie mistake of booking a ticket, showing up, and waiting for the magic to happen. You’ve got to make a point of reading, hearing, and speaking the language if you really want to develop your skills. Check out these three tips for getting the most out of your Spanish immersion in Latin America:

1) Push past your comfort zones.

It’s not unusual for travelers to have a bit of culture shock when they step off the plane. There’s nothing wrong with feeling a bit off or unsure about things, but you’ll really miss out if you allow that discomfort to paralyze you. If you arrive at your Latin American destination and find that you’re overwhelmed by your surroundings or by the language being spoken around you, don’t let that send you back to your hotel room or apartment. Instead, find a safe spot where you can sit down, relax, and absorb what’s happening. Sit on a bench in the main square or grab a cup of coffee in the quiet corner of a bustling coffee shop. Give yourself some time to acclimate to your surroundings without getting too involved with everything that’s happening. Within a few hours or few days you’ll most likely feel more comfortable and will be ready to join the action.


2) Don’t forget to study.

It’s all too easy for a language-focused trip to Latin America to turn into an extended vacation. It can be really hard to stay focused with gorgeous scenery, incredible food, and festivities all around you! Before your trip, enroll in language classes so that you’ll hit the ground running. Make sure you have a study plan before you go, and set intermediary goals to ensure you’re staying on track while abroad.

3) Find a way to get involved.

Learning a language requires involvement with those who speak it. Find a way to put your language skills to use by getting involved with a local group, club, or organization. If you’re in a position where you’re allowed to work, try finding a part-time job where you can practice speaking Spanish. If work isn’t an option, search for volunteer opportunities related to a cause you feel passionate about. Volunteerism is a phenomenal way to give back to the local community, develop your language skills, and boost your own self-esteem. (If you happen to be traveling to Colombia, make sure to check out this blog post about a great volunteer opportunity in Medellin.)

Studying Spanish in Latin America can be a life-changing experience no matter your age or occupation, or the length of your stay. Plan to incorporate these 3 factors into your trip and you may be surprised at how fast and how well you’re able to conquer the Spanish language.