How did you learn to swim?
You might have started by holding onto the wall. You practiced skills like kicking and blowing bubbles underwater.
Eventually, though, you had to let go of the wall.
Although it was a terrifying couple of seconds, you were swimming around the pool in no time.
In fact, it may have surprised you that you were able to swim better than you expected.
Now, how are you learning Spanish?
All of these are amazing ways to practice your Spanish, but eventually, you will have to let go of the wall.
Participating in a Spanish immersion program is the perfect way to throw yourself into the deep end.
You will be surprised how well the knowledge you have been building will help you navigate in a Spanish environment.
And you do not have to do it yourself: The 12 Spanish immersion programs in this post will give you the support you need to stay afloat and improve so much, you will never need to rely on metaphorical floaties again.
How Can a Spanish Immersion Program Improve Your Language Skills?
When you visit a Spanish-speaking country for your immersion program, you will have no choice but to use your Spanish skills constantly. Instead of working through grammar exercises and vocabulary-building activities, you will have to just speak the language.
Spanish will surround you 24/7. Simple things like getting something from the grocery store or finding your way home will require you to use your Spanish skills.
Throughout the entire process, you will be learning from native speakers. Usually, these speakers will want to help you learn.
The value of learning from native speakers cannot be understated. You will not only improve your conversation skills, but you will learn how words and phrases are actually used. That information can be hard to glean from a textbook.
And Spanish skill improvement is just one of the many benefits of using an immersion program. In addition to all the language-learning benefits, you will also be learning about the culture and the people through hands-on interaction.
It will help you to better understand an entire country in a meaningful way by making connections with its people.
Should You Try a Spanish Immersion Program?
The decision to participate in an immersion program is a big one. The program will take time, energy and money. Is it worth that investment?
If you are serious about learning Spanish, then yes!
However, you need to be aware of your learning goals and what it will take to achieve them. You need to be willing to step completely outside of your comfort zone.
An immersion program will not only involve a new language but also a new location, new home, new friends and new experiences. You will need to actively seek out experiences that might be challenging or mentally tiring since you will be thinking in a different language the entire time. Are you ready for that?
Want all the benefits of a Spanish immersion, but cannot travel abroad to a Spanish-speaking country? Immerse yourself right from your home with the authentic videos on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
And if you do plan to travel abroad? Use FluentU’s annotated subtitles, interactive vocabulary lists, flashcards and more to brush up on your Spanish before you embark on your language-learning journey!
How to Choose an Immersion Program That Is Right for You
Find a suitable program duration
As you start the search for an immersion program, be realistic about the amount of time you are able to commit to a program. Unfortunately, most of us have jobs, school, families and other responsibilities that we can only realistically leave for a certain amount of time.
Find a program that works with the time you are able to commit.
Keep in mind that the more time you are willing to commit to a program, the more effective your experience will be.
Based on my own experience, I needed some time when I first arrived at the program to adjust to my new surroundings before I started learning the language.
Do not worry if you only have a week or two, though: The lengths of programs vary greatly and you will likely still be able to find a good fit.
Choose the right country
When looking for a program, pick a country and city that you want to get to know better.
It helps to be very interested in the place around you throughout your immersion experience. It will keep you engaged and inspire you to explore. And all that exploration will help you to expand your cultural knowledge as well as learn the language.
Remember that Spanish is a language with many dialects. If you are set on learning a specific kind of Spanish, then choose a program in that area. You will be learning Spanish around you, so wherever you are is the type of Spanish you will learn.
Balance your experience in and outside of the classroom
Some people learn better from hands-on experience, while others learn better in a classroom. You know the best style of learning for you.
Find a program with the right balance of instructional guidance and self-learning to suit your learning requirements.
Pick where you will stay
Most programs include lodging of some kind, sometimes even partnering with local families to provide students with a homestay experience. It can be hard to live with people anywhere, but it is especially challenging when you do not share the language and culture of those you share a home with.
We recommend a homestay experience since it will complete the immersion experience, but you will need to make sure that you are matched with a family you can easily get along with or shares the same values as you.
Often, programs will help you find a family to homestay with, while others are more of a gamble as they randomly assign students to families.
If you do not feel comfortable staying with a local family, then look for a program that lets you live on campus or in a rented apartment.
12 Spanish Immersion Programs to Unlock Your Skills
Location: Valencia, Spain
This school in Valencia has a variety of options that allow you to create the best immersion experience for yourself. The school offers different courses including a full homestay immersion, a one-day Spanish lesson for tourists and immersion programs specifically designed for people who want to improve their Spanish skills.
Most of the courses allow for some time inside the classroom and plenty of free time to explore the city.
I studied abroad in Valencia and it is an absolutely wonderful city. As the third largest city in Spain, it is large enough that there are always things to do but also small enough to feel comfortable getting around. The people in Valencia are also extremely nice and helpful.
Valencia is also in a great location for those looking to explore more of Spain. Within a short train ride, you can get to Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo and countless other cities.
ISA offers immersion experiences around the world, including Spanish immersion programs. I participated in an ISA program in Valencia, Spain, but the company also offers programs in Peru, Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and various cities in Spain.
The length and price of the immersion program will vary by trip, but they have set dates that you can choose from throughout the year. Courses typically last an entire semester but there are also shorter options for those who cannot commit a few months of their time.
The program I participated in was an amazing immersion experience. It really helped to have the ISA staff available to help out at all times. The leaders of the program even give students a personal number to call in case they run into any problems during their stay. It is a very supportive environment, where you feel safe and can focus on learning.
ISA includes in-class teaching in addition to planned excursions throughout the program. You also get plenty of free time to explore on your own.
The company has a great matching service that will help you find a compatible family to live with. The experience will likely vary by the location of your program, but ISA is definitely a good place to look if you want to find a longer immersion experience.
Price: varies based on length and program
Location: Madrid, Spain
At ih (International House) Madrid, you can choose from multiple programs to find the right fit for you. Courses range from the intensive to the even more intensive (“designed for people who want to improve their Spanish language in as short a time as possible,” according to the website).
The time you spend on a course is extremely flexible, and most programs allow you to choose a number of weeks to suit you.
No matter which option you choose, you will get the chance to spend some time with the locals in the beautiful city of Madrid. The city has so much to offer in terms of art, culture, dining and much more—it is sure to provide a rich experience for visitors.
You can choose from either a homestay or a student room for the duration of your program.
The course offers in-class teaching in addition to planned cultural experiences. Make sure to take advantage of being in Madrid! And remember to use your Spanish skills as you navigate through the city.
Length: from two to 20 weeks
Price: starting at $990 USD
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
The class sizes at Mente Argentina are only eight students per instructor, which will allow for maximum one-on-one attention. If you want individualized attention, that is a great perk.
There are cultural excursions in addition to classroom time. The program fee includes many perks, providing you with a free local cell phone, tango lessons, a gym membership, safe accommodations and more.
Classes start every Monday throughout the year. The program will allow you to dive in with little or no Spanish experience if you want to give it a try or skip straight to a more advanced class if you are more experienced.
Red Tree Study is a free matchmaking service that links inquiring students with the best program for them in Colombia.
You will work with the company to sort through a variety of language schools and universities until you find the right fit. If you want to take advantage of their help, you will have to book a program through their website.
Red Tree Study knows the area very well and can help you make smart choices about your immersion experience in Colombia.
Length: one to 16 weeks
Price: starting at $445 USD
Location: Heredia, Costa Rica
Tico Lingo is located in Heredia, Costa Rica, and offers a variety of intensive immersion experiences.
With the most basic option, you will be in the classroom for 20 hours a week and receive a homestay with a local family.
You can upgrade your experience to include afternoon yoga sessions and dance lessons if you would like to experience a more structured time. Or you can use the rest of your time to freely explore the town of Heredia.
In addition to all this, you will receive a local conversation partner that will help to show you around the city. The easy environment of one on one practice will really help to accelerate your learning.
Length: one to 10 weeks
Price: starting at $225 USD
Habla Ya offers an interesting immersion experience that includes courses paired with extracurricular activities like SCUBA, yoga or surfing in addition to your Spanish studies. You can attend get-togethers and movie nights with your fellow students, enjoy some local cuisine, go on an eco-adventure and so much more.
The company offers programs in various cities, so you can choose to study in the mountains or by the beach, depending on the kind of experience you want.
The program offers you the option of a homestay or other accommodations like a hostel, hotel or vacation home—choose the option that best fits your budget and needs.
Length: seven days
Price: $1920 USD
Location: Coral Gables, Florida
Want to stay inside the continental US? This might be the option for you.
Coral Gables offers an interesting mix of Cuban, Mexican and Haitian heritage, among others, and about 50% of the community speaks Spanish. This makes the program an ideal place to ease into Spanish since you can still use English if you really need to.
You will be placed in a course level based on an online placement test. The course is a quick seven-day intensive experience which starts on a Saturday and ends on a Friday.
Throughout the week, you will receive over 45 hours of instruction, taught using immersive methods with many planned cultural activities.
The course is taught by teachers from various countries, so the Spanish you learn will be diverse.
The class includes breakfast and lunch daily, but you will need to find your own accommodations for the nights.
Length: one to 6 weeks
Price: starting at $315 USD
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
The courses in San Juan start every single Monday of the year, so you can choose which time will work best for you. The program includes a homestay, cultural activities and potentially academic credit if you ask about it.
The class sizes are small and you can request that instructor cover specific topics if you have something in mind.
Reach out to the school for more options about personalizing your immersion experience. And when you are not studying, you can hit the beach, located just 15 minutes away from the school.
Length: one to 6 weeks
Price: starting at $175 USD per week
Location: Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia
This resource offers Spanish courses in three different countries and a variety of cities. The immersion program focuses on the dialect of the region you are in, so choose the country you are most interested in.
You will be placed into a suitable class for you through a precise testing procedure, ensuring that you are placed into a class that will neither frustrate you nor leave you behind.
In addition to Spanish courses, you can also choose to take part in an internship or volunteer experience during your immersion program.
You can also choose a more involved course package which will take you on excursions around the country of your choice, showing you everything from beautiful scenery to cultural and historical spots.
These options are great ways to immerse yourself even further into the country’s culture.
You can choose to participate in either a homestay with a family or a student housing living situation.
Length: 15-16 weeks
Price: starting at $5,450 USD
Location: Santiago, Chile
This option is for anyone who wants to specialize in a certain educational field, and do it all in Spanish. Courses include topics like health studies, politics and social justice and a number of other options.
This total immersion experience is perfect for someone looking to earn college credit for their Spanish learning. Throughout your stay in Santiago, you will be living with a host family and attending college-level courses (at least 15 credit hours).
Most of these programs require you to have taken four years of college-level Spanish studies.
You can also take part in internships and service learning outside of the classroom. On the weekends you can participate in some cultural activities as well as have time to explore the great city around you.
Length: one to 12 weeks
Price: starting at $895 USD per week
You might have read through the all options and decided that you actually do not want to spend any time in a classroom. Well, this last option is for you.
A Broader View is a nonprofit that will pair you with a volunteer project in a Spanish speaking country.
For a fee which includes lodging with a local family, you will have the chance to work in the country of your choice.
The great thing about this program is that there are so many different options to choose from as far as places to volunteer. You can choose to work in a medical clinic, in a museum, on a youth-oriented project and so much more.
The choice is entirely yours! You will still have an immersion experience without having to sit through any classroom lessons.
So many excellent programs! Which one you choose really boils down to your goals. Decide what you want to get out of a program and then start looking for that experience.
You should really give this a try if you have the opportunity. It will change your Spanish—and maybe even your life—for the better!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.