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My Spanish Immersion in Buenos Aires, Argentina
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From January to April, 2007 I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and studied Spanish. On this page I'd like to tell you about my Spanish immersion in Argentina. I hope this information will be useful to students planning on studying in Buenos Aires.
Why I chose Buenos Aires
Prior to my Argentina trip I had studied Spanish in Mexico and Panama. To help select my third Spanish study destination, I asked my cousin, who had travelled the full length of South America on motorcycle, which destination was his favorite. "Buenos Aires," was the answer.
By the way, if you are planning a trip to Buenos Aires, you can get lots of great tips on things to do, apartments and accommodations, restaurants, safety, and shopping at Buenos Aires Tips.
Choosing a school
Before leaving Canada I checked out a few message boards and learned about a school recommended by posters called Lenguas Vivas. The school is set up to teach foreign languages to porteños (people who live in Buenos Aires) but also teaches Spanish to extranjeros (foreigners).
After completing the assessment test I was informed that my class would run two days per week for a grand total of 4 hours of study time, and that there would be at least 12 students in the class.
This wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted a full-time immersion (at least 20 hours per week) and smaller class sizes.
I still don't understand why so many posters recommended Lenguas Vivas on message boards. I even visited it when I arrived. I guess that will remain a mystery.
I decided I would find a school after arriving in Buenos Aires.
Studying at Estudio Buenos Aires
There are plenty of language schools in Buenos Aires and most have new classes starting every Monday. I chose to take classes at Estudio Buenos Aires (sometimes called EBA or EBAtrust), mainly because the location was convenient for me and the website looked good.
I studied at Estudio Buenos Aires for 2 months and thoroughly enjoyed it. Classes were small, especially for advanced students, and many of the teachers were excellent. Laura and Carla were particularly outstanding. I also made a few friends that I still keep in contact with.
Students at EBA came from all over the world, including Brazil, UK, Germany, Finland and USA. Most were in their twenties or thirties, though there were a few retirees as well.
I liked EBA so much that I would have continued studying there except they changed the time of the advanced class from mornings to afternoons and that didn't work for me.
To be fair, not every student I met liked EBA as much as I did. A few complained about the quality of the teaching materials and the lack of structure in the curriculum. Also, there was no computer room and no good area for students to socialize, and there were no field trips. Also, if you happen to get stuck with one of the few not-so-great teachers, well, that can ruin your experience.
There may be better language schools in Buenos Aires than EBA, but I definitely had a positive experience there.
Hiring a tutor
After leaving Estudio Buenos Aires I sampled classes at a couple of other schools, including Ibero Spanish School, but ultimately decided I would be better off with a tutor. I studied with several different tutors that I found on Craigslist. Typically, we would meet in a cafe. Most charged between 15 and 25 pesos per hour. I even found one tutor who would also serve as a personal assistant and run errands for you at the same rate.
The main advantage of using a tutor is that you learn faster. The disadvantage is that you are not in a school environment where you can meet other students and make new friends.
Since I planned to stay in Buenos Aires for several months, I rented a furnished apartment. The first apartment I rented was located on the edge of Recoleta on Austria Street. Nice place, nice neighborhood, but the unit faced the street and traffic noise made it hard to sleep past 7am. Buenos Aires is a noisy city. Also, I rented this place through an agency that specialized in renting to foreigners and the rent was too high. I paid $950 per month.
After a month there, I searched online listings at Clarin.com and found a larger, quieter unit in Palermo Chico for $600 per month. This unit was located in a pretty high-end building in a great location close to the zoo. Better still, the unit was contrafrente, which meant it faced an interior courtyard instead of the street so it was quiet and peaceful.
There are a number of unusual things about renting an apartment in Buenos Aires but let me give you just one example. Typically, the lights in the hallways are set on a timer. So when you exit the elevator, the hallway is pitch black and you have to hunt around for a switch to turn on the lights.
A little bit about Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a huge city of 15 million people and an excellent destination for Spanish immersion, if you like big cities. Here are a few quick tips if you plan to go.
The Recoleta Cemetary is an absolute must see. That's number one.
I highly recommend going to La Viruta one night when they have either a tango or salsa lesson. This is a quintessential BsAs experience. Check the schedule at http://www.lavirutatango.com.
The best/trendiest restaurants are in an area called Las Cañitas. It's a part of Palermo.
The best steak restaurant is called Las Lilas. It's in Puerto Madero.
I recommend staying in Recoleta, Palermo or Barrio Norte. A lot of tourists stay in San Telmo but I don't like it. It's dirty and not entirely safe at night.
Don't bother going to La Boca. There's little to see there and it's not safe.
There are of course lots of nightclubs which start late and go till dawn.
Ride the subte.
The city is generally safe but use common sense and don't walk around with expensive jewelry or a Rolex.
I like the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA).
Be sure to eat medialunas for breakfast and empanadas for lunch.
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