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Learning Spanish in Chile at the Tandem Santiago Spanish Language School:

Escuela Bellavista, Chile

Spanish Study in Metropolis Offers Many Advantages

Santiago de Chile is a metropolis with more than five million residents—the elegant center of modern Chilean culture. I spent two weeks there studying Spanish at Escuela Bellavista. The school occupies a colonial house in the bohemian Bellavista neighborhood, where the streets are often crowded with students discussing politics at the numerous sidewalk cafés and bars between classes at the nearby Universidad de Chile Law School.

Escuela Bellavista boasts experienced instructors from several Spanish-speaking countries and attracts students from around the world. Classes are no more than five or six students, and every student is given the opportunity to practice Spanish during class. Written tests place students at their appropriate level. The school hosts evening excursions to salsa clubs and restaurants and weekend day trips to nearby towns like Pomaire.

Cultural activities abound in Santiago. Traveling art exhibits are common. The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino and the Palacio de Bellas Artes are just two of the many museums spread around Santiago. Downtown Santiago also has the Palacio de la Moneda, where Salvador Allende was under siege during Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup. You can tour Nobel poet Pablo Neruda’s house to learn more about this Chilean icon. For a wilder cultural experience, watch a fútbol game between the rival university teams at the Estadio Nacional, which was an infamous concentration camp for political prisoners during the coup.

Shop at Cerro Santa Lucía, in downtown Santiago, and practice your Spanish with vendors selling Easter Island and Mapuche crafts. Patronato, a neighborhood that abuts Bellavista, is a chaotic few blocks of inexpensive clothing stores selling everything from winter coats to underwear to evening gowns.

Studying in Santiago not only gives you access to the myriad activities a cosmopolitan city offers but also to a reliable bus system that can cheaply take you two hours away to the twin coastal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, several hours north to the Atacama Desert, south to Chilean forests of araucaña (monkey puzzle) trees, or east over the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina.

Whatever you decide to do while in Santiago, practicing your Spanish is always easy. Most people still speak only Spanish and are generally very helpful with foreigners trying to learn their language.

Group classes at the Escuela Bellavista vary in price depending on the length—check the website for different course level offerings. Homestays with families accustomed to foreign students are included in the price. In my two weeks studying Spanish at the Escuela Bellavista I improved my Spanish enough to place in third-year Spanish classes when I began my freshman year at the Univ. of Oregon several months later.

To sound like a real Chilean, check out How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle: An English Lexicon of Chilean Slang & Spanish Sayings by John Brennan and Alvaro Taboada. It teaches you the slang that makes Chilean Spanish unique—these are the words and phrases they won’t teach you in class, but that will help you fit in at the discos or bars.

Contact: Escuela Bellavista, Calle del Arzobispo #0609, Providencia, Santiago, Chile; 011- (56-2) 732 34 43, cell phone 9100 29 53; info@escuelabellavist.cl, www.escuelabellavista.cl.