Ciudad de México, Mexico
Easily the top place to study abroad if you’re looking for academic prowess, a fast pace of life and vibrant culture, Mexico City is home to Latin America’s third best university – the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, or UNAM for short. As well as being an excellent choice for studying abroad, it’s also one of the most visited destinations in Latin America, offering some of the best street food in the country and a mixture of Spanish and English-language taught classes.
São Paulo, Brazil
The Universidade de São Paulo is Latin America’s second highest-ranking university, which makes the city an excellent option for studying abroad in Brazil. Sure, the more commonly studied Spanish won’t serve you much in Portuguese speaking São Paulo, but you can learn a new language along the way, as well as benefit from the far more affordable prices, when compared to the eye-wateringly expensive Rio de Janeiro.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Some study abroad students avoid Argentina due to its reputation for having a less than standard Spanish accent when compared with other Latin American destinations, but don’t let this minor obstacle put you off. Buenos Aires is actually the ideal spot to study abroad in Latin America – it has a cosmopolitan, European vibe and a reputation for safety that many may feel more comfortable with, as well as the highest ranked university in the region, the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
Neighbouring Argentina is the often overlooked Uruguay and its capital city, Montevideo. Sometimes dubbed the Switzerland of South America, this country is laidback, safer than many other Latin American destinations and relatively progressive too. While the capital can be pricey, it’s still pretty affordable and is known for providing a great quality of life. What’s more, it’s so off-the-beaten path in terms of typical study abroad options, it’ll give you great bragging rights – which is the only reason anyone studies abroad, right?
Panama City, Panama
You’d think that Central America started at Guatemala and ended at Costa Rica if you only learnt about it through gap year backpackers, as many people forget about Panama City, Panama. This capital is actually the most developed in Central America, boasts great connection potential with both Central and South America and has a cosmopolitan feel, with a Caribbean influence. There are also plenty of great language schools available for those who want to pick up where they left off or simply start from scratch.
If you like the idea of Panama, but think it might be a bit too pricey, then consider heading south to Bolivia, South America’s cheapest destination. This is one for the cash-strapped student who still wants a totally immersive and culturally fascinating experience during their semester studying abroad. Bolivia is rich in indigenous culture, situated close to popular Peru and nearby Brazil and has a vibrant, underrated second city with La Paz.
Choosing between Bogotá and Medellín is a difficult task, given that Colombians can get very defensive about their hometowns. However, for the sake of studying abroad, we can’t deny that Bogotá just edges out mountainous Medellín. Known as the city with the clearest, most neutral Spanish accent in all of Latin America, the Colombian capital is the ideal spot for a beginner Spanish speaker to grapple with grammar. Plus, the city itself is a diverse and interesting place to live, with tons of cultural attractions and a reputation for friendly residents.
Central American favourite Guatemala is ideal for beginner Spanish learners as it has some of the best Spanish language schools in the region and also ranks as one of the cheapest places to live. With plenty of Mayan culture, some indigenous languages and excellent proximity to the Caribbean coastline of Belize or the verdant scenery of Mexico’s Chiapas state, you’ll feel neither overwhelmed nor bored in the quaint colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala should you choose to study abroad there.
The Chilean accent often ranks alongside the Argentine twang as one of the hardest Spanish variations for learners to get to grips with, but that shouldn’t put you off heading to Chile for a semester abroad. The top place to study abroad in Chile has to be Santiago though, one of Latin America’s safest, stable and up-and-coming destinations…oh, and its rain-free for eight months of the year. There you can find culture, cuisine and a fairly low cost of living.
If you want to study abroad in Peru, then Lima could be ideal, especially given that it doesn’t have the nosebleed altitudes of other towns and cities closer to the Andes. While the Peruvian accent isn’t quite as neutral as that of neighbouring Colombia, it is very easy to understand despite many influences from Quechua. Despite being more expensive than other places in the country, Lima’s cost of living is still not as sky high as many alternatives such as Brazil.
For students seeking cultural and geographical diversity in their study abroad experience, Quito is ideal. Located in the tiny South American country of Ecuador, you’re nestled between Colombia and Peru, benefiting from coastline, mountains and jungle. It’s also one of the better places for learning Spanish as a result of the clear accent and wealth of Spanish schools – there are over 100 in Quito alone. Furthermore, the capital is both pretty and well-equipped meaning you won’t find it hard to settle in.