Spanish Immersion in Mexico
My Spanish Immersion at IMAC in Guadalajara, Mexico
See also Tips on Studying Abroad
In October 2005 I travelled to Guadalajara, Mexico to study Spanish for 2 weeks at a school called IMAC. On this page I’d like to tell you about my Spanish immersion experience in Mexico and let you know what I thought of IMAC, my Spanish school in Mexico.
If you are considering taking a Spanish course in Mexico I hope this information will help you decide whether Guadalajara and IMAC are right for you.
Why I chose Guadalajara and IMAC
After studying Spanish for several years in Canada, this was my first opportunity to study Spanish abroad and take a full immersion course. I knew I wanted to go to Mexico, mainly because I had developed a love for the Mexican culture after watching Mexican soap operas on tv, but also because it was cheaper for me to study in Mexico than in other Latin American countries.
There are quite a few Spanish language schools in Mexico but I decided to focus on Guadalajara since it was a large city (the second largest city in Mexico after Mexico City) and because it looked like a popular Spanish immersion destination with lots of schools to choose from.
After poking around the Internet I decided to register at IMAC. From the website, the school appeared large and popular, and my email correspondence with them was positive. Again, price was a factor. For 4 hours of group study plus 1 hour of private tutoring per day, I paid about US$200 per week.
Studying at IMAC
Classes start each Monday at IMAC. My first day, I slept in after the long flight and received a phone call at my hotel at 8:30am telling me that I was late and to come to the school. I really didn’t expect the school to be this organized but was glad they called.
My intermediate-level class had 6 students: 4 Americans, 1 fellow from Switzerland and myself. Spanish students at IMAC ranged in age from early twenties to retirees. I thought it was a good mix.
I was quite surprised that the teachers at IMAC spoke very little English. But I guess that’s what you get when you take an immersion program. My understanding was that all of the teachers where university-educated.
Occasionally, we would take field trips to a museum or church to practice our Spanish in real situations.
The school had a large computer lab that was available to students. You could surf the Internet, check your email, or use the Spanish software programs to study. One particular software program really helped me understand the difference between por and para.
The school also had a small cafe where students could gather to chat between classes.
One interesting thing about IMAC is that most of the students here are Mexicans who are learning English, not foreigners who are studying Spanish.
In the afternoons, the school organized language exchanges between the Mexican and English students. These were totally free and I thought it was great to have the chance to meet and talk with locals.
All in all, I was very happy with my experience at IMAC. I learned a bit, had fun, and made a few friends. I will say though that I heard a few students complaining about the school and some eventually switched to other schools. Perhaps they didn’t like their teacher or their classmates. Also, it could be that their expectations were different from mine. IMAC is not a university-style school. It’s not that formal. If you want to study Spanish in a university atmosphere in Guadalajara, I would suggest the Center of Foreign Students at the University of Guadalajara.
While I was in IMAC I stayed at an hotel near the school called Hotel Cervantes. The cost worked out to about $35 per night. Frankly, this was a little higher than I wanted to pay but it’s a very nice hotel and the regular rate is much higher. My original plan was to move to a cheaper hotel after the first week, but I changed my mind after hearing other students complain of cockroaches and lots of noise in the low-end hotels that charged around $20 per night.
I’d say that at least half of the Spanish students at IMAC stayed in home stays with host families. Some of them had positive experiences and others didn’t it. It really seemed to be the luck of the draw whether you got a good host family with good food and accommodations or not.
A little bit about Guadalajara
I had nothing but positive experiences with the people in Guadalajara. Visiting Guadalajara is a totally different experience from visiting a Mexican beach resort where the vendors hassle and bother tourists to get them to take a tour, buy a souvenir or whatever. This is a peaceful, family-oriented city. It’s not your typical tourist vacation destination.
Although there is crime in Guadalajara, I can tell you that I walked alone through all sorts of neighborhoods, in the day and at night, and never had a problem. Some women at my school, particularly attractive blondes, did say that they often received unwanted, aggressive attention from Mexican men.
I think the greatest danger for tourists in Guadalajara is the traffic. Many intersections are uncontrolled and you really have to be careful crossing the streets. Also, the sidewalks are in disrepair and there is always the chance of tripping or twisting your ankle in a hole.
The weather in Guadalajara was absolutely beautiful in October. The days were sunny and warm, perhaps 25C or 80F, and it cooled off at night. Many locals used jackets in the morning, but I was comfortable in just a shirt, day or night.
I think the air was a little polluted and my eyes got a little red at times.
If you like to watch movies, I suggest visiting a VIP cinema in Guadalajara. These are theaters that offer ultra-comfortable seating in big, plush, reclining chairs.
And finally, to answer a question my friends asked me upon my return, yes, there is a Starbucks in Guadalajara.