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CLA - Culture and Language Abroad

About

Culture and Language Abroad is a uniquely immersive study program based in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Guanajuato, Mexico. Unlike less personal exchange programs, we focus on designing individual curriculum experiences that are authentic to both student’s needs and local culture. CLA is a non-profit founded and operated by a dedicated team of international educators – who also happen to be Guanajuato natives – whose university and community networks assure that program participants will study and live like a true local.

Founded
2015
Headquarters

Sangre de Cristo no. 15B
Colonia centro
36000 Guanajuato, GTO
Mexico

Reviews

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Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an incredible time participating in this program! The program director Fabiola was great at answering my questions and concerns before I left the US. She, along with Samantha, were wonderful tour guides, supports, and friends. CLA connected me with classes at the University of Guanajuato, where I was able to take classes with fellow international students from other programs. My host family was very kind and experienced, and lived in a vibrant and safe neighborhood. I was constantly spoken to in Spanish, which I loved because it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and learn so much so fast. The city of Guanajuato is beautiful, and is big enough to have a lot to do but small enough that by the end of your trip you feel like a local. Fabi and Sami led weekend trips for myself and the other CLA student, which were so much fun. The small group allowed us to learn so much more about Mexican history and culture. Also the food and coffee were obviously amazing. I would definitely recommend this program!

Julia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My name is Julia, I'm a 21 year old college student from Chicago who recently went on this amazing excursion. I genuinely had no idea what to expect before getting to Guanajuato, but what I experience surpassed anything I could have hoped for. I genuinely had the best summer of my life because of this program. The program director, Fabiola, is one of the greatest people i've ever met. She is extremely committed to making sure that everyone is safe and has an enjoyable experience. We went on weekend excursions to Mexico City, Dolores Hidalgo, and San Miguel de Allende. I laughed SO much during this program, and learned a great deal of Spanish in only one month. The language school itself has wonderful teachers who are very passionate about teaching you Spanish and making sure that you understand the culture. I am very glad I did this program instead of directly enrolling in the language school, because I received such an immersive experience into Mexican culture. Guanajuato itself is such a hidden gem, it has: music, food, and tons of places to explore. Guanajuato is an incredible city, it has retained its authenticity while still being a relatively big city. That being said, it is not a huge city by any means, nor is it extremely touristy. Most of the tourists in Guanajuato come from other Mexican cities. Mexico, and Guanajuato in particular, is so interesting and different from American culture, there is something here for everyone. I would recommend staying with a host family because it is was one of the most rewarding experiences of my trip. I will be returning to Mexico during Christmas, and I hope to see both Fabiola and my host mother while i'm there!

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Matthew
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

If you are looking for an amazing culture filled experience, look no further!! I have recently returned from Mexico and had a great time. I was able to meet a lot of great friends from Mexico as well as from many other countries around the world. When I arrived in Guanajuato my Spanish was very basic, I knew some words and phrases but that was about it. After a month in the program, I was speaking fluently on a conversational level and able to interact and engage in many facets of Mexican society and culture. Guanajuato is a really special place, it is big enough to always have something to do and explore, but small enough to maintain some of its old world charm. Think cobblestone streets, old beautiful cathedrals, and narrow alleyways filled with museums and cafes. I was able to travel to a few other cities in Mexico before I returned to the US, and Guanajuato remains my favorite. You will understand why when you get there! The reason this is such a great program is because it blends your education at the university with cultural events and trips with the Mexican people. You will attend classes at the University of Guanajuato, it is one of the best schools in Mexico and is centrally located in the heart of the city. There are over 20,000 students who attend the University which creates a really cool atmosphere in the city. It makes it really easy to meet other students and find out about parties/events etc. as you have a common bond with the other students. I made friends from all around the world who attended the school, and my Mexican friends helped me immensely with the language. In addition to your classes, you can take part in various events and trips set up by Fabiola the program director. We took a trip to Mexico City (which was awesome), went hiking, and attended many other cultural festivities. The program director Fabiola is the best, she takes care of everything and is always available for anything you need. More importantly, she arranges and goes to all the events with you, making your transition in a foreign country very smooth. I knew some friends in Guanajuato who were with other programs and they had a very different experience because their programs didn’t organize as well or introduce them to the local community. They were constantly coming to our CLA trips and events! Overall, I had an awesome summer and plan to return to Guanajuato soon. Sign up for this program, you won’t regret it.

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Monica
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was incredibly impressed with my trip with CLA to Guanajuato. I went to improve my proficiency in Spanish and learn about my heritage and I ended up gaining so much more. By the end of the month I was completely thinking in Spanish without having to translate everything into English first and even slept talked in Spanish which tells you it was deep in my subconscious. The classes that you will take at the University of Guanajuato are very well rounded so that you learn grammar, culture, literature, history, and dance with teachers who really care. The entire trip is completely immersive which is the most effective way to learn a language when paired with language classes. My host mom was amazing and made me feel at home from the very first day. It was also way easier to make friends than I expected. Fabiola, the director, made herself incredibly available to any need we had and planned so many fun and cultural activities to make the most out of our month in Guanajuato. I left Guanajuato in LOVE with Mexico and plan on returning more long term in the future. This program is the ultimate to experience Mexico as a one time trip or a tester before a more long term move.

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Lydia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am absolutely loving my experience with CLA. I am a junior at Goshen College, and would definitely recommend this program to college students. While Mexico is close to the United States, it is a completely different world and culture. This program is so special because the director, Fabiola, was actually born and raised in Guanajuato, GTO (the city you will be living in), and she graduated from the University of Guanajuato (the university you will be attending). So you are learning from a local citizen and a native Spanish speaker. I'm the kind of person that likes to go all in and get a really authentic cultural experience -- to me, it doesn't get any more authentic than this.

As far as academics go, I really love my professors and the classes I am taking. The different faculties are located all over the city, so it is important to choose classes with the schedules and traveling distances in mind. I recommend the "Spanish for foreign students" classes in the "languages" faculty. Although there are no obviously no Mexican students in these classes, the hours are AMAZING, and you get to meet people from all over the world. I have classes with students from China, Japan, Korea, and Sweden. Also, although you are in "Spanish for foreign students" classes, you are in the "languages" faculty, so there is still plenty of opportunity to meet Mexican students.

Fabi is an amazing director. She is very supportive and always available if and when you need her. She was the first person I told when I found out my grandfather died, and also whenever I felt sick or down. She always made sure I had the support I needed but also gave me the space I needed as well.

The city can feel small at times, but it is so easy to meet and get to know people, and it is really beautiful. There are lots of interesting bars, cafes, and museums, and the town is surrounded by mountains so there are lots of cool places to go hiking. It is also very safe. Of course you should take the precautions that you would take in any city, but I have never felt scared or in danger in Guanajuato. It is calm and peaceful, and there are usually lots of people outside, many of whom are fellow students.

I can't believe I only have three months left, I wish I could stay longer! The people are kind, the streets are alive and colorful, and my host mom's food is to die for. I would recommend this program to anyone!

What would you improve about this program?
I would say the process of class selection could be improved; it was a bit confusing navigating the different faculties and lists of classes. Otherwise, this program can only be improved by gaining more students and years of experience/operation.

Programs

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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Fabiola Estrada Valtierra

Job Title
Founder and Director

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory is sitting at the stairs of the Golden Temple - a religious city in Amritsar, India - and hearing the ceremonial call from the speakers that were situated in several points of the wall.

I remember thinking that even though I couldn't be further away from home, I have never felt more at ease and in touch with my true self!

I realized there and then that I wanted to provoke those feelings in other travelers by showing them my own country and all of its exotic and mythical places. It was then when the idea of CLA was born!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Starting a company (an NGO in my case) is a challenge in every possible way. You learn so much about everything and realize that to thrive you need to have many sets of skills and be truly multidisciplinary.

I realized that university doesn't teach you many of the skills you need. The most important thing that I have learned throughout this process is to trust my instincts and to remember that it is ok if you don't know everything about everything, as long as you can accept that and ask for help when you need guidance and you are willing to be an autodidact.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I love to hear the things that they miss the most about Guanajuato when they go back home. Funnily enough, things that they miss the most are often elements of their daily routine - the faces of the people waiting for the bus, the kids coming out of school, the man that sells ice-cream in the street where they lived, etc.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would definitely choose the 20 Weeks: Semester in Guanajuato because it has all the components for an amazing experience and for discovering all spectrums of society and culture in Mexico.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Myself and the other three founders were study abroad addicts ourselves, so we really identify with our participants and always try to provide the best, most valuable experience for them.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Really putting ourselves in the shoes of the student by providing the experiences that we would have liked to have when we studied abroad.