CLA - Culture and Language Abroad

Program Reviews

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Joe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Guanajuato is a beautiful city full of colour, vibrancy, and a friendly mix of locals and other international students. It's a great city to wander and find live music, fantastic street food or a little bar/coffee shop to relax in. As long as you make an effort with trying to speak, the citizens of Guanajuato are friendly and receptive and it was overall an extremely pleasant place to live. Fabiola and Samantha were our local program administrators with CLA and it's hard to put into words how incredible they were. From picking us up at the airport to showing us around the city to organizing weekly cultural excursions, we quickly became friends who I still keep in contact with today. My experience was definitely improved with Fabiola & Samantha's guidance and I couldn't have asked for a better study abroad program with them. I stayed with a family who again I cannot fault. I was apprehensive at first because I was joining a very large family coming from a small household, but they immediately treated me like I were one of their own. But when living with a family, it's important to get yourself involved with mealtimes and general family time. They are one of your best resources when learning Spanish and they'll be interested in your life and background too! When choosing a study abroad program, the academic program was important. I wanted to learn more about the language and place I was living but didn't want to spend my whole time inside of a classroom. I found that the academic program at the University of Guanajuato was a perfect match of what I wanted, and all the professors I had were extremely friendly and dedicated to helping us learn. Financially, it's important to budget your money and resist the urge to spend it all in the first few weeks. There are so many restaurants, bars, coffee shops, museums and other attractions that if you're awful at self-control like myself, it's easy to overspend at the beginning of study abroad. Other than that, like any tourist city it has its expensive and cheaper areas. It just takes a little while to figure it out.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice would be to budget well. Guanajuato is an amazing city and it's easy to want to spend your money at all the different bars, restaurants, museums, cinemas etc.
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Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had the opportunity to spend three months studying abroad (of my planned six months) before COVID-19 hit. It was truly the best three months of my life. I was placed with a host family that home-cooked every meal and had two amazing and supportive host parents. The academics were good, but the highlight of university life was meeting other students (both domestic and exchange). There were so many opportunities to meet people (language exchanges were a favorite). The cultural activities that we did the program were also really tailored to our interests and super fun/informative (cooking classes, a traditional tattooing workshop). Once COVID-19 hit, the director had us quarantine in her house with her before we had to leave. It was a great bonding experience and above-and-beyond for her to let us to live there just to assure our safety. Everyone involved in the program truly wants what's best for you and for you to have the best time you possibly can. I cannot recommend this program enough. If there's anything I could change, it would be the timing of the pandemic so I could stay longer.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
People eating crickets! I never tried one (I was never brave enough) but there was a woman who sold cooked crickets outside of my house and there were always people buying them!
Response from CLA - Culture and Language Abroad

Thank you Hannah! We miss you <3

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Naho
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am very satisfied with the program. That time was indispensable. Fabiola and Samantha are so kind and showed us many places, and always took care of us. Also, they have good relationships with the host families. I found that living with a host family is very different from living alone in Mexico. You can eat Mexican food, talk in Spanish all the time with people who they live there, and you can learn lots of things by living with them. I enjoyed the time with my host family, and of course Fabiola and Samantha.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Chapulines is the most unfamiliar thing I ate in Mexico. It’s a locust, tasted by chili. For me it tasted like a small fish.
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Erin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I studied abroad in Fall semester of 2019 and I loved it! Like most study abroad students, I had my reservations about coming. While of course there are moments of frustration when you can't communicate yourself in Spanish, I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. You will not only grow immensely in your Spanish abilities, but in confidence, cultural knowledge/awareness, understanding about yourself, and most importantly, your dancing skills haha. (I would highly recommend the dance class- it was awesome). CLA had a lot of things I was looking for in a program. I loved that they were a small organization, run by locals who knew the culture and I could answer my many questions using their own experiences. Fabi and Samantha were awesome and made me feel comfortable talking (even when my Spanish was rough) giving me more confidence to share. I often felt that we had actually known each other longer than we had! haha. Interestingly, I have a lot of other friends who have studied abroad in a Spanish speaking country and their reports seem to be similar. They had a great time but spoke a ton of English with their large group of students in their program, not making many friends with the locals. Being a small program, I was encouraged to speak a lot of Spanish and had the chance to interact with other Mexican students and exchange students, all in Spanish! Regarding the schooling, I really enjoyed my Spanish for foreigners classes. Not only was the location super cool but the classes were great too and I loved the complimentary conversation classes offered through CAADI. The program also did a lot of fun excursions. The city itself is a really great location too. Full of history, there are a million museums and interesting architecture. The night life is also super fun. I didn't realize how quiet my university city was until I returned from the night life of Guanajuato! And of course the food. So yummy! I miss the street ice cream so much. :'( I am also celiac and finding gluten free food can be challenging. However, it was actually really easy to find food to eat! All of the corn products are great. They even have some natural foods stores that carry other allergen free products in case subsisting on corn tortillas is too hard haha. All in all, a wonderful experience with this great program and in such a magical city. Thanks for everything! I will treasure these experiences forever.

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Lisa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am a senior at Soka University of America, during my junior year I did a semester abroad in Spring 2019, and so far it has been the best experience that has ever happened to me in my life yet. Due to Mexico's proximity to the United States and Mexican immigrants, a lot of us tend to think that we know Mexican culture–I was not the exception. However, here are 3 reasons that I personally think we should choose CLA as a program for study abroad or summer experience. 1. Guanajuato is very rich in history and culture therefore it is UNESCO world heritage. 2. It is a university city. For me, it could not get any better. There is this rich culture in Guanajuato and in addition it has thousands of offers for a young population due to the presence of students. There is no better way of learning and experimenting the Mexican culture first hand than hanging out with fellow students. 3. CLA program offers almost a personalized approach to exploring Guanajuato. Fabiola (the director of the program) is very careful and specific on planning the excursions that will give the students a true understanding of the Mexican way of life. It offers a sense of comfort and trust as not only is she born and raised in Guanajuato but also she is very well traveled therefore she is very understanding of culture shocks and could ease her students in the experience. Something that I personally find very appealing to the program as a whole. Another great thing that I loved about the program is the accessibility of the program director 24/7 to her students. While the culture was certainly distinct from my own, CLA helped me experiment Guanajuato culture to a point that it did not feel so foreign that I could not connect on some level. But that is the charm of Guanajuato and its people, it is different enough to be intriguing and exciting, but not so different that you could not integrate yourself at some point. All the students who do a study abroad in Guanajuato, they always return there atleast once. It is that magical.

What was your funniest moment?
I am a very picky eater. We went to a restaurant and we were served guacamole, that had some sprinkled stuff that looked like caramelized onions, and I thought that it was that. I ate it, and i remember saying "wow this is so crunchy and salty, I love it. What is it?" They told me that it is "chapulines"–a mexican grasshopper. I nearly fainted! Definitely would not have tried it, if they had told me what it was and I am glad that they did not.
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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.