It is quite obvious that the best way to learn to talk in Spanish fluently is by studying it in schools in Spanish speaking countries. Any person who has studied Spanish abroad can guarantee you it will be an enriching experience and that there is no substitute for it. The fact is you will be immersed in their culture, you will be listening everyday spanish words all the time plus you will be making a lot of new friends.
There are 21 Spanish speaking countries on five different continents and in many different cultures to choose where to learn Spanish. With hundreds of spanish international schools out there it's difficult to find a program that fits all your needs. That's why is very important to figure out what your needs are, and what you are looking to gain from your time abroad.
There are a large variety of programs, from week-long to several semesters and most of the Spanish international schools offers intense and individual programs. There are also remarkable differences in cost based on location. For example getting a program in European countries is very expensive compared to affordable and more convenient countries in Latin America such as Mexico.
If your first consideration to make your choice is cost, then studying spanish in Europe is a little bit out of the question due to the fact that the exchange rate of the Euros vs.
Now, you also have to consider the cost and quality of the programs. There are hundred of spanish schools in Mexico, however is best if they are members of international organizations such as WYSE, FIYTO and ALTO. A good school in Mexico has to be credited by the SEP (National Public Education Secretary in Mexico). Also the best Spanish international schools in Mexico can give you credits for their courses through American colleges.
Security is another important issue to consider. Now, mass media has had a big impact on the perception of violence in Mexico. However a savvy traveler knows that the reality can be radically different since mass media tend to focus on sensationalism notes. Of course there are specific areas in Mexico with troubles. But I found there are many great Mexican destinations with a very low rate of violent crime compared with any regular town in the USA. Places such as Puerto Vallarta, Oaxaca and Playa del Carmen are among the safest cities in Mexico, and since their local economies depends mostly on tourism you will enjoy of a lot of public security, structure and foreigners assistance. Plus the locals tend to be very friendly and service oriented.
I can guarantee you that an immersion program in any of those cities will be a lifetime experience. If you choose so, you can stay with a local host family to go even deeper in your immersion in Mexican culture.
Personally I find the sound of Mexican Spanish way much “cooler” than Iberic Spanish (Spanish from Spain) and I love beautiful beaches, so I ended up going to Playa del Carmen and I choose a great language and cultural center that offers a package that includes 15 private Spanish lessons in one week, inscription fee, materials, transfer from Cancun International Airport, and PADI Open Water Diver Certification in 4 days during the mornings.
It was lot of fun and after I finished my spanish learning program I was more confident to talk with locals, and ended up living in Playa del Carmen 6 more weeks!. I decided to take another week of an spanish Regular Program with 20 lessons per week; it was great since includes practical conversational grammar and practical conversation and the group had a maximum of 6 students per class.