u/No-External3221 recently asked for recommendations on how to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill in ways other than at your traditional university. I commented about using it to learn Spanish in México but didn’t provide many details. A few requested more info and I figured the community here would benefit from a post with this post.
Instituto Allende is located in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, MEX. and offers a Spanish Immersion course that is part of their Bachelor of Visual Arts degree. Translation: You can enroll in their bachelor’s program, take the Spanish Immersion course using your Post 9/11, and receive full benefits. You do NOT have to take additional classes during the semester[s] because the immersion course is full-time and fulfills the credits requirement per semester. Additionally, since it is not a Post 9/11 requirement to complete the degree, you can stop after you complete the immersion course if you choose. Or, if you’ve fallen in love with the city and school like so many others have, you can continue living in paradise (more on this later) while studying art.
Like any university in the US, you will have classes Mon-Fri, usually around 5 hours a day. My days were split into 2 parts: 1) grammar and vocabulary, and 2) speaking. The book I used during my grammar lessons is called Vistas. It is a great online book, but you will probably only complete half of it in one semester. It took me two semesters to complete it all.
My speaking professor didn’t speak any English and at first, conversations were difficult because I did not have any history with the language. By the end we had conversations about politics, art, culture, etc. I was also fortunate enough to visit many cultural sites, museums, and other interesting locations in and around the city.
I wouldn’t say that I have perfect Spanish. I still have an accent and don’t fully grasp the more complex grammatical rules, but I can get by just fine in any Spanish speaking country. In another year or two, I will claim complete fluency.
The school has a long history with veterans. Since the end of WW2, vets flocked to San Miguel to use their GI Bill and study art at Instituto Allende. The campus is small, but it is gorgeous, comfortable, and tranquil. Because of the great climate, many of my classes were held in the jardin.
The school doesn’t have dorms or the resources to assist with housing, but it isn’t a problem. I stayed in an Airbnb for $400 a month, which was located 10 minutes walking from school. If you’re not on a budget or have higher standards, there are better options than the one I chose.
It is also worth mentioning that there is an expat FB group called SMA Civil List. Many expats offer places to rent as well and they are usually cheaper than Airbnb.
San Miguel De Allende (SMA) was chosen Forbes best little city for 2017, 2018, and 2020. The city is not BIG by any comparison. Walking is always recommended because of the art, murals, architecture, and secret locations you’ll discover, but there is plenty of public transportation if needed. Most of the roads and sidewalks are cobblestone making it a little treacherous to walk and extremely difficult if not impossible for those with mobility problems.
The city is packed full of culture and history. It played a central role during the Mexican War for Independence. You’ll learn all about it when you arrive.
There are plenty of bars and cantinas if that is your thing. I don’t know about clubs, though. Sorry. The restaurants are great and if you fancy delicious tacos, follow the locals to the street corner stands. Don’t expect to spend much money on food too, unless you want to eat at a steakhouse every day.
SMA is also pretty centrally located in the country and close to many other great locations you can visit. There is an easily-navigable bus station with routes to anywhere you want to go in the country. I rode my motorcycle to SMA for my second semester and traveled all over Mexico, so bringing a vehicle is an option for you as well. Finding parking can be a pain, though.
Pues… the Mexicans living in SMA are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet – well, Mexicans in general but especially the ones living in SMA. One of the ONLY problems that I have with SMA is that a very large portion of the population are Americans or Canadians. Most of the expats don’t speak Spanish, so they rely on the English-speaking locals, which makes it a little difficult to be fully immersed.
This part of Mexico is secure, so long as you be street smart and don’t do dumb stuff. SMA is probably one of the safest cities in Mx – you won’t be in the heart of Cartel land, so don’t worry.
In sum, if you’ve ever wanted to learn another language and don’t know what to do with your GI Bill, moving to Mexico for a few months might be a great option. If you have any questions feel free to ask away or send me a PM. I’ll do what I can to answer them and help.
Semper Fi, TheGringoGaucho