From all the experiences in Colombia, I have to admit, I loved the most learning Spanish in Cartagena. Intense course and interesting activities after classes made my stay in Cartagena memorable. Every day I was studying and later, in the evening, going out with friends met at school or hostel. If you are considering studying Spanish abroad, Cartagena might be a great choice for you. Let me explain how was my experience.
How is Cartagena?
Cartagena is the most or one of the most touristic places in Colombia. Various flights connections and great beaches make it a typical vacation destination for locals and foreigners. Surely a great place to stop by and live for a while. As I am trying to improve as a conscious traveler, slow travel is for me one of the ways to reduce my carbon footprint.
Cartagena is a big city however, tourists stay in the center which is the most beautiful and also considered safe. The historical center built during the Spanish colony is full of beautiful architecture pieces, including a clock tower or cathedral created from the coral stones. It used to be the place where Spanish lived and it’s definitely the place to be while in Cartagena. Lovely streets and squares full of fruit sellers, beautiful city walls by the sea – all attracts plenty of tourists every day. It’s also very fancy district with good hotels and restaurants.
The second part of the old part is called Getsemani – it used to be the district of the slaves and workers during the colonial times. Now it’s a vibrant mixture of locals and tourists with amazing graffitis and street food. It’s the place to go out in the evening, grab some street food, street cocktail and enjoy the dance shows on the Trinidad Square. It was my favorite part of the city, liked it better than stylish old part and luxury Bocagrande. Getsemani it’s a great mixture of locals and foreigners with music all around on the street, restaurants and clubs. Most of the hostels are located in this area, as it’s favorite spot for backpackers.
Cartagena has a few public beaches inside the city, however they are not as good as those on the nearby islands. Rosario Islands are known for it’s turquoise waters and are surely worth a trip. Don’t miss going for a fluorescent plankton trip – it’s incredible, like in Avatar movie. The coast is also perfect place to eat sea food, especially famous here – ceviche, that is a popular street food in Cartagena.
Why learning Spanish in Cartagena?
First things first, Colombia is a great place to start learning Spanish, because Spanish there is known for being very clear, without difficult accent and very close to Spanish spoken in Spain. If you travel around Latin America and then come to Colombia, you will notice that Colombian Spanish is easier to understand, people speak slower then in other countries and definitely more clear.
Cartagena is a great place to learn Spanish due to the access to many schools located within the center. For the same reason competition is high and schools provide excellent quality of education plus variety of attractive extra activities such as trips, dancing classes or movie nights. I chose Centro Catalina Spanish School which had a great reviews and definitely can recommend it.
How was my experience with Centro Catalina?
Centro Catalina School is located in the old part of the city, very near to all the attractions in Cartagena. When I walked in, I was welcomed by Maria that manages the schedules and payments. I saw a few classrooms and main hall. All in the colors at school were matching logo of Centro Catalina School, which are the same like on the Colombian flag. There is also a patio with sits, where students can drink a coffee and chat. The school offers a group and private classes, depending of the choice. While most of the students come for the morning classes, I was happy to take part in the afternoon’s ones. My teacher Sebastian was honestly the best Spanish teacher I have ever had. Really enthusiastic and passionate, speaking clearly, simply all features, that the good teacher should have. From day one I could feel like we are friends, which encouraged me to practise speaking Spanish without thinking about my mistakes. That really helps!
I wanted to focus on the past tense, and Sebastian prepared me a full course of past tenses with everyday tasks including practising speaking, reading and listening. My classes were intense, but really fulfilling and I could feel the progress I was making every single day. Homeworks were helping me to practise what I have learnt as well.
What I really loved about Centro Catalina School was the quality of services on whatever they do. I enjoyed a lot the activities after classes which were uniting the students and simply making days in Cartagena full of entretainments. As the classes for every new student begin on Mondays, this day is dedicated for a Welcome Tour that introduced the city a bit and most importantly I got to know the other students. We had a walk around the city walls with Carlos – responsible for extra activities at school. After the stunning sunset by the sea, we had some drinks.
On the other days we participated in a dance class of salsa, merengue and bachata. That was a lot of fun! The other activities were for instance Colombian fruits tasting, movie night or beach volleyball. One day we went to see the Castillo San Felipe – the fortress from colonial times. The activities were always well organised and that was a great chance to meet with other students and have fun.
What’s interesting, Centro Catalina has another school in Medellin, Colombia. It’s possible to study the same course in both cities, which I noticed, many students did – they studied in Centro Catalina Cartagena for a couple of weeks and later Medellin, or the other way around. It’s a great way to see more of Colombia while still learning Spanish.
My time in Cartagena passed definitely to fast, I wish I stayed longer. But who knows, maybe I will come back to Cartagena and start my adventure at Centro Catalina again. Greetings to all the teachers and students I have met there, you were a great team!
The Bee is a nature lover and tea addict. Loves the idea of slow life and responsible traveling, constantly trying to improve to bee more eco-friendly. Appreciates old cultures and traditions, loves to immerse with locals, listen to ethnic music as well as taste regional food and drinks. Her favorite spots while traveling are family houses and street markets.