Cuba is a complex dichotomy of grand historical legacy and the hidden beauty that remains. Language learners in Cuba will feel alive in this Spanish-speaking country amid the eclectic blend of natives who dance to the beat of their own drum. With countless opportunities to mix and match their language studies with job, intern, volunteer, or additional classroom opportunities, students will thrive in the generally intimate learning setting offered in Cuba and be sure to find a program that fits their needs.
The most popular places for learning a language abroad in Cuba are Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Trinidad. If you’re accustomed to larger city life, Havana and Santiago de Cuba will be your best fit, while Trinidad is best suited for those looking for a smaller town experience.
Havana. Romantic coastline, vivacious nightlife, and exquisite architecture make Havana a dynamic destination for studying language in Cuba. There will be no shortage of opportunities for students to practice a wide language vocabulary, since events in Havana range from happenings at Cuba’s diplomatic headquarters to live music in the streets. Despite its storied past, Havana natives emit an ever-persistent spirit and evident love for their home and its authentic beauty. Spanish language students will be further inspired by the traditional colonial buildings and UNESCO World Heritage sites that instill depth into their Spanish studies abroad.
Santiago de Cuba. Students studying language abroad in Santiago de Cuba will find that most opinions regarding this frenetic city go to either one extreme or the other. The birthplace of nearly every Cuban music genre, this steamy city rivals Havana’s relevance in literature and politics, as well as music. As a major port city for the past five centuries, students in Santiago de Cuba will enjoy its year-round beach weather and “Caribbean” descendents.
Trinidad. For language students seeking a smaller-scale city that won’t sacrifice any substance in the overall experience department, Trinidad is the perfect pick. Trinidad offers all the draws of Havana and Santiago, including historic colonial architecture, UNESCO World Heritage titles, and port city charm, all with a more intimate vibe. Spanish beginners intimidated by the fast-pace of the large cities may be more confident in Trinidad and their ability to feel more fully immersed in the culture with less urban distractions.
Language Study in Cuba
Spanish is the obvious choice for language students abroad in Cuba. In most cases, it is also the only choice. Programs offer a variety of venues for Spanish language learning including:
Host family homes
Multiple locations around town
Class sizes are generally small, with no more than ten students, and private lessons are almost always available instead of or in addition to group lessons. Language programs in Cuba most often start on a Monday and last one to several weeks, although longer durations are available for up to 52 weeks. Class length and learning hours per week will likewise vary from one program to the next, so students have the ability to pick the plan that works best for them. Although students can expect to have classmates from all areas of the world, lessons are usually taught in either Spanish or English exclusively.
Students may also benefit from taking extra learning on to their language classes. Some programs include the opportunity for further cultural learning, such as Cuban music or dance. Cultural expeditions are also included or available through many programs and allow students to spend time speaking to locals, getting to know their classmates, and enjoying time at the beaches, museums, parks, and more in the evenings or on weekends.
Students looking to earn to extra souvenir or adventure cash may look into programs that offer language learning plus work experience (generally in the form of au pair). Students wanting to get more involved in the local community or boost their resume may similarly benefit from language learning plus volunteer or internships programs.
Scholarships & Costs
Because students can choose from ‘holiday’ to ‘standard’ to ‘intensive’ options for language learning, program cost will depend not only on how long you are abroad, but also on how many classes you take each week. For example, studying Spanish abroad in Cuba for two weeks is not a set price, but may actually cost anywhere between $345 to $538. The Cuban peso is around three cents to the U.S. dollar, making it an affordable destination while on site for food and living expenses. However, you may be charged in US dollars for your tuition if you’re going through a U.S. based organization, so be sure to check costs prior to applying for a program.
Since school supplies items are expensive and difficult to find in Cuba, students will be expected to bring their own basic materials, such as writing utensils and notebooks. Either for a an additional fee or included in the initial cost, programs may include any or all of the following:
Accommodation and meals
Lending of school materials
Language proficiency certificate
Additional cultural lessons and social activities
- In-country assistance
Accommodation & Visas
Students wanting to fast-track their Spanish-language learning will most benefit from directly immersing themselves into a Cuban host family by living in a homestay. Conversely, students that need their own space, don’t prioritize home cooking, and enjoy more modern amenities will probably do best in hotels that offer either private or shared rooms. Accommodation available in Cuba will depend upon which city language students are located in while abroad, though most will offer at least one or more of the following options:
Additional factors to take into consideration when choosing housing in Cuba are the distance between your accommodation and your language learning location, what means of transportation you will use to get there, and the safety of the neighborhood where you are considering. These questions can usually be answered with the help of your program provider.
If your stay abroad in Cuba is under 60 days long, a tourist visa and passport valid for six months after your trip are the basic requirements needed. A tourist visa is valid for 30 days and renewable for an additional thirty days. If you are taking classes through a school (and in some other cases as well) you will need a student visa. Your program provider can help you decide which will be the most appropriate for your stint abroad and how to best obtain your visa. Either way, students will benefit from beginning the visa process early, as it can take several months to complete.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Language Limitations. While Cuba provides an exceptional location to study Spanish, students looking to study any language other than the country’s native one will have a difficult time finding program options abroad in Cuba.
Give Back. Some programs utilize any extra baggage space of students coming abroad, by encouraging them to fill it up with household items to be donated and distributed to local peoples in need upon arrival.All Levels Welcome. Students with varying degrees of language ability can thrive studying Spanish abroad in Cuba. With English-taught classes available and highly qualified teachers, even beginner students will be speaking español in no time!
Above and Beyond. From Cuban dance classes, to party night at the teacher’s house, to snorkeling, to touring rum factories - there is no lack for cultural experiences while studying a language abroad in Cuba.