Smart Travels with Sam: Learning a Language Abroad

June 25, 2021
Student in front of famous building

Welcome back! Today I’ll be using this space to offer my opinion on a question asked on our Instagram about learning a language abroad! The question was… 

“Do you recommend going to a big city or a smaller town to learn a language?” 

This question is extremely relevant because the destination that you choose will have an impact on your overall study abroad experience, and in this case, your language acquisition. When I was deciding to study abroad in Spain, I also wondered whether it would be better to go to a big or small town to improve my language skills. I wish I had a “one size fits all” answer to this question, but in reality, it’s different for every individual. Fortunately, I can tell you that there are opportunities in both scenarios to strengthen your language skills! 

Here are a few questions that might help you gain a better understanding of what option would be best for you: 

  • What language would I like to learn, practice, or strengthen? 

You can start to narrow down which countries speak the language you are hoping to speak or practice abroad. 

  • Where do I like to spend my time? Is it in a big city, in the countryside, in a suburb or in a small town? 

Whether you are going to a place that speaks a different language or not, knowing where you will feel comfortable is important for your overall experience. Once you figure out what feels right for you, you can explore which options are available in your country of choice. 

  • What is my skill level in the language? 

Depending on the location, bigger cities may be easier to navigate for beginners — bigger cities tend to attract more tourism, and therefore English may be used more often. 

  • What housing opportunities are available in my city of interest?

Once you narrow down if you are interested in a small or large city, choosing your housing will also impact your language acquisition. If there are host family options, this is a great chance to practice the language. 

Hopefully, these questions can help guide you to what would work best for you. Keep in mind that studying abroad is YOUR journey, and it’s important to understand what you’re looking to get out of the experience. Wherever you choose to go, there are always ways to learn a new language abroad. You can make friends who speak the language, engage with locals, and enroll in offered language courses. The more time and effort you put into learning the local language, the easier it will become! 

When I chose to study abroad, I had to think about what would be best for me. I chose to study in Salamanca, Spain, with a host family that knew little to no English. I knew that I preferred living in a small city, and although it was challenging overcoming language barriers, I set a goal to advance my Spanish as much as I could during my time overseas. 

 If you’re unsure about which opportunity is right for you, API’s Program Finder can help you identify the option that best fits your academic, professional, and personal goals! Or you can always connect with one of our API representatives who can offer helpful advice and feedback!

If you or anyone you know has any questions about studying abroad, be sure to send them to the API Instagram page @apiabroad and leave a comment or send a message and I’ll make sure to answer them in the following “Smart Travels with Sam” column! 

About the author: 

Sam Featured

Samantha is currently pursuing a graduate degree in intercultural communication at American University in order to continue being a proponent for global understanding, human connection, and intercultural exchange. If you’re interested in learning more about her book, you can access it here: You can also connect with her through her author’s Instagram account @samanthamkaiser! And don’t forget to check the API Abroad Blog regularly for updates from Samantha…


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