¿Hablas Español? Or rather, ¿quieres hablar Español? If you want to become fluent in Spanish, immerse yourself in a continent full of Spanish (and Portuguese) speakers. South America is a fantástico study abroad destination, offering a unique fusion of cultural and natural experiences and teaching students new languages and customs in one-of-a-kind habitats.
After all, this is the continent with the widest river, highest capital city, longest mountain range and tallest waterfall in the world. Plus, some places you just might’ve heard of—the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands, and Patagonia, for starters. Say sí and dive into all this continent has to offer.
¿Como se dice…?
Step one: learn Spanish. Most university programs require students to study some Spanish (or Portuguese) before arriving in South America, but one quickly learns that textbook Spanish and street Spanish are not necessarily twins, but merely siblings. South America is unlike other study abroad destinations such as Europe or Oceania in that the majority of locals don’t know English. So, so download these apps and get learning!
Use SpanishDict when you have a few moments to review some phrases. We found success by adding sayings to our “favorites” directly before or after a Spanish encounter. Or maybe you’re not quite on that level yet and need some assistance to make it through a convo. No sweat. Just open up the Speak & Translate app to translate as you talk; it’s very handy for asking directions or other need-to-know specifics. And when you’re way past that level, this Spanish Slang app will help you sound like a born-and-bred South American.
If you’re lost, use the MAPS.ME app to navigate the streets without data. For getting around Buenos Aires, Caracas, Medellin, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile, or Sao Paulo, take advantage of the awesome public transportation with the AllSubway app! Its one dollar price tag is a steal for its offline navigation functionality.
¿Dónde está mi…?
To prevent losing your valuables, attach a Tile to your camera, wallet, passport, and phone to find them anywhere, anytime with the push of a button. The Tile boasts a dual functionality! If you lose your keys, open up the app on your phone and press “find keys” to prompt them to ring while their location is displayed on your phone. Should you happen to lose your phone and press the Tile keychain on your keys, your phone will start announcing its location.
If you learn one Spanish phrase, it should probably be, “how much?” While bartering is the norm in South America, you’ll want to know if you’re getting a fair currency exchange. In major cities, finding a trustworthy teller can be tricky. We suggest changing cash at nice hotels when you can, and always checking the exchange rate in the XE Currency Converter app. This app is also super helpful while shopping or booking; you can convert pesos to reias to dollars in nanoseconds.
Crossing the Equator means entering the opposite season—and while we’re no meteorologists, we’d expect spring in a continent that’s 40% covered by rainforest to be pretty darn wet. Keep yourself happy and dry by zipping up a Toad & Co Aerium Jacket, a stylish number that’s not just water repellent, it’s waterproof.
Keep the rest of your belongings dry in a Kanken Backpack, constructed out of Fjallraven’s patented water-repellent fabric. Designed in Scandinavia, it’s chic enough for the streets of Buenos Aires but rugged enough to handle the glaciers of Patagonia.
Your vulnerable AND valuable possession is probably your phone—as it’s often exposed to the elements while checking directions or snapping photos. We suggest keeping it safe from liquids and sidewalk collisions in an Otterbox Defender case.
Before you know it, it will be time for Christmas on the beach. Keep your Brahma beer cold in a compressible AO cooler! You can blast “Frosty the Snowman” from these portable, waterproof snazzy speakers that are perfect for South America’s beaches and rainforests.
From experiencing the sunrise over Machu Picchu to feeling small in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, South America is worth it. Besides, sometimes it requires heading to a new hemisphere to gain a little perspective.
Annie’s based in Los Angeles but hails from Portland, Oregon. Sort of. She moved to six states by the time she reached middle school, and continues to move around the US and abroad – call her a nomad, but she prefers “Location ADHD.” After studying abroad in New Zealand, Annie circled the globe, graduated from USC, and circled the world once again. For one year she lived out of a backpack everywhere from The Philippines to Nepal to Slovenia to Norway. She’s a curry connoisseur and passionate explorer, taking the road less traveled, the “trail” covered in vines and swarmed in exotic bugs. Foreign lands feel like home, and Annie loves encouraging more and more people to utilize their passports and experience a new culture.