Study in Antigua, Guatemala
Study in Antigua, GuatemalaLocated just a few miles outside Guatemala City, Antigua (also known as Antigua Guatemala) is an island of modernity in the small central American country of Guatemala. It is extremely safe, compact, and relatively prosperous, which makes it appealing to foreign students and tourists, who walk the streets of Antigua in large numbers. Those who have visited know that this popularity is well-founded, as the city is one of the most beautiful and historic in all of Central America.
Antigua, as its name suggests, is the “old town” of Guatemala City. It was once the capital not only of Guatemala, but of all Spanish possessions in South America, and so it was one of the most notable cities in Central America after the arrival of Spanish conquerors. Repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes, local uprisings, and volcanic eruptions, the city proved to be an unsuitable site for a capital city, and so the capital was moved to the nearby Valley of the Shrine, where Guatemala City stands today.
When it comes to picturesque Central American towns, there are few examples as stunning as Antigua. Old colonial churches, public parks and monuments, narrow streets lined with colorful buildings, and dozens of beautiful water fountains all contribute to Antigua’s photogenic appearance and relaxing atmosphere. The city’s skyline is dominated by the conical silhouette of Volcán de Agua. This massive volcano, whose foothills are within walking distance of central Antigua, looms 7000 feet above the city and gives beautiful displays at sunrise and sunset. Agua, along with the nearby volcanoes of Fuego and Acatenango, makes Antigua a renowned gathering place for hikers and mountaineers seeking a challenge. Volcán de Agua’s steep slopes are a thrill for skillful climbers, while those with less experience can use a more gentle footpath to access the summit. Like many places in Central America, Antigua is nestled in wilderness, and attractive natural scenery is easy to find.
More than anything else, though, Antigua Guatemala is known as a destination for foreign students. Its modern amenities, safety, and unique beauty make it an ideal place to learn Spanish by immersion. After tourism, Spanish language instruction is the largest sector of the city’s economy, and there are numerous schools to choose from. Most are privately owned and operated, and are not attached to any schools or universities. Instead, they cater specifically to students from abroad. Many of these schools also offer cooking classes where flavorful Guatemalan recipes are handed down to eager foreigners.
Travelers who come to Antigua seeking an immersion experience in Spanish should remember that it is not the first language of all locals. The native language of many Guatemalans, especially poor people in cities like Antigua, is not Spanish but Maya. Many foreign students are surprised to learn that their neighbors and taxi drivers speak little more Spanish than they do, but find that encountering the Mayan language in a modern-day city is a fascinating cultural experience.