Sep 14, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Want to study in one of the world's most vibrant regions? Love beaches, mountains, jungles, plants, animals, interesting people, good food, great music, and history? Want to immerse yourself in a culture and place completely different from your own? Study in Central America.

This weekend, five Central American countries celebrate their independence. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are rich in history and culture, and each celebrates in its own way, with distinct customs and traditions. 

Why should you study in Central America? It's one of the most fascinating and diverse parts of the world--and it's constantly evolving.

Let's take a closer look at five reasons you should study abroad in Central America. 

1. Diversity

Central America offers stunning biodiversity in addition to diverse cultures and populations. In a region that comprises 0.1 percent of the planet's surface, it's home to 7 percent of the world's biodiversity. Costa Rica is often considered the most biodiverse of the region, but you'll see it throughout the area.

It's also home to over 25 indigenous groups, each with their own language, music, food, and communities. 

Before the Europeans conquered the area, Central America's population consisted of hundreds of indigenous groups. You can see remains of these civilizations at the hundreds of archaeological sites spread across the region.

Among the most visited includes Tikal, an ancient Mayan city in Guatemala. 

2. Language

There's no question that you'll learn Spanish in Central America. You'll have to. The good news? You can learn it just about anywhere and you'll have a choice. Consider working with local providers who are more apt to share local traditions and cultural events with you than foreign providers.

You'll learn that there are a variety of accents across Central America, as there are in the US, with huge disparities in pronunciation among people regionally. 

The more you learn the nuances of Spanish in the region, the better you'll be at reading situations and conversing with the locals, wherever you are.

While you're at it, you may also opt to study some of the indigenous languages too. Most language schools can point you in the right direction depending on what you want to learn. Learn Mayan or the language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl.

One thing to pay attention to? Accreditation. If you don't learn at your university, make sure the program you attend is accredited and that you can transfer your credit. 

3. Affordability

While studying abroad can be expensive, studying abroad in Central America won't break the bank. It's a great place to study and travel on a tight budget. You can also use financial aid and outside scholarships to pay for your education.

It's one of the top destinations for US expats for precisely that reason. Real estate, groceries, restaurants, clothing, and traveling are all affordable.

While systems like healthcare can be difficult to navigate, once you figure out what you need to do and how to do it, it's worth it--and affordable.

4. Weather

Central America is warm and tropical year-round, punctuated by a rainy season between May and October, and a dry season the rest of the year. 

Although it can vary by region, with the jungle, mountains, and beaches all experiencing fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, the weather generally agrees with most people looking for tropical temperatures. 

What does this mean? If you like warm weather, beaches, and outdoor adventure, Central America is the place to be. See #5.

Bottom line: pack a raincoat and have fun.

5. Adventure

If history's your thing, you can travel to the ruins across the region, and check out the culture of ancient civilizations, like the Mayas and Aztecs.

If you like beaches, you can learn to surf and dive, and study the marine wildlife of the area.

There's also the jungle, which gives you ample opportunity to explore caves, visit volcanoes, and understand the formation of volcanic lakes.

Love animals? You can't go wrong. Studying in Central America will give you the chance to have the adventures of a lifetime. 

Ready to go? ¿Listos?

¡Vámanos!

 

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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