Arequipa Stories and Tips

Studying Spanish at Llama Education: A Highly Enjoyable Experience

Llama Education Language School Photo, Arequipa, Peru

Although it's easily the most pleasant place I've spent time in Southern Peru, my purpose in coming to Arequipa was to improve my Spanish rather than to sightsee. Indeed, the two can be mutually exclusive to a certain degree. Cuzco attracts far more English-speakers visitors (a fair number of whom come to study Spanish) and as a result its economy revolves around tourism. It's quite easy to function there without speaking much if any Spanish. By contrast, while every other building in Central Arequipa appears to be a travel agency, its relative paucity of visitors and status as Southern Peru's economic capital means they're absorbed into a much more authentic milieu. I was aware of this phenomenon and it was one of the primary reasons I chose to study in Arequipa.

I'm very glad that I did as it's afforded me much more of an insight into Peruvian life and culture, especially middle class culture (since Arequipa has a more sizable middle class than other Peruvian cities) than I'd experience in a prior visit to Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, and Lima. Much of this has come directly from my classes at Llama Education, the Spanish school where I've lived and studied in a quiet area approximately 15 minutes by bus from the center of Arequipa. However a great deal of it has come from simply the experience of living here

The school itself has been an outstanding experience due to the efforts of the owner, Maria Huaman Enriquez, an economist who previously worked at a bank before opening the school and also a mystic travel agency (she's always happy to discuss and explain Andean religion to students). Her career change illustrates an important point about Peru's economy - tourism appears, even in Arequipa, to be the most consistently profitable business. Furthermore, tourist enterprises don't have to pay taxes, a far cry from the high hotel taxes that appear to be the norm throughout the rest of South America and the world. I specifically chose Llama Education because it offered more of a personal touch than others, which appear content simply to offer the four hours of daily classes and perhaps arrange a homestay, but not to offer advice or emergency assistance of any kind.

By contrast, Maria accompanied both me and other students for nearly every errand imaginable, regardless of whether they are staying at the school itself. (The school occupies one floor of her house, the student quarters another.) The quality of instruction has also been excellent, and when I felt that one teacher did not teach in a manner that fit with my particular learning style, Maria insisted on teaching me personally, which has been quite a pleasure in it as it's afforded me the opportunity to hear her considerable knowledge about various aspects of Peruvian life.

I couldn't recommend the school more highly, while Maria is extremely accomodating I would recommend booking far in advance if you'd like to stay in her home (at the school) as the rooms tend to fill up quickly. Also, in the spirit of Maria's helpfulness I'd like to close with two safety tips that she tells every student. First, only take radio taxis that have been called by phone in Arequipa - I know of both visitors and locals who have been kidnapped by unscrupulous cab drivers. Second, don't walk around the center of the city alone after dark.

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