Frequently Asked Questions
By far, the most frequently asked question we receive in the US office has to do with safety. There is no hiding the fact that there has been considerable violence between rival drug cartels and law enforcement authorities. The situation in Baja California has improved dramatically since the peak years of 2008 and 2009.
One thing that must be mentioned is that nobody is targeting students or tourists. Since our first class in 1997 until present, not one of our students has ever had a security issue while in Mexico. It is easy to avoid trouble in Mexico, the US or any other country if one sticks to their game plan and takes common sense precautions.
Dr. Jim Gerber, Director, Center for Latin American Studies at San Diego State University wrote an excellent letter to the SDSU community in 2008. The letter is still relevant today. It puts realistic perspective on the issue of safe traveling in Mexico.
To read the letter, click here
The majority of our students take public transportation to Ensenada. The first step is getting to San Diego. Students fly into San Diego airport, or take Amtrak to Santa Fe Station in downtown San Diego.
The second step is getting to the US-Mexico border. You can:
The third step is catching the coach to Ensenada.
The trip from Tijuana to the main Ensenada bus terminal takes about 1.5 hours.
Yes. You can drive to Ensenada from downtown San Diego in about 1.5 hours. You will need Mexican liability insurance. If your current carrier cannot provide you with this, the College can refer you to a reputable agency.
Yes. All travelers who intend on returning to the USA will need a passport.
Technically yes, but realistically, not really. There are no check points between the US border and Ensenada where tourist visas are requested. Several miles south of Ensenada there are points where a tourist card must be presented, or purchased.
Nobody is checking for visas in Ensenada or north.
Technically, aliens must have a tourist card if they remain in Mexico longer than 72 hours. However, there is no record of when you entered Mexico. The cost is about $15.00 for a tourist visa.
Becoming fluent in a foreign language can take years. First one must attain a level of functional proficiency. This can take as short as a few weeks for some students. Others struggle to ever gain functional proficiency in Spanish.
One big factor upon enrolling at the college is what your current level is. If you have had years of Spanish instruction and have been to a Spanish speaking country, you should be able to attain functional proficiency before someone without any previous exposure. Similarly, most students who have studied other foreign languages with success are able to acquire the Spanish language quite rapidly.
We recommend that students enroll in a five week program.
Regardless of your current level, you can take away a tremendous amount of Spanish in just one week. This is especially true for those staying with a Mexican host family. Most students that enroll for one week wish they would have scheduled at least another week.
The average age of our adult student body is 36 years old. Most of the students are professionals from the United States. We have enrolled students from all 50 US states, 5 Canadian provinces and 29 other foreign countries.
There are programs for children and teens at certain times of the year.
No. We offer classes for students that come in at absolute entry level as well as for Spanish teachers needing a refresher course. Classes are offered at all proficiency levels.
There are no required texts. We ask that you bring a Spanish/English dictionary or a dictionary that translates Spanish to whatever your native language is.
Classes begin at 8:30AM and end at 2:30 PM Monday through Friday. The core curriculum goes from 8:30 to 12:30. There are several breaks throughout this time.
From 12:30 to 2:30 students get involved in an activity that incorporates the morning lessons. Activity examples are; cooking class, music, board games, discussion and wine tasting.
There is an off-campus excursion every Thursday afternoon.
The host families that participate in the homestay program have worked with us for at least 12 years. We know their whole families very well and have never had a problem with any of them.
All the homes are solidly middle class with all the amenities to which you are accustomed. They are all very clean and in safe neighborhoods. You can opt to have a private room or share a room with your partner or travel companion. Most homes also offer private bathrooms. Some of the host families offer off-street parking for those who drove their personal vehicles to Ensenada.
Students enrolled in the program can stay where they choose. Students have stayed in hotels, campgrounds, campers and yachts. Most students choose to stay with a host family.
The host families are to be paid in cash at the beginning of each week. They can be paid in US or Mexican currency.
Tuition is due when you arrive for the Sunday orientation at 2:00PM. You can pay your tuition balance with a check drawn on a US bank, travelers checks or US or Mexican currency.
If you want the discounts offered for 5 or 10 weeks, the tuition balance must be paid in full at the beginning of your program.
If you are not intending for staying that long, you can pay at the beginning of each week.
All of the host families are within 3 miles of downtown and the malecon. It's safe to walk. Taxis are very inexpensive. Most taxi fares to and from downtown/homestay will be under $7.00
Buses are another option however it typically takes a few days to figure out the bus system. There are no printed bus schedules.
There are usually a number of students who have driven their own vehicles to Ensenada. It's usually easy to hitch a rides with them.
The college coordinates an excursion every Thursday afternoon. The college can help you organize your own excursions, but does not participate after school hours. There normally is a nominal transportation fee or an entrance fee that the student will be expected to cover.
Students have a variety of options. Some like the homestay environment and prefer to stick close to home. Others venture off to the wine country (35 minutes by car) or go shopping. There are concerts, exhibits, lectures, films, museums and sporting events. There are gyms where you can exercises and a track for running enthusiasts. Music is everywhere in Ensenada. Grabbing a cold beer or margarita and listening to live Mexican music is one of the most popular activities.