Learning Spanish In Colombia At Whee Institute
As a hip hop aficionado, I am quite familiar with the song “One Man Can Change the World” by Big Sean. I love the title and the concept that one individual – just one individual – can have a direct impact upon the lives of hundreds and, at times, even thousands of others. As I embarked on the decision to study Spanish abroad in Bogota, Colombia, I spent hours upon hours searching for a school. Among the many options, one school (created by one man), stood out to me the most.
It was called Whee Institute and, as research proved, is a unique place. First off, nothing about its name is indicative of a Spanish language school. When I asked the founder how he came up with the name, I was quite surprised to discover its origin.
Years before Sebastian Velasquez founded Whee Institute, his English-speaking language skills were quite low. One day, while learning English on his computer, he attempted to lookup the word ‘weather’. He didn’t quite know how to spell it correctly, however, and instead of the word ‘weather’, he typed in ‘whee’. Upon investigation of his error, he was surprised to see that the word whee had its own meaning — happiness or enjoyment. It was that very moment that he decided that the word whee was one he would never forget. He vowed to name his first business after that word and, years later, Whee Institute was born.
What makes Whee Institute a special place is that it was founded as a non-profit organization, with the wellness of both its students and instructors in mind. From the student side, its low tuition not only provides Whee Institute students with an affordable education, but it also helps to drive down competitor language course prices as well. The trickle-down result is that Bogota is now a much more desirable location for learning Spanish.
Another characteristic that makes Whee Institute quite unique is the fact that there are no textbooks. Further going against the grain of typical educational practices, the Whee Institute’s philosophy behind its no textbooks policy is that each class will be tailored specifically to the needs of the students. This, coupled with weekly instructor changes, exposes students to a variety of different teaching styles and dialects — another key component that strengthens comprehension.
As a student of Whee, I entered my first week of classes with little to no Spanish speaking ability. After just two weeks of classes, admittedly, I still wasn’t confident putting sentences together; however, I had a working vocabulary of several hundred words and a much stronger comprehension of spoken Spanish. By the fourth week of class, in comparison, my confidence had gone through the roof. On one occasion, I even met a new student and successfully convinced her that I was an actual instructor, and not just a fellow student.
Beyond the classroom experience, the real component that set my time studying at Whee Institute apart were the extra-curricular activities. Weekly dance classes, movie nights and tejo outings really helped to combine the newly acquired language skills with the local community.
Studying at Whee Institute: The Bottom Line
- Class sizes are kept small. There are around five students or less per class.
- Students are able to experience studying with a new teacher each week.
- Despite students originating from diverse geographic locations, the average age range between 18- and 26-years-old.
- At US$150 per week, the classes are very affordable in comparison to other intensive language courses.
- Weekly outings and other events are used to promote comradery amongst students, with staff helping to create a family-like environment.
- You receive change for good! Whee Institute started with and continues to positively impact the entire Spanish learning eco system of Colombia.
• • •
Edward is a freelance writer and travel blogger. A little over 10 years ago, he broke his neck and didn’t know if he would ever walk the same, talk the same, or even leave the hospital alive after surgery. Following the injury, Edward battled the depression of having an athletic career taken from him and really fell into a dark place. Moving to Japan and beginning his travel journey was the first step towards healing those wounds. His blog http://www.rebornstronger.com is the story of a man who experienced trauma, but did not allow it to break him…instead using his experience as fuel to traverse the entire globe while connecting cultures, breaking stereotypes, and inspiring others to live a life without limits.