Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recordando Dia de los Muertos - Recalling Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead Photo by Loren Javier
License Terms

"The cult of life, if it is truly profound and total, is also the cult of death, because the two are inseparable”  ~ Octavio Paz

The “Day of the Dead” and Halloween are my favorite holidays! Not to confuse these holidays, Halloween is celebrated on the 31st of October and the Day of the Dead, the 2nd of November.  Both holidays, however, are centered around death. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a ritual practiced by the indigenous people before the Spanish conquest. Still today, this ritual is celebrated in modern Mexico.

I remember that a week prior to this celebration, the people in the streets of Ejutla, Oaxaca, Mexico were always very busy making preparations. People were going into town, to blend the cocoa beans for the savory hot chocolate, purchasing fresh corn to prepare the tasty tamales, and stocking up on chili in order to make our Oaxacan specialty, “mole”.  Since everything was made from scratch, it was necessary to start the preparations well ahead of time.  This was a special time for me as a child because during visits to my neighbors and friends I would always find special snacks.

In our family, we prepared the altar on the 1st of November.  My dad and I would take a trip to the market to buy the fruits and flowers for the altar. Because of all the wonderful fruits and vegetables in the stalls, I remember the markets to be very colorful and exciting. Even today as I close my eyes, I still can see the marigolds, the fruits of the season, and the delicious bread.  I can even smell the various aromas that permeated the whole town.  An important part of the altar was a simple but beautiful sugarcane arch. We would take two sugar cane sticks  (each about 6 feet high) and attach them to each leg of a table. The sugarcane would then be connected to form an arch over the altar. Later, we would decorate the arch with marigolds and fruit. On the table we would place the favorite foods and beverages of anyone in our family who had passed on. 

I thought setting up of the altar  with goodies, beverages and memorabilia was fun, but my father's  intent was to encourage the souls to visit our home. The belief of the Day of the Dead is to ensure the souls of the departed know they are still remembered. Pretty creepy I thought but it is a major part of the Mexican culture during the Day of the Dead.  

As is customary, on November 2nd we would take a trip to the cementary to clean the graves of my departed family members. We would pray and put some flowers on the graves. I must admit when I was young all this tradition seemed so boring, except for the goodies. Now, I appreciate the meaning of this holiday: A time for remembering the departed and a time to think that life and death are inseparable and part of life experiences. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spanish Immersion in San Juan, Puerto Rico: No Passport Needed!

With the added requirement for a passport to travel to Mexico, Puerto Rico has become our only location for Spanish immersion where a passport is not required to travel for U.S. Citizens. As a U.S. Territory, Puerto Rico has many comforts of the mainland, while distinctly having Spanish as the major language of the island. This allows for great Spanish immersion experience while living in the safe capital city of San Juan. English is spoken by many inhabitants, but locals would much rather communicate in Spanish.

San Juan is a large enough city to live and study Spanish for many weeks, without becoming bored with your surroundings. There are many different neighborhoods and sites to visit that can keep you busy for a long term study program. Old San Juan presents an amazing historic view of colonial times on the island under Spanish rule. The fortifications of La Muralla and Fuerte San Felipe del Morro are stunning examples of the Spanish conquest that have stood the test of time. You can also spend a great amount of time relaxing at the city beaches including Condado right near the city center as well as Isla Verde. 

Our Spanish school is located right in the center of the city in the upscale financial district of Hato Rey. The school is a few steps away from the train line that runs through the center of the city, as well as many major bus lines. You can reach Old San Juan from the school in about 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. The courses take place in a modern executive office building and provides the necessary facilities to hold small group class sizes, as well as private instruction. We receive students with a wide range of backgrounds, ages, and proficiencies who have raved about the quaint class room settings that allow for close interaction with their Spanish instructors. 

The school offers host family accommodations. You have the choice to choose 2 meals per day with your host family or a no meal option. We can also arrange courses only if you want to stay in a hotel near the beach in Condado or another neighborhood. We strongly recommend the host family experience for the added advantages of the immersion experience and good value in terms of comparable cost. 

Our standard Group Course includes 3 Spanish lessons per day from 9AM to 12PM, Monday to Friday. Conversation is the major focus of our program however reading and writing is utilized as a tool to guide the curriculum. It is also possible to add private instruction to the Group program or you can choose to only have private instruction through morning or afternoon sessions. 

Our Spanish school offers many additional services that are included with any program. These services include Free Wifi, coffee, water, and tea selection, walking tours of Old San Juan, cooking classes, as well as 1 visit per week to sites of interest including: the Botanical Garden, Rum Distillery, and art museum. Additional services can be arranged at an added cost for airport transfers, and excursions such as: kayak tours in the bay, horseback riding, visits to the jungle, snorkeling trips, and much more. 

San Juan, Puerto Rico is just one of the many destinations offered by Spanish Abroad for our Spanish Immersion Programs. However, we have found that it is becoming more and more popular due to its safe  travel record, close proximity to the mainland, and wide cultural appeal. We know that our Spanish school in San Juan can provide you with an amazing experience abroad and ultimately an increase in your overall Spanish proficiency

Contact Spanish Abroad for addition details or answers to your questions via phone at 1-888-722-7623 or by email at: 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Learn Spanish Abroad and Receive College Credit

Many students study with Spanish Abroad each year and earn academic credit, which can be applied to fulfill their general study requirements as well as their major in Spanish. The value involved with studying abroad through full immersion can be clearly seen through the quick advancement of a student's language proficiency. The ability to apply this experience towards a tangible achievement such as your undergraduate degree just adds more benefits to our Spanish programs. 

A select amount of our Spanish immersion programs are accredited through Brookhaven College based out of Dallas County Texas. The college is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. We help our students arrange for registration with the college prior to the departure for their Spanish immersion program and in turn they receive the academic credit by transcript transfer to their home university. 

Some of our most popular Spanish course locations are available for study abroad with academic credit including: Tamarindo, Costa Rica; Antigua, Guatemala; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cusco, Peru, as well as San Sebastian and Malaga, Spain. You can choose the location of your choice. The program price will be dependent on the cost of the Spanish immersion program for that given location. Full Spanish program prices including courses and accommodations are available at: Spanish Immersion Prices

All students will need to study for a minimum of 3 weeks in order to receive academic credit. You can receive at least 3-4 credits depending on the course in which you would like to apply your program. We have many students taking 12 week programs and earning 14 credits to complete 4 college Spanish courses. We provide long term program discounts on our standard programs  prices so that students can get the best value for these longer stays. The average program cost for the 12 week Spanish course including the college credit and housing can range from $3000-$4000 for many locations. This is far below the typical in-state college tuition and you can easily complete your Spanish credit requirements in less than a semester, while studying abroad in a foreign country. 

I can now only wish I had such opportunities when I was completing my undergrad degree at Arizona State University. It would have made things a lot simpler in completing my course load. I could have easily fit this in to a summer break, and have completed a semester's worth of required Spanish credit courses. Spanish Abroad wants to make this arrangement easy for you so that you can easily obtain the Spanish credit needed to take the best advantage of our Spanish immersion courses. Feel free to contact our offices to discuss the options available to you at 1-888-722-7623 or by email at: 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Surf Program in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Alex - Surf Program Director
A great feature of our most popular Spanish school in Tamarindo, Costa Rica is the in-house Surf program.

Students can pre-arrange surf lessons along with surf board rental for the entire length of their program or for select weeks out of their study abroad program.

Tamarindo is known world-wide as one of the hottest surf spots. The beach was featured in the "Endless Summer" sequel, when the world-class surfers visited the town on their trip to Costa Rica.  

Alex Hazell acts as the dedicated Surf program director and suggests that students start with at least a 2 Week Surf program. He notes that during the two week program, surf students not only receive 2 formal lessons each week, but also time to practice what they are learning while not taking their Spanish courses. This allows them to become more self sufficient in their surf skills and discover what weaknesses they need to work on during their next lesson.

The surf program also includes a video analysis session that is crucial in helping students improve quicker. The slow motion playback is always great for a laugh too! Most of the surfing takes place at several sweet spots within walking distance of the Spanish school in Tamrindo, but every Friday, with surf conditions permitting, the surf instructors take all of the students to Playa Avellanas to try out new skills on more advanced waves.

The surf program typically has 5-10 students training each week, with many more during the Summer months. There is typically a 5 to 1 student/teacher ratio. The Surf instructors have all been surfing for many years and love teaching their passion for surf to others. They are bilingual, so they can help you practice your Spanish during lessons, but also make sure you are understanding the basic concepts and safety aspects. 

You can add the Surf program to any Spanish Course arrangement for $185 per week. You may also include this with our Family Spanish Program in Costa Rica for any family member that is interested in learning how to Surf. The surf classes are scheduled so that they do not interfere with Spanish classes, and coincide with the tides.

Alex states, "In the end its all about having fun, trying something new, meeting some new people and having a great vacation in the sun."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Spanish School: Viña del Mar - Valparaiso, Chile

Spanish Abroad is proud to announce our newest location with the addition of the Spanish school in Viña del Mar -Valparaiso. The Spanish school directors has many years of experience with several branches through Latin America including Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Lima, Peru.

Viña del Mar and Valparaiso are a right next to each other and are growing in leaps and bounds. These are beautiful youthful coastal cities on the central coast of Chile and with easy access from the Capital of Santiago by train service. Beyond the stunning beaches, you are also in close proximity to the expansive wine vineyards of Chile as well as several world class wineries.

The cities are connected by an amazing metro train system combined with bus service, funiculars for the steep hills, and trolleys for an extensive, easy to use public transportation system. The Spanish school is located at a stone's throw from the Viña del Mar metro stop and is within walking distance to city beaches. 

We will be offering both group and private Spanish instruction as well as host family and shared student housing. You will have a private room with either option along with 2 meals per day with the host family. The school will feature introductory rates for the remainder of the year as shown below. You can start programs on any Monday. The school will feature Wi-Fi Internet access as well as 4 activities per week including cooking and dance classes, city tours, fiestas, volleyball, wine tours, and much more. We will also have weekend excursions to major points of interest including Santiago, Isla Negra, and Mendoza, Argentina.

We will be adding full details for our new Viña del Mar - Valparaiso Spanish program to Spanish Abroad shortly. If you are interested in this location feel free to call us during business hours to discuss the program at 1-888-722-7623 or by email to: 

Discounted Spanish Program Pricing: 

Viña del Mar, Chile

1 Week Group Classes 4 Lessons per day/ Host family/ 2 meals per day: $355
Each Additional Week: $295

1 Week Group Classes 4 Lessons per day/ Shared Apartment/ Private Room: $315
Each Additional Week: $255

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Best Spanish Immersion Locations: Heredia, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is thought of by many as one of the best countries in the world for Spanish immersion. It is by far one of the safest locations in Latin America, and the people are some of the most warm and welcoming in the world. Many Americans have moved to Costa Rica over the years for its magnificent beauty and laid back lifestyle. 

Spanish Abroad  is always happy to recommend the Spanish immersion program in Heredia due to its small town feel and few tourists in the vicinity. This combined with amazing host families and modern amenities, makes the Spanish program in Heredia, Costa Rica one of our most popular Spanish schools overall.

The Spanish school is located in Santo Domingo de Heredia, which is a small residential area located half way between Heredia proper and Downtown San Jose. There is a small central park, some restaurants, banks, and grocery stores, as well as  few other businesses, but the majority of the town is residential housing. In a town of just one hotel, you can really feel immersed by seeing few foreigners around to use English as a crutch. 

This small town feel is welcoming in providing the best opportunity for students to practice their Spanish skills in an everyday environment. Your host family is friendly of course and is very open to your needs as a student studying their language, however local Ticos are quite welcoming to conversation as well. 

Given that you are in a large metropolitan area, you are also only 3 minutes from Down Town San Jose which provides more of the hustle and bustle that you may be looking for in terms of some afternoon outings and activities. However, you can retreat back to the smaller town for a more simple everyday living. 

Being in the center of the country, and having access to several means of transportation, you can easily go on excursions to many different parts of the country. You are only 3 hours from Arenal Volcano or some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You are also just an hour to several nature parks and areas where you can truly experience the outdoors, which Costa Rica is best known for. There are quick flights from San Jose to parts far north such as Tamarindo Beach on the Pacific Coast or far south with Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean. You can now also catch flights to Bocas del Toro, Panama on Nature Air at an affordable rate. 

The Spanish school in Heredia is world class and has three locations though out Latin America including one in Mexico and one in Ecuador. The instructors and director hold many years of experience and know how to provide the students with a well rounded experience. The school provides afternoon activities when Spanish courses are over including dance or cooking classes, movie nights, fiestas, visits to different areas around the metropolitan area, as well as overnight weekend excursions to major locations of interest. 

With all the bases covered, Heredia, Costa Rica is an easy recommendation as a location for many students to study Spanish in an immersed environment. Continued positive reviews from past students has secured the Spanish school as one of our top choices list when someone asks, "Where should I learn Spanish"? There are many options out there, but if you have not been to Costa Rica yet and want to venture somewhere new, I definitely suggest booking a flight to San Jose! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lupe's Corner ~ Language Immersion in a Foreign Country

It is quite common to feel awkward on the first day of Spanish classes when studying in an immersion environment. However it is important to embrace the unease you feel in struggling with your communication skills and understand it is part of the learning experience. 

You must force yourself to overcome the difficulty when it comes to speaking only in Spanish if you never have before. This is essential in the classroom, while speaking with your host family members, and also locals around town. Lupe's story discusses her experience learning a language through immersion and real life experiences while in school. 

There I was, like a fish out of the water, in the middle of the classroom with about 60 English speaking students. It was my first college semester and it was my first law class in the United States. My English was rusty and my confidence low. The thought of participating in class or having to give a speech was beyond my dreams.   When I decided to move to the United States, I never considered cultural differences. Luckily for me, I learn fast and the first semester in college proved to be beneficial.

As customary, the first day of classes the teacher passed out the syllabus, reviewed the information and laid out the rules for the class. I was terrified and I was overwhelmed. Everything seemed to be going so fast.  I did not want to ask questions like everyone else because 1) I had never been encouraged in the Mexican schools to participate in class and 2) my English was pretty basic.  A week went by and the teacher gave us a quiz  in class which I flunked. I remember feeling embarrassed.  

All classmates were comparing their results with each. I however was not about to show them  my "2 out 10" good answers. I also felt like the unluckiest person in the world. How could I not manage to at least guess 50 percent of the questions? I was so down on myself that I decided to talk to the teacher and explain my situation.

told him about my basic understanding of English.  He looked at me and said “Ignorance of is not an excuse. Your responsibility was to read the syllabus  and learn the material. ”  At that point I felt like I was about to strangle the teacher, but I knew he was right and I had to get over my fear of speaking in front of class when I had questions or to make sure to read all information I received from the teachers.  

If my school life was complicated, my social life was more confusing. I wanted to have friends who only spoke English but I did not know how to talk to them. Most of my friends from the US were interesting, I thought, but I had nothing in common. I always admired Americans because from very young ages they learn how to swim, ski, etc. I on the other hand with my very traditional Mexican background I learned to be afraid of almost anything that moved. 

Thankfully, I was eager to learn and I had good teachers. My American friends taught me the value of coming to this country to go to school. I was also able to complete my language immersion experience and learn another language other than Spanish. At the end of the semester, I finally begin to open myself up to other experiences and with more confidence I was able to continue school successfully.  

All in all it has been an amazing ride. The first semester in school was pivotal for my personal growth. I learned quickly the value of the American culture, as well as my own Mexican culture, and how to combine the best of the two, despite my fears.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Patatas Bravas: Spanish Food Recipes

Photo by Alpha

This is a great dish now that it is cooling down and you can warm up your house with this healthier roasted potato version of Patatas Bravas. You will also love it as the smell of roasting potatoes fills the room. I make these at least once a week as it is an easy recipe with few ingredients, to have cooking while you prepare the rest of any meal. These potatoes are amazing as a side or as an appetizer with some Spanish beer and other assorted Spanish tapas.

Cooking Tools:
Large Casserole Dish or 2 Small Casserole Dishes
Measuring Spoons and Cups
Kitchen Towel
Cutting Board
Oven Mitt
Metal Mixing Bowl

Patatas Bravas Ingredients: 
2 Large Potatoes
Cup Kosher Salt
2 Table Spoons Spanish Smoked Paprika (Pimenton, Dulce or Picante)
2 Table Spoons Olive Oil
1 Table Spoon Butter

Patatas Bravas Sauce: 
White Wine Vinegar
Hot Sauce

Total Time: Approximately 1 hour

Patatas Bravas Preparation:
Preheat your oven to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit (218 Celsius). Put your casserole dish(es) in the oven. Wet your potatoes with water and coat with Kosher salt. Rub the potatoes to scrub the any dirt off. The salt will help scrape the potatoes clean. Wash off any residual salt and dry the potatoes with a towel.

Cut the potatoes lengthwise along the side and then quarter each half. They should be around 1 inch cubes, but consistent size is most important for even cooking. Dry the potatoes quickly.

Take your casserole dish out of the oven and put in your olive oil. Put the pat of butter in the olive oil and swirl the two together around the base of the dish. Put your potatoes cubes in the casserole dish and coat them with the oil/butter mixture. If it is too hot to use your hand, use a spoon. Arrange all of the potato cubes skin side down. Make sure there is some space in between the potatoes and do not stack them. You don't want them to steam themselves. If it is too packed, get another dish and repeat the process for the remainder of the potatoes.

Put the Casserole dishes in the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes. Once this time is up, stir the potatoes around with a spoon to re-coat with the oil and put the dish back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Just make sure they are in a single layer when they go back in to avoid steaming. Once this time is up take the potatoes out and coat with about a table spoon of salt or to your taste. Put back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until golden brown, crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle.

Smoked Paprika- Pimenton
While the potatoes are cooking you can mix your sauce together. I just mix catsup, white wine vinegar, and Frank's Red Hot together. You can try different measurements of each, but I just throw the three together to thin out the catsup slightly. This helps it coat the potato with a subtle flavor. Truthfully these potatoes are so good, you don't need the sauce. You could also mix in some Mayo if you want to go crazy.

Place the potatoes in a metal mixing bowl and coat with the table spoon of Spanish Smoked Paprika. You can use hot or sweet pimenton depending on how brave you are. I also like to mix it up from time to time and add fresh chopped rosemary, garlic powder, or simply throw garlic cloves in the dish for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Once you do this a hundred times, you will want to make variations, since they are so tasty in multiple ways.

Patatas Bravas Side Note: I also cooked these on the grill by placing the casserole dish over indirect heat on top of a caste iron skillet. The key is to keep an eye on the temperature and try to keep it consistent so your grill will act like an oven.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spanish Abroad: Repeat Spanish Student Review

Spanish Abroad receives many repeat customers, as we offer multiple locations and not everyone can meet their Spanish proficiency goals within one specific study abroad experience. Janice was one of these students that continually returned to study Spanish Abroad with us on several different occasions. She has studied at 5 different Spanish schools and has travelled to 3 different countries while learning Spanish through Spanish Abroad. She was kind enough to write a review about her Spanish immersion experience.

I have been teaching French, German, and a little Spanish at the high school and college levels for the past 25 years. My job entails recruitment and evaluation of foreign language teachers in the US, so I've approached my Spanish Abroad experiences with a critical eye. All the schools I attended employed professionally trained teachers with excellent teaching skills. The emphasis in all schools is on real, day-to-day communication and practical Spanish that you can use the minute you walk out the door of the school into the street. Many teachers take their students around town to practice shopping and to taste local specialties and visit marketplaces. 

The materials provided in all Spanish Abroad schools have been thorough and well explained. All teachers did their utmost to motivate students to communicate in Spanish. My husband, a beginner, really enjoyed the cooking classes in Oaxaca and cultural excursions in Antigua. 

The schools I have attended in Costa Rica (Manuel Antonio), Guatemala (Antigua), Mexico (Playa Del Carmen, Oaxaca, and Mexico City), all had excellent and professional instruction, as well as welcoming home stay hosts who were great cooks. The accommodations have been clean, modern, and quiet, with charming hosts who were always willing to engage in conversation and even to help with homework assignments from the schools. 

Small class size in all locations was a real plus. Daily conversation classes, grammar drill, and cultural lessons provided a well-balanced approach to learning Spanish. All schools had Internet for student use between classes. Many teachers used film, music, and cultural documents to enhance learning and to stimulate conversation. The coffee breaks and snacks were also first-rate - especially the tropical fruit in Costa Rica and the yummy juices in Mexico City. It was very easy to get to know other students and to arrange evening or afternoon get-togethers and excursions.

Spanish School Locations Visited

Playa del Carmen Spanish School - Mexico

Playa del Carmen, is in a beautiful outdoor setting near the beach with easy access to the town, shops, and good restaurants. The days are hot, so plan to take your intensive classes in the morning and early afternoon and save
the rest of the day for beach-combing. It's a quick and easy boat ride to Cozumel, where you can experience some of the best snorkeling in the world.

Manuel Antonio Spanish School - Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio offers a breathtaking view of the ocean and provides delicious fresh fruit and juices at snack time. You are close to the beach, the rain forest, and plenty of outdoor activities. We especially enjoyed our guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park as well as an afternoon snorkeling tour. The school organized excursions and cultural events which were well-organized and fun. The teachers were very creative with games and group activities that stimulated conversation and were also a lot of fun.

We went to Manuel Antonio in March, and the weather was HOT!  We took classes from 8 - 1, then headed for the beach to cool off and have lunch at the fabulous and inexpensive beach barbecues. One note of caution: Quepos is not a good place for night life. Stay close to the park and take the local bus to the language school.

Antigua Spanish School - Guatemala

The school in Antigua offers one on one instruction with very interesting and inexpensive afternoon excursions to the surrounding areas. We even participated in the Semana Santa tradition of making "alfombras" from colored sand - a wonderful way to feel part of the drama and pageantry of the many parades and preparations for holy week. My husband got to play the role of the groom in a Mayan wedding when we visited one of the outlying villages. Thanks to the Spanish language school's friendly staff and interesting outings we really got a chance to experience the local culture and traditions first-hand. We also took free salsa lessons at a local dance school and, to our surprise, we were not the worst dancers in the class!

Mexico City Spanish School - Mexico

Mexico City's school employs university-trained instructors who offer challenging and personalized instruction. One of the most interesting classes there was a conversation class taught by a young university graduate who gave us many personal insights into Mexican life, culture, and language. We also learned a lot of street slang, which was fun and which surprised our host families.

Teachers in Mexico City are willing to talk about any and all topics and love to digress from the lessons to chat about music, politics, history, film, food, or any topic the students are interested in. The give and take in these lessons was fantastic. The 6-hours per day that I spent there seemed to fly by with the variety of teaching styles, themes, and activities. Plus, Mexico City is a hotbed of culture, history, and the arts. 

The public transportation system makes it easy to get around this huge metropolis. I felt safe taking the metro every day to class. The Chilangos (residents of Mexico City) were consistently friendly and patient when I asked for directions or advice. Mexico City is full of life and energy. I can't wait to return there!

Oaxaca Spanish School - Mexico

The Spanish school in Oaxaca emphasizes small-group instruction with a variety of teachers throughout the day. Films and music were used to introduce vocabulary and cultural themes. There was a very good balance of listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities. The city of Oaxaca is extremely safe and pleasant for strolling (pasear) at all times of the day. In the evenings, the Zocalo is full of families, couples, young and old, who come to the center of town to eat, listen to music, and chat. There were numerous free dance and music performances that we enjoyed. People are friendly and very willing to strike up a conversation at any time. The craft shops and food markets in Oaxaca are sensational - a MUST if you come to this area.

Our host "mother" served us fresh tortillas every morning delivered straight to her doorstep. My husband is now an expert on mole and sopa azteca, thanks to the school's cooking classes. Oaxaca has a great variety of evening activities and is safe for strolling at all times of the day. One of my favorite activites was watching the evening "Telenovela" with the host family and writing down loads of new vocabulary and useful phrases.

Spanish Student Pointers
My recommendation for beginners is that you enroll in a small class. It's fun to interact with other students and also to hear new words and phrases several times. One on one tends to be pretty intense for beginners, but excellent for intermediate or advanced levels. You will need to learn some grammar, so be prepared to do some memorization and drill. It's a good idea to carry a vocabulary notebook with you at all times so you can keep track of the new vocabulary you learn while shopping and touring the area.

It's been fun staying in families with children because they are so cute and energetic, although they tend to speak pretty fast. Older people are really great to learn from because they are patient and speak more slowly. I learned the most from my hostess in Mexico City, who spent a lot of time at home and looked forward to hearing me tell about everything I had done and seen that day. I really learned to master the past tense during that two-week stay!

Why Choose Spanish Abroad?
Spanish Abroad has been a great option for my husband and me. Our typical vacation consists of a few nights in a very nice hotel at the beginning of vacation, just enough time to relax and transition to the new climate and culture. Then we go to our homestay location to experience real family life and to practice our Spanish. Spanish Abroad has been a fantastic source of information regarding shuttles, airport connections, local customs, climate,
food, money exchange, and everything we needed to know to make our trips safe and pleasant. Judy even told us the length of the walk or bus ride from our host family to the language schools and gave us great advice on hotels and B&Bs for before and after the home stay.

Thanks to my vacation experiences over the past five years with Spanish Abroad, I was able to pass the New York State Teacher Certification Exam for Spanish Teachers and enjoyed teaching a section of beginning Spanish 1 at my local high school last year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dog's Eye View: Playa del Carmen Spanish School

Frodo and Sam w/ Aylin and Chitra

Hello!  My name is Frodo and this is my brother Sam.  We are the mascots for the Spanish school in Playa del Carmen. If you see us come out when you arrive, don´t be afraid, we don´t bite! 

I was born in AndalusiaSpain about 4 years ago and was abandoned one cold night!  Lucky me, I meet José that same night and he took me home right away.  Jose is the director of the school in Playa del Carmen. We have been together ever since.  Two years ago, he told me we were moving to Mexico, to Playa del Carmen.  I didn’t know what Playa del Carmen was then, but I knew what playa was and I love playas (beaches)!  Wow, when we arrived here I was shocked!  It is grrrrreaattt!  Lots of sand to run around, turquoise water and palm trees!  It was a dream come true.  I always wanted to run around sniffing everything and getting dirty on the sand!  

This year my brother Sam came.  I have no idea where he came from but he seemed to come from a rough place.  When I first met him he was all dirty and smelly!  José told me he was abandoned, just like me.  Ever since we have become excellent friends.  Now we both welcome students to for Spanish classes, and we have made a bet to see who gets the most hugs from the students!  I think I am ahead, cause he is too shy around the people he doesn’t know.

I try to help students learn Spanish, but my Spanish is from Spain, so I tend to bark with a “Z” at the end... students love it.  Sam is from Merida, so he has a strong Yucatecan accent when he barks.  However, we can help students practice words such as “perro, blanco, negro, correr, saltar.”  We love for them to pat us and they seem to enjoy playing with us a lot!  That is why I love going to the Spanish school.  Everyone is so friendly and nice to everyone. They are a big all family, and Frodo and I are their favorite pets! They are always smiling, laughing and having a good time.  The teachers and the students are always together, and they have so much fun, I sometimes join in singing (well actually howling or barking)!  I get so excited I am always wagging my tail and Sam is always running around.   

The students are so nice.  They come from all different places and speak in ways I can’t understand.  Jose tells me they speak in other languages like English, French, German, Italian and I don’t know what else.  I can’t remember all of them, as there are too many from all different places, but they are all fun.  And Sam and I love it when we get treats from them!

I wish we could go with them to all the outside activities, but Jose tells me that not everyone allows dogs inside!  So they get to enjoy the beaches, the Mayan temples, the Cenotes, the bars and the restaurants.  Wow, the restaurants with the amazing smell... I love the smell of the food in Mexico... the tacos, burritos, tortas. quesadillas!  Talking about it made me hungry, so I think both Sam and I will order some fresh tacos for lunch from the cafeteria...  Mmm they are so tasty, I can't wait to eat them.

I am so glad we came to Playa del Carmen.  It is so beautiful and there are so many things I can do, no wonder the students are always happy!  I can’t wait to turn 21 so I can go to the party with them.  In the meantime, we will continue helping students learn Spanish and hope to make many more friends.  The more friends I make, the more treats I get!!!  Come on over to Academia Columbus, you won´t forget the amazing experience in a 1,000 dog years!!!  I guarantee it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Spanish Abroad Reviews: Comments from Spanish Students in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Observing Spanish Classes in Tamarindo

We follow up with our Spanish students to make sure that their experience is meeting their expectations. Spanish Abroad expects the best from all of the Spanish schools we work with, from the time a student arrives to the completion of their Spanish program. This includes the quality of the instructors, host family or other housing options, as well as meals and airport pickup services provided. 

It is also common for our potential customers to want to hear directly from other past students to see how their Spanish immersion program progressed. It is great when our current students can provide us with feedback about their experience so that we can share this information with future students. 

All of our Student Advisors have also visited the different locations we offer so that they personally know the key details about our Spanish schools as well as what it is like to live and study at one of our sites. We personally like to share our experiences, so feel free to call us to discuss the different options and possible locations to consider. 

Common feedback for our Spanish Program in Tamarindo, Costa Rica includes extremely friendly host families with rustic homes, amazing staff including the head directors Hugh and Sonia, and a lively student residence with a dorm like atmosphere. Surfing and trips to Nicaragua tend to be discussed most when referring to activities. Below you will find some of the testimonials that were provided by students that visited one of our most popular Spanish schools in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. 

Spanish Student Reviews: 

Amber:  The staff, teacher, and students are very friendly and helpful and the accomodations are superb.  Everything is much better than I expected! Thank you very much! The program I am at here in Tamarindo is excellent!

Laura:  The student residences have a/c, which is  very nice here in Tamarindo.  Classes are wonderful, mostly based on conversation, which is what I really needed to practice and all the teachers are very nice and easy to talk to. Everything is great here.   Thanks!"

Amy:  We took a couple of days before classes started to tour around which was really fun and now that we've started classes we are enjoying very full days of surfing and Spanish :).  I do feel like I'm learning a lot especially since I'm staying with the host family, who, by the way, are really great.  They are very sweet and Ana is a great cook. Things here in Tamarindo are great!!  Thanks for checking in!!

Jenna: "I am really enjoying my time in Tamarindo. The accommodations are amazing and very nice. It is great to be so close to the beach. So far my classes are going well, only the second day but I think I will advance in my Spanish, which is wonderful! Everyone here is helpful and kind and the atmosphere for the school is perfect. So far so good. Have a great week."

Vince: "Everything is working out very good here, the classes and lodging are perfect and Tamarindo is great for surfing."

Martha: "I had a great experience in Tamarindo Costa Rica in April. My teacher Henry was great! Very funny and flexible with what I and the other 2 students wanted to talk about. Sonia and her husband were extremely helpful and assisted me in setting up accommodations for the last 4 days after I left school before returning to the states. The after school activities were fun, and the facilities were very comfortable.

I would definitely recommend this program to friends. I liked the idea of having a medical tract for health professionals that would focus on medical terminology and talking to patients. I am a dietitian, and there were several doctors and nurses at the program I attended. Keep up the good work!"